The USPA National 20-Goal Championship opener lived up to expectations Tuesday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Playing together for the first time, Aspen Valley (Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Horacio Heguy, 6, Jeff Blake, 6) knocked Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Camilo Castagnola, 6T, Juan Bollini, 5) out of the six-team, single-elimination tournament with a high-scoring 16-13 victory.
Aspen Valley now advances into Saturday‘s semifinal round against Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, 2, Kris Kampsen, 6, Jason Crowder, 6, Tommy Biddle, 5) at 10 a.m. The winner advances into the Nov. 27th final at 3 p.m. „Sebucan is a really tough team,“ Grant Ganzi said. „They are four guys that go. Hopefully, we will get another practice in with the horses before then.“
In Wednesday action, Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Sugar Erskine, 6, Nic Roldan, 8, Brandon Phillips, 4) takes on Montemar (Mackie Weisz, 2T, Pelon Escapite, 5, Pablo Dorignac, 5, Sterling Giannico, 4) at 3:30 p.m. „The game spoke for itself,“ Ganzi said. „We just kept it simple. We were all getting the ball to each other and eventually it worked out. We played for each other and we did what we wanted to do.“
Aspen Valley started picking up steam in the second chukker winning most of the throw-ins and outscoring Flexjet 3-1, to take a 5-4 lead. The momentum continued in Aspen Valley‘s favor, leading at the half, 9-6, and 10-8 after the fourth chukker. Flexjet started clawing its way back in the fifth chukker, outscoring Aspen Valley, 4-2, to trail by only one, 13-12. With 6:30 left, Castagnola scored to tie the game at 13-13. The rally was shortlived, however, with Aspen Valley outscoring Flexjet, 3-1, in the final chukker with two goals from Heguy and one from Ganzi off the throw-in for three unanswered goals. „Today was perfect,“ said Heguy, a six-time Argentine Open winner. „The field was perfect, the weather was perfect. The team went well and we had a lot of fun. „The match was nice to watch and to play,“ Heguy said. „I am happy with the team. It was the first time we played together and we did well. Camilo was very good but our team was strong and we did well.“
Aspen Valley got balanced scoring with Ganzi, Bollini, Heguy and Blake each scoring four goals. „It was the first time I played with Horacio Heguy,“ Bollini said. „There is a learning curve the first two to three chukkers. He is a great player and it‘s always fun to play with one of the greats. My job was to learn as much as I could. „It was key we won the throw-ins because you are starting each play in attack,“ Bollini said. „As long as you have possession of the game you have a chance of winning always. That was a fun game. This tournament is exciting to play.“ In addition to Castagnola‘s five goals, Melissa Ganzi and Spinacci each had three goals. The past two years Casablanca has captured the coveted title.
In 2018, Casablanca defended its title in a tightly-contested game. Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 2, Whistle Uys, 4, Julio Gracida, 4, Pablo Spinacci, 6) defeated Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Jason Crowder, 6, Jeff Blake, 6, Juan Bollini, 5), 11-9. Spinacci was MVP. In 2017, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Mike Azzaro, Jeff Blake) defeated defending champion Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Pablo Dorignac, Juan Bollini), 13-6. Blake was MVP. Casablanca, one of the winningest teams in club history, ended up winning four of six tournaments during the 2017 fall season. The National Twenty Goal was first played at the Royal Palm Polo Club in Boca Raton in 2007. Won by Houston-based team BTA (Chrys Beal, Mariano Gonzalez, Francisco Lanusse, Santiago Trotz) in a narrow victory over Audi 13-12, the trophy then went on hiatus until 2011. Grand Champions resurrected the tournament and it has been played there ever since. The tournament has consistently fielded four to six competitive teams over the past seven years. Audi has dominated the competition with three total wins, including back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 with an identical team (Marc Ganzi, Carlos Gracida Jr., Nic Roldan, Carlos Gracida). With four titles to his name, Nic Roldan holds the record for most National Twenty Goal tournament wins. In addition to Casablanca, past winners of the USPA National 20-Goal Tournament include BTA, KIG, Audi, Flight Options and Flexjet.
The inaugural Wellington Open, the club‘s second 20-goal tournament, will be held Friday at 10 a.m. with the final on Sunday also at 10 a.m. The tournament fills the void left by the USPA North American Cup now at Aspen Valley Polo Club. The winners of the first five 2019 medium goal fall tournaments at Grand Champions were: Casablanca (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Pierre Henri Ngoumou), Pedro Morrison Memorial; Newport (Gene Goldstein, Jason Crowder, Kris Kampsen, Juan Bollini), Fall Plates Tournament; Sebucan (Santos Bollini, Pablo Pulido, Nic Roldan, Kris Kampsen), Fall Classic; Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Kris Kampsen, Pablo Spinacci, Juan Bollini), Tackeria Invitational; and Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Brandon Phillips, Jason Crowder), US Trust Cup. The Polo Gear Challenge final, was postponed by rain.
During the 2019 fall season, the nation‘s largest and busiest polo club, hosts both medium and high goal polo. It is highlighted by the International Cup featuring Team USA against France; Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial, inaugural Wellington Open 20 and USPA National 20 Goal Tournaments. The well-organized fall tournaments attract players from all over the United States and world including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, England, France, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Uruguay, Switzerland, Nigeria and South Africa.
Grand Champions had its finest fall season in club history last year. It was the only club in the nation to stage two USPA-sanctioned 20-goal fall tournaments. The fall season serves as a tuneup for the winter season for players and green horses. The winter season will feature the second season of the highly-successful 26-goal World Polo League at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm with the best polo players in the world. The Grand Champions Fall Invitational League is geared toward improving a player‘s polo skills at every level. Roster lineups change from tournament to tournament with evenly-matched teams featuring pro and amateur players. Club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi, both accomplished players, take pride in teaching and sharing the exciting sport of polo with anyone interested in learning. The husband and wife team are coming off their most successful and historical summer season at Grand Champions‘ sister club Aspen Valley Polo Club.
By Sharon Robb
2019 Grand Champions Fall Schedule
USPA National 20 Goal
Wednesday 11/20 3:30. p.m
Audi vs Montemar
Saturday 11/23 10 a.m.
Semifinal Game 1
Aspen Valley vs Sebucan
12 p.m. Semifinal Game 2
Wednesday winner vs French Team
Wednesday 11/27 3 p.m.
USPA National 20 Goal Open Final
Wellington 20 Goal Open
Friday 11/22 10 a.m.
Sunday 11/24 10 a.m Final
Nov. 30 1 p.m.
Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial
Nov. 30 3 p.m.
2019 International Cup, USA vs. France