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Audi Wins George Haas Cup; Nic Roldan Named Most Valuable Player

February 27, 2014 By: janwest Category: General

George Haas Cup champions Fred Mannix, Nic Roldan, Lucas Lalor, Grant Ganzi of Audi. Photo by Scott Fisher

WELLINGTON, FL-Feb. 24, 2014—Audi won its first polo tournament of the 2014 high goal polo season on Sunday at International Polo Club.

Audi, one of the winningest teams steeped in tradition, captured the George Haas Cup with an 11-9 victory over Faraway.

Audi (Grant Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Nic Roldan, Fred Mannix) dominated most of the game against Faraway (Hutton Goodman, Martin Pepa, Santiago Chavanne, Mariano Gonzalez).

Audi took the lead (5-3) in the second chukker and never relinquished it for the remainder of the game.

Roldan was named Most Valuable Player after scoring eight goals and playing well on both ends of the field. Lalor and Mannix each scored one goal and the team picked up another goal on handicap.

Most Valuable Player Nic Roldan of Audi. Photo by Scott Fisher

“We stuck to our same routine, hitting the ball and playing the simplest possible, wide-open polo using all four players and it worked,” Roldan said. “We were very solid on defense. We didn’t give them any goals. We made them work for their goals. We stuck to the plan and had a blast.

“For me, I thought Lucas deserved MVP, he played amazing,” Roldan said. “A lot of people out there really don’t realize it, but when you are on the field, defensively he played amazing. He is a great player.”

The game also marked the 20-goal IPC tournament debut of Ganzi, 15, a sophomore at St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton. It was a memorable game for Ganzi, one of the youngest player-patrons in the U.S. to win a 20-goal tournament.

Audi’s Grant Ganzi (1) defending Faraway’s Hutton Goodman (1).
Photo by Scott Fisher

“I woke up pretty early this morning,” said the third-generation polo player. “I was kind of nervous because this was my first 20-goal game at IPC. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how fast everything was going to be because I’ve never played anything like this in my life.

“I’m very happy. The team played well, my first cup at IPC, I can’t complain. It was a good win.”

Ganzi’s father Marc helped Audi qualify with a semifinal victory over Tonkawa. He sat out the final to enable his son, who regularly competes for Casablanca, to play in preparation for Friday’s Iglehart Cup opener.

Team Audi with Marc and Melissa Ganzi, Fred Mannix Sr., Li-Anne Mannix, Fred Mannix and wife Kelsey and daughter Brooklyn. 
Photo courtesy of Melissa Ganzi.

“It’s a great advantage being this young playing at this level,” Ganzi said. “I am playing with all these good players and they are great role models and telling me what to do on the field. It’s going to take me to the next level.

“Not every kid has this opportunity and I am very thankful,” Ganzi said. “Faraway played well. I don’t think they saw me as a patron, they saw me as a young player and treated me with respect and I appreciate that.”

His parents, Marc and Melissa, both avid polo players and owners of Grand Champions Polo Club, watched their son from the sidelines. His mom called the game “nervewracking.”

“My dad gave me advice before the game,” Ganzi said. “He told me what to do on knock-ins and to stay on the man, always hit backhanders and hit the ball once instead of so many touches.”

Audi MVP Nic Roldan (3) drives downfield for one of this eight goals.
Photo by Scott Fisher

Veteran players Roldan and Mannix smiled at the thought of remembering when they were 15 and playing polo. Roldan was the youngest player to win the U.S. Open at 15.

“This is huge for Grant, he played great,” Roldan said. “He didn’t make any mistakes. He hit a couple of good balls and back shots. When you’re young you want to go out there and have fun and I think Grant did that.

“If you want to succeed in polo the only way is to start young and play good polo at the 16, 18, 20-goal level,” Roldan added. “The more polo these kids play the better they are going to improve.”

Audi’s Fred Mannix (4) battles for ball possession. Photo by Scott Fisher

Mannix was playing at El Dorado Polo Club when he was 15.

“They had an 18-goal tournament going on there and I was actually playing with Mariano Gonzalez, my good friend Daniel Roenisch and Graham Bray,” Mannix said. “I think I had three goals. We had an awesome team. I remember playing against some great players.

“Obviously, Grant is the new generation coming along,” Mannix said. “I thought he played awesome today. On the field he knows where to be, he’s got the good positioning. We are trying to help him more with the fundamentals of how to be more effective on the field, but he’s a natural. He picks it up with one suggestion, he knows what to do.”

Faraway staged a late rally in the fifth chukker but was turned away by Audi.

Audi’s Fred Mannix (4) works the ball out of the air with Faraway’s Santiago Chavanne defending. Photo by Scott Fisher

“This was fun,” Mannix said. “The team is good. We enjoy playing with one another. Nic is a great player, he is one of the best American players that we have seen in a long time. He plays with heart. He wants to win every game, he wants to win every practice and that’s contagious. Lucas played very well and Grant made a great debut here.”

For game recaps, news, features and photos of Grand Champions Polo Club-related events, go towww.grandchampionspoloclub.org.

Game video can also be seen at PoloNow Network at http://www.polonow.tv/.

2014 HIGH GOAL SEASON

FEBRUARY 21-MARCH 2: C.V. Whitney Cup- Wednesday, Semifinals, Orchard Hill vs. Crab Orchard 1 p.m., Valiente vs. Alegria, 3 p.m.; Thursday, Les Armour Cup, Semifinals, Audi vs. Coca-Cola, 10:30 a.m., Lechuza Caracas vs. Flight Options, 1 p.m.; MARCH 2, Les Armour Cup final, noon; Championship Final, 3 p.m.

FEBRUARY 28-MARCH 8: Iglehart Cup-Friday, CT Energia vs. Palm Beach Illustrated, 1 p.m.; Casablanca vs. Los Machitos/Heathcote, 3 p.m.; MARCH 5, Semifinals 1, 3 p.m.; MARCH 8, Final, 1 p.m.

MARCH 5-23: USPA Piaget Gold Cup

MARCH 26-APRIL 20: 110th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championships

GRAND CHAMPIONS @ PALM BEACH POLO 2014 TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (HOTLINE 561-373-0073)

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).

THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE

TUESDAY: 8-goal, Tuff Riders/Tulum vs. TLC Development, Field 9, 3 p.m.

WEDNESDAY: 12-goal, Catamount vs. KIG, Field 10, 10 a.m.; Palm Beach Equine vs. Far Niente, Field 8, 3 p.m.; Enigma vs. Casablanca, at La Herradura Ecuador, 4 p.m.

THURSDAY: 5-goal, Aliano Realty vs. Elegante Polo/Tuff Riders, Cypress Field, 10 a.m.; Pony Express at Santa Clara, 4 p.m.

FRIDAY: 8-goal, Tonchala vs. Hawk Hill, at Las Palmas, 3 p.m.; 5-goal, Top Gun at Pony Express, 4 p.m.

SATURDAY: 5-goal, Halo Polo Trophy Final, Series B, Field 10, 10 a.m.; Halo Polo Trophy Final, Series A, 11:30 a.m.; 12-goal, USPA Sieber Memorial Trophy Handicap Final, Field 8, 1:30 p.m.; USPA Sieber Memorial Trophy Final, Field 2, 3 p.m.

SUNDAY: 8-goal, USPA Cyril Harrison Trophy Final, Cypress Field, 11 a.m.

GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB SCHEDULE (561-644-5050)

MARCH 9: Great Futures Celebrity Polo Match, 10 a.m., benefitting the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club of Wellington.

MARCH 17: Buzz Welker Memorial Tournament

APRIL 4-5: 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, 33414.

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.

Grand Champions Polo Club’s Pro Teams Audi, Flight Options Open Season This Week

January 08, 2014 By: janwest Category: General

WELLINGTON, FL-Jan. 8, 2014––Grand Champions Polo Club-based pro teams Audi and Flight Options will open the 20-goal polo season this week in the Joe Barry Memorial Cup.

The three-week tournament features fourteen teams. Audi and Flight Options are among the favorites.

In last year’s final, Audi lost a hardfought 11-9 decision to Crab Orchard. Audi’s Nic Roldan was the tournament’s leading scorer with 32 goals in five games.

Flight Options, led by team captain Melissa Ganzi, is making its debut this season. Flight Options will open the season on Thursday at 3 p.m. against Las Monjitas.

“I am excited about the season,” said Melissa Ganzi, who will be joined by teammates Miguel Astrada, Freddie Mannix and Juan Bollini.

 Freddi Mannix joins the Flight Options team led by Melissa Ganzi.


Freddi Mannix joins the Flight Options team led by Melissa Ganzi.

Mannix is a newcomer to the team this season but has played several times with and against his teammates.

Mannix is the first Canadian in 76 years to compete for the coveted Triple Crown and only the second in 120 years to compete in the Argentine Open making it all the way to the championship final with his Alegria team, Canada’s only international high goal polo franchise. Mannix is rated 9-goals in Argentina and 6-goals in North America.

Flight Options is among this season’s new polo team sponsors. Flight Options is the world’s second largest private aviation fleet that flies throughout the United States, Canada, northern Mexico, Cabo San Lucas and the Bahamas.

Las Monjitas lineup is Camilo Bautista, Geronimo Obregon, Eduardo Astrada and Alejandro Astrada.

The game will pit Miguel Astrada against two of his five polo-playing brothers.

“We grew up playing together and know each other so well it is always fun to play with and against my brothers, but I like playing with them more,” 9-goaler Miguel Astrada said.

Audi, coming off an outstanding fall season at Grand Champions, opens the season on Saturday at 3 p.m. against Faraway.

 Marc Ganzi, one of the world's top-ranked amateur players, will lead  the Audi Polo Team.


Marc Ganzi, one of the world’s top-ranked amateur players, will lead
the Audi Polo Team.

Audi is led by team captain Marc Ganzi, one of the world’s top-ranked amateur players. He will be joined by longtime teammates Carlitos Gracida, the son of Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida; Nico Pieres and Nic Roldan, both 8-goal rated players.

Ganzi, Gracida and Roldan are coming off back-to-back fall tournament wins in the USPA North American Cup and National 20-Goal Championship. Ganzi and Roldan also competed in the Piaget World Snow Polo Championships in December in Aspen, Colo., hosted by Grand Champions sister club Aspen Valley Polo Club.

Audi has a rich, winning tradition in polo which includes the 2009 U.S. Open title.

Faraway’s lineup is Hutton Goodman, Martin Pepa, Santiago Chavanne and Mariano Gonzales.

Other teams entered in the Joe Barry Memorial Cup are Coca-Cola, CT Energia, El Cabure, Los Machitos Heathcote, Orchard Hill, Palm Beach Illustrated, Tonkawa, Valiente, Villa del Lago/Casablanca and Lechuza Caracas, coming off Monday’s season-opening Herbie Pennell Cup victory.

The tournament is named after Joe Barry, a big-hitting 9-goal ranked American player, born and raised in Truscott, Tex., and one of the most well-liked in the game. He dominated polo in the 1960s and 1970s. The six-time U.S. Open winner was inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 1999. He also won three Gold Cups, three Silver Cups as well as Coronation and Camacho Cup trophies. Barry died on May 18, 2002 at age 58.

For game recaps, news, features and photos of Grand Champions Polo Club-related events, go towww.grandchampionspoloclub.org.

 Nic Roldan, last year's leading scorer, will again play for Audi.


Nic Roldan, last year’s leading scorer, will again play for Audi.

2014 HIGH GOAL SEASON

JANUARY 9-26: Joe Barry Memorial Cup

JANUARY 29-FEBRUARY 3: Ylvisaker Cup

FEBRUARY 22-MARCH 8: Iglehart Cup

FEBRUARY 14: National Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

FEBRUARY 16-MARCH 2: C.V. Whitney Cup

MARCH 5-23: USPA Piaget Gold Cup

MARCH 26-APRIL 20: 110th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championships

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).

 Nico Pieres, an 8-goal player, will compete on the Audi team.


Nico Pieres, an 8-goal player, will compete on the Audi team.

GRAND CHAMPIONS

POLO CLUB SCHEDULE

JANUARY 20: Joanna Monaco Memorial Tournament

MARCH 17: Buzz Welker Memorial Tournament

APRIL 3-5: Fifth annual Gay Polo League International Tournament

APRIL: Women’s Championship Tournament

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 and medium goal polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the 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.

St. Regis Defeats Audi To Win Piaget World Snow Polo Championship; Roldan Named MVP

December 23, 2013 By: janwest Category: General

 

ASPEN, COLO.–Dec. 20, 2013—In front of a large hometown crowd and sold out VIP tent, St. Regis defeated Audi, 1-0, Friday to capture the Piaget World Snow Polo Championship at historic Wagner Park.

Piaget teammates Gonzalito Pieres (3) and Marc Ganzi (1) battle Nacho Figueras (3) of St. Regis for the ball. Photo by Gary Hubbell

Piaget teammates Gonzalito Pieres (3) and Marc Ganzi (1) battle Nacho Figueras (3) of St. Regis for the ball. Photo by Gary Hubbell

As a steady snow fell, Nacho Figueras scored the winning goal with 4:18 left in the second chukker with an assist from Wellington’s Nic Roldan.

“There were three good teams here, and it was whoever had the luck,” said Roldan, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “It was a war today, no one was going to let up.

“With this new snow, it made it tougher to get the ball,” Roldan said. “It seemed like the way to get the ball clean was to lift it up out of the hole and hit it out of the air and place it somewhere.”

Roldan did exactly that, knocking the florescent red ball toward the Audi goal with a well-placed shot. A quick-reacting Figueras, the sport’s international ambassador and face of Ralph Lauren, tapped the ball in for the only score of the game.

Piaget's Marc Ganzi (1) and Gonzalito Pieres (3) outrace Nacho Figueras (3) of St. Regis for the ball. Photo by Gary Hubbell

Piaget’s Marc Ganzi (1) and Gonzalito Pieres (3) outrace Nacho Figueras (3) of St. Regis for the ball. Photo by Gary Hubbell

“It was hard conditions because of all the snow, but we ended up winning so it was a great day,” Figueras said. “I’m happy and proud. To be able to play polo in this environment and with this background is really fantastic.”

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts (Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips), Audi (Facundo Pieres, Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini) and Piaget (Gonzalito Pieres, Marc Ganzi, Kris Kampsen) competed in the three-team, round robin tournament on the final stop on the 2013 World Polo Tour circuit.

Piaget's Marc Ganzi (1) and Audi's Juan Bollini (2) battle for possession. Photo by Gary Hubbell

Piaget’s Marc Ganzi (1) and Audi’s Juan Bollini (2) battle for possession. Photo by Gary Hubbell

The elite pro field added to the high-end event which one day could rival the annual St. Moritz Polo World Cup and become one of the hottest social events in Aspen, the only American city to host a snow polo tournament.

Several local community and media members, sponsors and players called snow polo and Aspen a good fit.

Juan Bollini (2) keeps possession of the ball with teammate Melissa Ganzi (1) and Nacho Figueras (3) of St. Regis close behind. Photo by Gary Hubbell

Juan Bollini (2) keeps possession of the ball with teammate Melissa Ganzi (1) and Nacho Figueras (3) of St. Regis close behind. Photo by Gary Hubbell

“This is the best snow polo in America,” Kampsen said. “The teams are excellent. There’s never been a level this high as far as competition is concerned.

“It was extremely competitive,” Kampsen said. “Conditions weren’t ideal. They had the field perfect on Thursday but then it snowed quite a bit which slowed the field down.”

In the opening game, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts Polo Team defeated Piaget, 2-0, behind goals from Figueras and Phillips.

Audi's Juan Bollini (2) about to take control of the ball. Photo by Gary Hubbell

Audi’s Juan Bollini (2) about to take control of the ball. Photo by Gary Hubbell

In the second game, Audi defeated Piaget, 2-1, with two goals from Melissa Ganzi, who scored the first goal on her first touch of the game. Bollini took the throw-in and found Ganzi open for the goal. She scored the game’s winning goal on a penalty shot with 1:15 left to play to advance her team into the championship final. Marc Ganzi scored Piaget’s lone goal after hitting a nice shot across the arena and following it up with the score.

Phillips suffered a bloody split lip when smacked by a polo mallet during the final.

Brandon Phillips of St. Regis suffered a split lip after getting hit with a polo mallet. Photo by Gary Hubbell.

Brandon Phillips of St. Regis suffered a split lip after getting hit with a polo mallet. Photo by Gary Hubbell.

Melissa Ganzi and Figueras shared tournament leading scorer honors with two each; Phillips and Ganzi each had one goal.

“We had our chances, it became harder as the game went on,” said Melissa Ganzi, who turned in one of her best all-around games with several steals and scoring barrage. “It was really competitive today,” Ganzi continued. “Every team wanted to win and we really had strong players.”

Audi's Melissa Ganzi (1) beats Piaget's Gonzalito Pieres (3) to the ball. Photo by Gary Hubbell

Audi’s Melissa Ganzi (1) beats Piaget’s Gonzalito Pieres (3) to the ball. Photo by Gary Hubbell

“The biggest surprise was that it all happened and we were able to pull it off,” Ganzi said. “The weather actually made it more beautiful and what more could we ask for.”

Ganzi’s horse Open Quarzo, a 7-year-old Bay stallion, was named Best Playing Pony.

Players, family and friends pose for group shot after the championship tournament

Players, family and friends pose for group shot after the championship tournament

Polo fans seemed to enjoy the world-class snow polo from the opening two-chukker match. VIPs and sponsors watched from the heated VIP Tent while enjoying mountain fare from The St. Regis Aspen Resort, including the brand’s signature Afternoon Tea Service along with cocktails from Johnnie Walker Blue.

Melissa and Marc Ganzi of Aspen Valley Polo Club, sister club of Wellington, Fla.-based Grand Champions Polo Club, along with Nacho Figueras and Larry Boland, president of Piaget North America, hosted the two-day event.

Facundo Pieres (3) of Audi reaches for the ball despite pressure from his brother Gonzalito Pieres (3) of Piaget. Photo by Gary Hubbell

Facundo Pieres (3) of Audi reaches for the ball despite pressure from his brother Gonzalito Pieres (3) of Piaget. Photo by Gary Hubbell

“My husband has roots here in Aspen,” Melissa Ganzi said. “He attended Aspen Country Day School, raced skiing here and his parents live here year-round.

“We would like to take snow polo to another level, to make snow polo and the City of Aspen synonymous. We’re really fortunate that we have our wonderful local partners and our partners from Florida. We have invested in building our own infrastructure. We went the extra mile.”

Audi runners-up Facundo Pieres (3), Melissa Ganzi (1) and Juan Bollini (2). Photo by Gary Hubbell

Audi runners-up Facundo Pieres (3), Melissa Ganzi (1) and Juan Bollini (2). Photo by Gary Hubbell

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts was the official hospitality partner and Audi served as the official car.

Said Boland: “What other city in North America could compare to Aspen as far as snow polo is concerned? Aspen Mountain is the perfect backdrop for a snow polo event.”

Piaget's Marc Ganzi (1) beats his defenders to score. Photo by Gary Hubbell

Piaget’s Marc Ganzi (1) beats his defenders to score. Photo by Gary Hubbell

The arena stadium was beautifully set up. The VIP tent featured alpine luxe furnishings and fine array of food from The St. Regis Aspen Hotel.

The playing surface was perfect with the help of the Aspen Skiing Company which layered artificial snow on top of the already 16 inches of fresh snow from the last two weeks. The man-made snow spread and rolled made for a quick-playing surface on Thursday for the stick-and-ball and practice chukker. However, snow flurries on Friday made the ball harder to maneuver in the snow because of the deep divots.

All proceeds benefitted Sopris Therapy Services and Aspen Sister Cities.

Sopris Therapy Services is a non-profit organization that provides Equine Assisted Therapy and rehabilitation in a ranch-setting to children and adults with various disabilities.

Aspen Sister Cities’ mission is to share ideas and cultures through the international exchange of students and All proceeds benefit Sopris Therapy Services and Aspen Sister Cities. Both charities depend on community support.

Polo fans enjoying the up close action view from the VIP Tent. Photo by Gary Hubbell

Polo fans enjoying the up close action view from the VIP Tent. Photo by Gary Hubbell

SNOW POLO FAST FACTS
Snow polo was first introduced in 1985 at the resort town of St. Moritz, Switzerland and attracted several hundred spectators. In the U.S., snow polo is held exclusively in Aspen, Colorado. Snow polo is a modified version of polo. Games are played on a snow-packed field surrounded by fencing to keep the ball in play. Teams have three players instead of four as in typical arena polo. Play consists of four seven-minute chukkers. The horses have special cleated shoes to provide better traction. The ball is larger and lighter and bright red for visibility on the snowy surface.

Wounded Warriors Horse brings flag bearer out to the arena for pre-game ceremony. Photo by Gary Hubbell

Wounded Warriors Horse brings flag bearer out to the arena for pre-game ceremony. Photo by Gary Hubbell

ASPEN VALLEY POLO CLUB
CONTACT INFORMATION: Phone: 970-710-1663 and email: aspenvalleypolo@bellsouth.net.

ABOUT THE CLUB: The nation’s newest private polo club still in its’ developing stages features a complete facility offering stick-and-ball field, club house, wooden horse polo pit, exercise track, indoor school, arena, pony hire, livery, coaches, stable and turn to hire and grooms accommodations.

Defending Champion Audi Wins USPA North American Cup Presented By Beluga; Audi’s Michel Dorignac Named MVP

November 11, 2013 By: janwest Category: General

—Defending champions Audi hoist the winning trophy. From left to right Marc Ganzi (1), Nic Roldan (3), Carlitos Gracida (2) and MVP Michel Dorignac. Photo by Scott Fisher

—Defending champions Audi hoist the winning trophy. From left to right Marc Ganzi (1), Nic Roldan (3), Carlitos Gracida (2) and MVP Michel Dorignac. Photo by Scott Fisher

WELLINGTON, FL-Nov. 10, 2013—-Audi, steeped in winning tradition, opened the 20-goal season at Grand Champions Polo Club with a thrilling 11-10 victory over Casablanca to capture the USPA North American Cup presented by Beluga in front of a packed house.

It was the second consecutive title for the defending champions who came from behind in the sixth chukker to knock off the hottest team of the fall season.

“It’s great to win two years in a row,” said Audi’s Marc Ganzi. “What was impressive to me is that it was a really tough game, two good teams, very evenly-matched, good horses.

“The level has come so far here,” Ganzi said. “The real winner today honestly was Wellington. Wellington now gets to see really high quality 20-goal polo in the fall and that was a vision that Melissa and I felt was really important for the club.”

Audi Most Valuable Player Michel Dorignac has his arms full with awards and Beluga Vodka. Photo by Scott Fisher

Audi Most Valuable Player Michel Dorignac has his arms full with awards and Beluga Vodka. Photo by Scott Fisher

Audi’s newest player, Michel Dorignac, made his debut for the 20-goal team and played well with veteran teammates  Nic Roldan, Carlitos Gracida and Ganzi.

Dorignac, outstanding defensively throughout the game, was named Most Valuable Player.

“I knew it would be a close game,” Dorignac said. “I thought our semifinal game was really tough, but this one was going to be even tougher with players like Mike Azzaro and Jeff Hall with a lot of experience; Brandon Phillips, a really solid player; and Granti Ganzi who is growing up and improving every single game so I knew it would be really tough.”

Audi MVP Michel Dorignac (4) pursuing Casablanca's Brandon Phillips (2). Photo by Scott Fisher

Audi MVP Michel Dorignac (4) pursuing Casablanca’s Brandon Phillips (2). Photo by Scott Fisher

Audi defeated Berlin Polo with a hardfought 12-9 victory  in the semifinals.

The highly-anticipated championship final lived up to expectations. After a seesaw battle in the first two chukkers, Dorignac’s only goal of the game tied the score at 4-4.

Roldan scored two of his game-high six goals on a well-hit shot in a crowd at the 4:36 mark and 60-yard penalty shot in the final seconds of the chukker for a 6-4 halftime advantage. Three of Casablanca’s first-half goals were penalty shots.

Audi's Carlitos Gracida (2) and teammate Michel Dorignac (4) back up teammate Nic Roldan (3). Photo by Scott Fisher

Audi’s Carlitos Gracida (2) and teammate Michel Dorignac (4) back up teammate Nic Roldan (3). Photo by Scott Fisher

Casablanca came roaring back early in the fourth chukker when Grant Ganzi converted a penalty-two and then backhanded a pass to Azzaro, who scored from the field at 5:38 to tie the game at 6-6.

The lead changed hands five more times before Casablanca took a 9-8 lead on another Azzaro goal.

Audi regained its composure and the lead after Roldan’s rifle shot tied the game (9-9) and Marc Ganzi put Audi ahead (10-9) on a penalty goal. Roldan added an insurance goal (11-9) by maintaining possession and driving the length of the field for his final goal of the game.

“We had some issues fouling a bit,” Ganzi said. “We knew if we could cut down our mistakes we could beat them on the field. Once we did, the game turned.”

Casablanca tried to mount a late rally with 1:29 left when Azzaro scored a quick goal cutting his team’s deficit to one goal. Casablanca took possession after the throw-in but Audi’s swarming defense led by Gracida, who played pressure defense the entire game and stopped two goal attempts, turned back Casablanca as time ran out.

Audi's Carlitos Gracida (2) hooks Casablanca's Mike Azzaro (3) with teammate Jeff Hall (4) coming up to help. Photo by Scott Fisher

Audi’s Carlitos Gracida (2) hooks Casablanca’s Mike Azzaro (3) with teammate Jeff Hall (4) coming up to help. Photo by Scott Fisher

“We started up really well, then they got their momentum, tied the game and then took the lead,” Dorignac said. “I think the key to the game was we remained patient. We tried to calm down and focused on getting back into the game. We played hard and got tough. We were patient with cool heads in the end.”

Dorignac was a last-minute replacement for Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida, who was competing in a tournament in Mexico. It was Dorignac’s first MVP award in his first season at Grand Champions.

“When Marc called me I said yes right away because it is a great opportunity just to play,” Dorignac said. “I went for it and I enjoyed it. I tried to do well, of course. I think every player in the game deserved MVP, any of the eight players because they all played great out there.”

Roldan finished with 14 goals in two games during the tournament.

“That was fun, wasn’t it?” Roldan said with a smile. “We just had good chemistry luckily especially with Michel coming in late. The whole team played well. The other team played really well, too and honestly it could have gone either way. Today was just our day.

“We are a disciplined team that sticks to its plan,” Roldan said when asked what makes Audi so good year-in and year-out. “We try to have as much fun as possible but the moment we get on the field we are all business. We have played together for a long time and have the experience.”

In addition to Roldan’s six goals in the final, Marc Ganzi scored three goals, all on penalty shots and Dorignac had one goal. For Casablanca, Azzaro led with four goals and Grant Ganzi and Hall each had three goals.

Casablanca's Brandon Phillips (2) avoids the foul as Audi's Nic Roldan (3) goes for the ball. Photo by Scott Fisher

Casablanca’s Brandon Phillips (2) avoids the foul as Audi’s Nic Roldan (3) goes for the ball. Photo by Scott Fisher

Azzaro’s 3-year-old black mare, Gypsy Girl, was named Best Playing Pony.

It was Casablanca’s fourth appearance in a championship final this season at Grand Champions.

“I guess it was about time we lose a final,” Azzaro said. “We had our chances, we had our opportunities. The ball didn’t bounce our way today. We had the game controlled, they just had a better break at the end. Unfortunately, for us that’s the way it rolled.”

The final pitted father-son Marc and Grant Ganzi against each other.

“It’s never fun to win against your son, but that’s polo,” Ganzi said. “I’ve been on that other side of that equation losing to Melissa. Grant’s maturation as a player has really surprised me. It’s not just his ability to hit the ball and to ride. His field intelligence is so far beyond his years. His ability to read the play and to anticipate is really uncanny for a kid his age.”

At 15, Ganzi, a sophomore at St. Andrew’s School, was the youngest player in the 20-goal tournament.

“I think I played well,” Ganzi said. “It was a lot of fun and a great opportunity. I really don’t have anything to lose, win or lose. If I play well, I play well, but if I play poorly it’s still a great opportunity. I am playing with great players, Mike, Brandon and Jeff.”

Eye on the prize, the USPA North American Cup. Photo by Scott Fisher

Eye on the prize, the USPA North American Cup. Photo by Scott Fisher

Winners of the Beluga Cup from left to right, ELG teammates Avery Chapman (1), Guille Aguero (2), Kris Kampsen (3) and Carlucho Arellano (4). Photo by Scott Fisher

Winners of the Beluga Cup from left to right, ELG teammates Avery Chapman (1), Guille Aguero (2), Kris Kampsen (3) and Carlucho Arellano (4). Photo by Scott Fisher

In the opening game, ELG took control early and led from start-to-finish to defeat Beluga, 15-8, to win the Beluga Cup.

Beluga's Jeff Blake (3) tries to hook ELG's Guille Aguero (2) with teammate Avery Chapman (1) looking on. Photo by Scott Fisher

Beluga’s Jeff Blake (3) tries to hook ELG’s Guille Aguero (2) with teammate Avery Chapman (1) looking on. Photo by Scott Fisher

ELG (Avery Chapman, Guille Aguero, Kris Kampsen, Carlucho Arellano) was too quick for Beluga (Misha Rodzianko, Luis Escobar, Jeff Blake and Joey Casey).

ELG's Kris Kampsen (3) leans into his shot with Beluga's Luis Escobar (2) looking on. Photo by Scott Fisher

ELG’s Kris Kampsen (3) leans into his shot with Beluga’s Luis Escobar (2) looking on. Photo by Scott Fisher

After two chukkers, ELG (Equine Law Group) led 6-2 and shut down Beluga defensively. Beluga tried to dig itself out of a hole, cutting its deficit to two, but ELG had too much chemistry and poise for Beluga.
Aguero led with five goals, Arellano had four and Chapman, who played defensively, and Kampsen each had three goals. Escobar led Beluga with three goals.

Bungalow 8, a 6-year-old bay mare, owned by Halo Polo, was named Best Playing Pony.

Beluga's Luis Escobar (2) trying to bump Avery Chapman (1) of ELG out of the play in pursuit of the ball. Photo by Scott Fisher

Beluga’s Luis Escobar (2) trying to bump Avery Chapman (1) of ELG out of the play in pursuit of the ball. Photo by Scott Fisher

The three-day, six-team USPA North American Cup presented by Beluga was the first of two 20-goal fall tournaments at Grand Champions. The other 20-goal tournament, USPA National 20-Goal Championship, begins on Wednesday. Audi won the 2012 tournament with Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Carlos Gracida and Carlitos Gracida.

luga's Misha Rodzianko (1) tries to fight for the ball against defender Avery Chapman of ELG (1). Photo by Scott Fisher

luga’s Misha Rodzianko (1) tries to fight for the ball against defender Avery Chapman of ELG (1). Photo by Scott Fisher

During and after Saturday’s game, polo fans were treated to Beluga Noble Russian Vodka and great food in the lavish Beluga VIP tent while listening to play-by-play announcer Tony Coppola, the voice of polo.

Spectators in the Beluga VIP tent enjoying the finals of the USPA North American Cup presented by Beluga at Grand Champions. Photo by Scott Fisher

Spectators in the Beluga VIP tent enjoying the finals of the USPA North American Cup presented by Beluga at Grand Champions. Photo by Scott Fisher

Beluga Noble Vodka is produced in the heart of Siberia, one of the most ecologically clean in Russia. Beluga Noble is refined in every way. Thanks to its unique production technology, including both innovations and centuries-old traditions, the flavor of Beluga Noble has an irreproducible smoothness.

Polo fashionistas among the crowd at the USPA North American Cup presented by Beluga. Photo by Scott Fisher

Polo fashionistas among the crowd at the USPA North American Cup presented by Beluga. Photo by Scott Fisher

All the ingredients of Beluga Noble pass through a strict system of purification and filtration, which guarantees the maximum level of purity and quality in the final product. Beluga Noble “rests” for 30 days. The refined design of the bottle with hand-made elements perfectly reflects the nobility of Beluga Noble. On every one of the bottles there is one important feature, a small Beluga fish, traditionally fitted by hand, making every bottle unique.

GRAND CHAMPIONS FALL SCHEDULE

Nov. 13-23, USPA National 20-Goal Championship

Nov. 24, Juniors Tournament

Nov. 30, The Legends of Polo, 1 p.m. and International Cup, Team USA vs. Chile, 3 p.m.

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 team Audi. Everyone is welcome to watch high and medium goal polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the 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.

—

Wellington’s Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan Head U.S. Team Against Brits In Sunday’s Westchester Cup

July 24, 2013 By: janwest Category: General

WELLINGTON, FL-July 24, 2013—Longtime teammates Marc Ganzi and Nic Roldan head the U.S. team roster for Sunday’s Westchester Cup against England in Windsor Great Park’s Guards Polo Club in England.

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(L-R) Captain of the UK polo team Luke Tomlinson and Captain of the USA polo team Nic Roldan are seen ahead of the Westchester Cup on July 5, 2013 in Windsor, England. (Photo Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Audi)

The oldest rivalry in U.S. polo history dating back to 1886 features one of the most coveted and prestigious Cups in the game.

 

It will be the 16th time the competition will be held between the two countries and is the flagship event of the Audi International Polo Series and featured event of the Hurlingham Polo Association, the UK’s sport’s governing body.

 

The U.S. leads the head-to-head competition with ten victories but England has won their last two meetings in 1997 and 2009.

 

Ganzi, one of the nation’s top amateur polo players, will be joined by Roldan, an 8-goal rated player and Cardinal Newman High School alum; Hall of Famer Mike Azzaro, recently raised to 8 goals after an outstanding 2013 high goal season and Polito Pieres, a 9-goaler.

 

England’s 28-goal team features 8-goaler John Paul Clarkin, 7-goalers James Beim and Luke Tomlinson and 6-goaler Mark Tomlinson.

 

Luke Tomlinson, captain of the Audi England team, will play at back with Beim playing at the No. 1 position and Mark Tomlinson playing at No. 2.

 

In keeping with tradition and rules of the Westchester Cup, which allows England to feature one player from the Commonwealth, New Zealand’s JP Clarkin will play for England at No. 3.

 

Ganzi and Roldan were teammates on the 2009 U.S. team that suffered a heartbreaking 10-9 loss to England on U.S. soil in their last Westchester Cup meeting in Wellington. In 1997, England won, 12-9.

 

“Any time you play England, you know you’re in for six chukkers of a war when these two countries get together,” Ganzi said of the fierce rivalry.Ganzi will play five of his prized ponies.

 

“The last time these guys came here for the Westchester Cup (2009) we didn’t defend our home court and they beat us badly,” Ganzi said. “That match was a tough one for us to swallow. This is a rare and fabled competition that gave rise to polo throughout the U.S.”

 

The U.S. team, which has been practicing for more than week on British soil, is being sponsored by Equus & Co.

 

“This is the most historical tournament, it’s what Americans strive for,” said Roldan, team captain of the Equus & Co. USA Team.

 

“It is emotional. We are playing for our country. Thanks to Marc, he is the one that’s taking us over there.

 

“Winning the Westchester Cup is every man’s dream in polo,” Roldan said. “It’s America. We are all very patriotic. To win for the U.S., there is no greater feeling. It doesn’t get any better. It is a different feeling when you are representing your country and wearing red, white and blue.”

 

In November, 2012, Ganzi and Roldan played a big part in a winning Team USA effort against England, 8.5-6, in the International Cup at Wellington-based Grand Champions Polo Club, which Ganzi and his wife Melissa own and host polo events year-round and is home base for the Audi and Piaget pro teams. Roldan was the game’s Most Valuable Player.

 

In addition to the afternoon Westchester Cup match, the day will begin with a morning match for the Diamond Jubilee Trophy, featuring a Prince of Wales team against a Hurlingham squad.

 

Sunday’s match will be taped for re-broadcast on NBC Sports Network on Aug. 11 at 4 p.m.

 

GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB

England captain Luke Tomlinson and American captain Nic Roldan (R) pose during a tea party prior to England competing against the USA in the Audi International Polo Westchester Cup on July 5, 2013 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Audi)

England captain Luke Tomlinson and American captain Nic Roldan (R) pose during a tea party prior to England competing against the USA in the Audi International Polo Westchester Cup on July 5, 2013 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Audi)

 

WHERE: On the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington.

 

INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Piaget. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the International Cup in November, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament in March, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament, both in April.