The much-anticipated high goal season gets under way Monday with the USPA North American Cup at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The single-elimination, four-team tournament opens Monday with two games at 10 a.m. (Casablanca vs. Audi) and 3 p.m. (Maltese Falcons vs. Grand Champions) on Field 3 with the winners advancing into the championship final on Wednesday at 3 p.m. on Field 2.
Team rosters are:
Maltese Falcons (18): Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7, Nic Roldan, 8, Juan Bollini, 3.
Casablanca (20): Grant Ganzi, 3, Jason Crowder, 5, Martin Jauregui, 6, Sugar Erskine, 6.
Audi (18): Marc Ganzi, 1, Kris Kampsen, 6, Pancho Bensadon, 7, Brandon Phillips 4.
Grand Champions (20): Pablo Spinacci, 6, Pablo Dorignac, 4, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Juancito Bollini, 4.
The USPA North American Cup is the club‘s first of two 20-goal tournaments of the fall season with a rich tradition in history dating back to 1974. The second high goal tournament is the upcoming USPA National 20 Goal.
The tournament has been a mainstay in American and Canadian polo for decades at the 16- to 20-goal level. The inaugural winner was Tulsa with Hall of Famers John T. Oxley and Billy Linfoot, Corky Linfoot and Jim MacGinley.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s Calgary Polo Club hosted the tournament with Millarville dominating the competition. The tournament has been held at Grand Champions since 2011 and in 2019 made its debut at Aspen Valley Polo Club before returning to Grand Champions in 2020.
Last year Santa Rita knocked off two-time defending champion Casablanca. Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Nic Roldan, 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7, Juan Bollini, 3) led from start to finish for a 12-9 victory over Casablanca (Tomacho Pieres, 6, Jason Crowder, 5, Grant Ganzi, 3, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5). Roldan scored a game-high five goals and was MVP.
In 2021, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Kris Kampsen, 6, Jeff Hall, 6, Tommy Biddle, 5) took a 7-3 halftime lead and went on to defeat Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Santiago Toccalino, Juan Bollini, sub. Brandon Phillips, sub. Pablo Spinacci), 12-7. Biddle was MVP.
In 2020, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Henry Porter, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) defeated Newport (Gene Goldstein, Sugar Erskine, Michel Dorignac, Juan Bollini), 14-9.
In 2019, Aspen-based La Karina (Brian Boyd, Carlitos Gracida, Sebastian Merlos, Kris Kampsen) led from start-to-finish to defeat McClure River Ranch (Hilario Figueras, 3, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Nic Roldan, Stewart Armstrong) with a stunning 15-12 victory to win its‘ 20-goal tournament debut at Aspen Valley Polo Club. It was the first USPA 20-goal tournament ever played in the Rocky Mountains.
In 2018 in a wild finish, Travieso rallied in the second half to win. Trailing by five goals at halftime, Travieso (Tony Calle, Grant Ganzi, Juan Cruz Merlos, Pite Merlos) staged an incredible comeback for a stunning 14-13 overtime victory over Audi (Wes Finlayson, Brandon Phillips, Pablo Spinacci, Marc Ganzi) in one of the most exciting finishes in tournament history.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 102-acre polo facility in Wellington with 212 stalls in nine self-contained barns, two exercise tracks, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and four polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation, short work arena and stick-and-ball fields.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its‘ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its‘ Polo On Demand program at the turnkey facility.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its well-manicured 11 fields during the fall season. Admission is free (except for special events) and open to the public.
Wellington-based CTV Sports is live streaming the entire fall season worldwide. Grand Champions is the only USPA club that is live streaming all its games. CTV‘s state-of-the art technology also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and October through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.
Grand Champions Polo Club is located at 13444 Southfields Road in Wellington. For more information about the upcoming season visit www.gcpolo.com.
By Sharon Robb
Photos Candace Ferreira
10 a.m. Casablanca vs Audi
at GCPC 3
3 p.m. Maltese Falcons vs Grand Champions
at GCPC 3
3 p.m. USPA North American Cup Final
at GCPC 2