By: Sharon Robb. Photos by ChukkerTV for Grand Champions Polo Club.
Sebucan dominated the field to win the Fall Classic for the second year in a row Sunday under overcast skies at Grand Champions Polo Club.
By: Sharon Robb
Early leader Sebucan (Santos Bollini, Pablo Pulido, Nic Roldan, Kris Kampsen) after Friday’s opening round robin, never let up on Sunday to defend its title against Newport (Gene Goldstein, Jason Crowder, Pablo Spinacci, Juan Bollini) and Grand Champions (Sugar Erskine, Sterling Giannico, Brandon Phillips, Tito Gaudenzi).
With the scores carried over from Friday’s three round robin games, Sebucan defeated Grand Champions, 15-10, in the opening game and Newport, 9-8, in the final game. In the second game, Newport topped Grand Champions, 10-7.
Sebucan finished with 24 total goals, Newport had 18 and Grand Champions had 17 on Sunday. Over two days, Sebucan’s potent offense had 39 goals, Newport 28 and Grand Champions 26.
Nic Roldan, the highest ranked American polo player with eight goals, was selected Most Valuable Player.
Silver, a 6-year-old, played and owned by Pablo Spinacci, was Best Playing Pony.
In a somber moment before the game, a moment of silence was held for Guillermo (Billy) Steta who died suddenly on Friday at age 56. Steta, a frequent player at Grand Champions and Aspen Valley Polo Clubs, had an illustrious career in polo representing Mexico.
With his infectious smile and wonderful sense of humor, the outgoing Steta was an ambassador for the sport throughout the world. He was president of the Federation of Mexico (2011-2019), FIP Council of Administration and Zone A Director and FIP Ambassador. Polo lost a great friend.
Flags of Mexico, United States and Grand Champions were flown at half-mast. The players lined up at midfield before the opening game for the moment of silence.
Defending champion Sebucan played with a different lineup this season except for patron Pablo Pulido.
“This was a great team,” Pulido said. “We played with Nic, who organized the team, Kris and Tato, who played phenomenal.
“We played two good teams today,” Pulido said. “Anybody could have won.”
Last season Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, Whistle Uys, Mariano Gracida, Julio Gracida), trailing by two goals after the fourth chukker, bounced back for a 10-8 victory over Audi (Santos Bollini, Justin Daniels, Brandon Phillips, Pablo Dorignac).
Sebucan played even better this year with a balanced offensive attack with loads of chemistry and relentless defense.
“I saw our team on paper and knew it was going to be good,” Roldan said. “I thought all the teams were well-balanced this weekend. I just thought our chemistry was really good. I played with Pablo before. Tato had one of the best weekend’s I’ve seen him play. We had fun.
“We came out quick on Friday and I think that helped our momentum today,” Roldan said. “Today was a little bit tougher with the weather. It was fun, we had a great weekend, it feels incredible to win and to be here.”
In the opening game, Sebucan opened with its Friday 9-5 lead and quickly jumped out again for leads of 11-6 and 12-8 after two chukkers. Grand Champions could not dig itself out of a hole.
In the second game, Newport opened with its 6-4 Friday lead over Grand Champions and never relinquished it. Newport led 8-4 and 10-6 after two chukkers behind Spinacci and Goldstein. In the second chukker, Goldstein’s goal gave Newport a 9-4 lead. Grand Champions had its share of scoring opportunities but came up short.
In the third and final game, Sebucan opened with a 6-4 lead and led by two goals for most of the game. Newport missed scoring opportunities again which Sebucan took advantage of. A steady rain in the third chukker made it interesting. Newport outscored Sebucan, 2-1, with goals from Crowder and Bollini but could get no closer with Sebucan clinching the win.
Kampsen finished with four goals and Roldan had three. Goldstein had three for Newport. Erskine had three for Grand Champions.
Lia Mariotto of Romeo Merino, the tournament sponsor, was the awards presenter. Because of the rain shower that started in the third chukker and continued after the game, the awards ceremony was moved to the players’ tent.
The winners of the first two 2019 tournaments at Grand Champions were: 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 Cup winner is still to be determined.
During the 2019 fall season, the nation’s largest polo club is hosting both medium and high goal polo featuring six medium goal tournaments and two 20-goal 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 2019 fall season 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.
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 and again is hosting 20-goal tournaments this season.
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.
The fall league features: stick-and-ball sessions during the week; two tournament games every weekend; ambulance and umpires for all tournament games; world-class polo fields; club-sponsored social events every weekend for all players; and top-of-the-line trophies for all teams every weekend. Food and refreshments are available for players and fans after the finals.
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.
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. Scholarships are available. The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA club, operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099.
2019 Grand Champions Fall Schedule
Nov. 8-10, Fall Plates
Nov. 15-17, Pedro Morrison Memorial
Nov. 16-23, Wellington Open 20
Nov. 18-27, USPA National 20
Nov. 30 1 p.m.
Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial
Nov. 30 3 p.m.
2019 International Cup, USA vs. France