Alegria Rallies In Final Seconds To Win Molina Cup; Jesse Bray Most Valuable Player
WELLINGTON, Fl., March 25, 2019----In a wild finish in the Molina Cup, Alegria won its first 26-goal tournament of the World Polo League with a thrilling 11-10 victory over Valiente Sunday at windy Valiente Polo Farm.
Alegria (Freddie Mannix, 8, Jesse Bray, 6, Gringo Colombres, 7, Juan Martin Obregon, 5) rallied with a 3-1 sixth chukker to overtake early leader Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, 2, Agustin Nero, 6, Alejandro (Jejo) Taranco, 8, Pelon Stirling, 10).
Bray, playing his 12-year-old gelding Cayman, scored back-to-back goals to tie and win in the final 33 seconds of the game.
Bray, 26, was named Most Valuable Player for the first time in 26-goal polo and Cayman was the American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony. Reyna, played by Stirling in the second chukker, was Grand Champions Best Playing Pony.
It was the Canadian-based organization's first tournament victory since April, 2018, winning $50,000 in WPL prize money.
"Everything happened in one minute," Colombres said. "Jesse was on an amazing horse. He flies and he scores. It was an amazing game. We didn't win the main cup, but we won the secondary cup and that means we are there. We can compete."
Added Mannix, "Jesse is the man. The gelding horse Cayman was amazing in the end. That really shows the level of horses. Once he was out in front, he was the nearside man all the way."
Alegria fell behind early in the opening chukker. Trailing 4-0, Alegria outscored Valiente, 4-1, to trail by only one, 5-4, at the half. Alegria stayed within one goal after 2-2 chukkers in both the fourth and fifth chukkers.
With 5:27 left, Obregon converted a 30-yard penalty to tie the game at 9-9, prompting Mannix to say, "Come on boys, let's make this happen."
Stirling converted a 60-yard penalty with 1:20 to retake the lead, 10-9, before Bray and Cayman came up with their heroics as time ran out.
"I didn't even think about it really, I just went to goal," Bray said. "I'm very happy. We started out bad the first chukker down 4-0, and then started playing better and better and better and ended up winning in the end.
"We put it together," Bray said. "We can still improve. We'll see how it goes the next tournament."
Alegria, winless in the Founders Cup, opened the Palm Beach Open with an impressive victory over Founders Cup champion Grand Champions.
"This is awesome, I'm proud of the team," Mannix said. "We have been meeting and talking about how to improve and the team is listening. We are all listening.
"We are trying our best," Mannix said. "We are without a coach so it's 90 percent player and 10 percent coach for everyone. I think we played pretty concentrated for most of the game today. That's how you can compete against a great team like Valiente."
Obregon led Alegria with five goals. Bray finished with three goals, Mannix had two and Colombres added one. Stirling scored a game-high nine goals including seven on penalty conversions and Taranco had one.
"Amazing, amazing," Obregon said. "It was a really tough game. We were tight for most of the game, we just needed a little break and Jesse gave us that break. Those two last goals were amazing on Cayman. It was crazy."
Alegria kept its composure after falling behind in the opening chukker.
"I think we really did a good job," Obregon said. "We held it together and kept up. We didn't let those guys beat us after we were behind. We kept coming back and that is very tough when you are losing 4-0. We kept it close until the end. It's nice to win a game, especially a final. It gives us a little bit of a boost and you feel more confident. Hopefully, we will keep it up."
The victory will give Alegria confidence going into this week's Triple Crown of Polo, the fourth and final tournament of the inaugural 26-goal WPL season.
"This will give us major momentum," Mannix said. "We talked about how we had to beat this team in the last game of the tournament. Psychologically, it's important. Whenever you win everything always goes better. The horses go better, the barn looks better, training is easier. It's going to be on a very good foot to start the next tournament."
The American Polo Horse Association was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.
The WPL is being live streamed on ESPN Deportes and ChukkerTV/Horseplay with Gus Whitelaw calling the action. For more information go to www.worldpolo.org.
Co-founded by Grand Champions owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi and Valiente Polo Farm owner Bob Jornayvaz, the World Polo League is the only 26-goal polo in the world outside of Argentina. The WPL is preserving the highest level of polo and its rich, hallowed tradition in the U.S.
The WPL has its own set of simpler fan-friendly rules to improve the flow and action of the game.
The WPL, with tournament-quality fields to play on, includes the All-Star Challenge Draw Tournament, Founders Cup, Palm Beach Open and Triple Crown of Polo.
The World Polo League is open to other teams that wish to compete in one or more of the tournaments. Games are offered on the flat (Open) and on Handicap.
The World Polo League has attracted a large international field of players from all corners of the world including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Nigeria, New Zealand, Uruguay and U.S.
Grand Champions and Valiente are also launching the U.S. National Mixed Doubles Championship, featuring two men and two women with combined handicaps this month.
In addition to the World Polo League, season highlights for 2019 at Grand Champions are the Sterling Cup, $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, John T. Oxley Memorial and $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament and WCT Final.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and three polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball with plans to build more polo fields in the future.