Casablanca Defeats Las Monjitas In Grand Champions Limited Edition 12-Goal Series, Instant Replay Makes Debut
WELLINGTON, FL-Jan. 18, 2014—-Casablanca won a hardfought 11-10 victory over Las Monjitas Saturday to remain undefeated in the Limited Edition 12-Goal Series at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Casablanca’s Miguel Novillo Astrada scored six goals including the game-winner with 1:14 left and was named Most Valuable Player.
“It was a very good, tough game,” Astrada said. “We were good the first half which I think helped us. We knew they were going to come back in the second half. We just kept being disciplined and got a couple of calls that helped us secure the game.”
Moonshine, ridden by Alejandro (Negro) Astrada in the opening chukker, was named Best Playing Pony. Astrada scored a game-high seven goals.
Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Miguel Astrada, Wes Finlayson) was tested by Las Monjitas (Camilo Bautista, Mattias Llanos, Alejandro (Negro) Astrada, Peke Gonzalez) for most of the game.
The Saturday feature game in front of a packed house marked the debut of instant replay, utilized for the first time in the sport. It met with rave reviews from players and officials and will continue to be used every week in the feature game at Grand Champions.
“It was a significant day for our club and for polo. I am really happy and pleased with the outcome of our instant replay and our challenge rule we established today,” said Grand Champions owner Melissa Ganzi, a driving force behind the introduction of instant replay in the sport.
For Casablanca, it was only the second time Ganzi, Bollini and Finlayson played alongside Astrada, a 9-goaler.
“I like playing with them very much,” Astrada said. “They are very nice kids. They try very hard. They are willing to listen to what I say and to learn.”
Ganzi added two goals and played well defensively.
“It was a good win, we could have played maybe a little bit better but it was a good win,” Ganzi said. “They were a tough team. Negro is an outstanding player and has been playing very well this season in the 20-goal so it’s a good accomplishment to beat him.”
Casablanca and Las Monjitas tied in the first chukker (3-3) and Casablanca took a 5-4 lead after the second chukker before Casablanca shut out Las Monjitas, 2-0, in the third chukker to take a 7-4 halftime lead.
“It was probably one of the more important games in this tournament mainly because the other team is very hard and don’t normally lose games,” Finlayson said. “We ended up coming back and doing well. It was a good experience for us. I really enjoy playing with Miguel a lot.”
Las Monjitas kept it close in the second half coming within one goal in the fifth and sixth chukkers. Negro Astrada scored a penalty-two with eight seconds remaining but time ran out for a comeback.
“It was a fast game, much faster than the 8-goal,” Bollini said. “The game was fun. It was a change from one day to another. This was really a tough team. It was amazing playing with Miguel. He teaches you so much. He makes you think more and work more. We won because we took the man and let Miguel do his magic.”
Las Monjitas team captain Camilo Bautista, who missed last season because of knee surgery and since then has lost 80 pounds, said the game could have gone either way.
“It was a good, well-played game,” Bautista said. “It was a tough game, having Miguel with three young kids. Now I have to go and get some rest. It was difficult.”
Bautista is also playing the 20-goal with teammates Geronimo Obregon and brothers Eduardo and Alejandro (Negro) Astrada.
“I enjoy polo and this helps getting in shape and form,” Bautista said. “I try to play as much as possible when I am here. This is very competitive in 12 goals. They make you work too much.”
Miguel Astrada toppled off his horse in the fourth chukker but returned to the game uninjured after getting the wind knocked out of him when his body hit the field.
Players and fans were treated to a post-game asado provided by Cilantro’s Gourmet Deli owner Herman Moreira.
In other Grand Champions at PB Polo action:
Limited Edition 12-Goal Series: Goose Creek 11, Far Niente 10, Cote Zeggers led scoring with six goals including the game-winner in the sixth chukker. Teammates Maureen Brennan and Lucas Arellano each had two goals and Tano Vial added one. Michel Dorignac had six goals for Far Niente.
Aspen Valley Cup 8-Goal: Tonchala 14, New Chance Polo 10, Tavi Usandizaga led all scoring with a game-high 11 goals. Nacho Acuna had five goals for New Chance Polo.
Aspen Valley Cup 8-Goal: KIG 9, Grand Champions 7, Mattias Sosa led KIG scoring with five goals and Wesley Uys scored two goals in the final chukker to clinch the game. Grant Ganzi led Grand Champions scoring with three goals.
Aspen Valley Cup 8-Goal: La Casa Hermosa 13, Palm Beach Equine/Odosan 10, Hector Galindo had six goals and Brad Blake scored five to lead La Casa Hermosa. Matt Coppola led PB Equine/Odosan with seven goals.
Aspen Valley Cup 8-Goal: Hawk Hill 13, TLC Development 9, Peke Gonzalez and Gringo Colombres each scored five goals for Hawk Hill.
Metropolitan Cup 5-Goal: Elegante Polo 7, Santa Clara 6: Omar Sosa led all scoring with four goals.
For game recaps, news, features and photos of Grand Champions Polo Club-related events, go towww.grandchampionspoloclub.org.
GRAND CHAMPIONS @ PALM BEACH POLO 2014 TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
JANUARY: Metropolitan Cup (5 goals); Aspen Valley Cup (8 goals); The Limited Edition 12-Goal Series.
FEBRUARY: Halo Polo Trophy (5 goals); USPA Cyril R. Harrison Trophy; USPA Sieber Memorial Trophy.
MARCH: Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (5 goals); The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; USPA Regional President’s Cup (8 goals); $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament; The Top Pony 12-Goal Series; Santa Rita Abierto (16 goals).
APRIL: Las Acacias (5 goals); USPA Association Cup (8 goals); Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Challenge Cup (12-goals); John T. Oxley Memorial Trophy (16 goals).
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB SCHEDULE
JANUARY 20: Joanna Monaco Memorial Tournament, noon.
MARCH 9: Great Futures Celebrity Polo Match, 10 a.m., benefitting Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club of Wellington.
MARCH 17: Buzz Welker Memorial Tournament
APRIL 3-5: Fifth annual Gay Polo League International Tournament
APRIL 8-12: Women’s Championship Tournament
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 561-644-5050.
INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Flight Options. Everyone is welcome to watch high, medium and low goal polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the winter, spring and fall tournament season and other special events including International Cup in November, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament in March, ProKidz Tournaments in the spring and fall, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament, both in April.