Valiente Defeats Audi In Overtime In World Polo League Featured Game At Grand Champions; Pablo MacDonough MVP; Doubleheader On Tuesday


WELLINGTON, Fla., February 11, 2019---In front of a packed house, Valiente rallied in overtime to win its World Polo League season-opener Sunday in the featured game at Grand Champions.

Valiente (Agustin Nero, 6, Santi Torres, 6, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Poroto Cambiaso, 3) defeated Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Jason Crowder, 6, Nic Roldan, 8, Pelon Sterling, 10), 8-7, in overtime.

MacDonough scored a team high four goals including the game-winner with 7:16 left in the overtime chukker and was named Most Valuable Player.

"Sometimes when you see you have a chance, you try to keep the ball and take your chance," MacDonough said. "To score you have to shoot. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it goes out. We were lucky it went in."

The game marked the successful U.S. 26-goal debut of 13-year-old Poroto Cambiaso, son of 10-goal polo great Adolfo Cambiaso. Cambiaso replaced team sponsor and WPL co-founder Bob Jornayvaz in the lineup. It was the first time MacDonough played in a game with Cambiaso.

"He is amazing," MacDonough said. "He will definitely be one of the best players in the world in maybe four or five years. He doesn't need ten years. I would say five or six at the most he will be there for sure."

The crowd was mesmerized by Cambiaso stripping Roldan of the ball and weaving his way through defenders twice his size. 

Cambiaso and Torres each added one goal for Valiente which started out with a 2-0 lead on handicap. It was the first time Valiente played together as a team.

"It was the very first time we were together," MacDonough said. "It was a new tournament and the atmosphere of a new season. I am very happy to be a part of this new project, the World Polo League. I hope this goes on for a long time. 

"Everything has been great. I think it is the right way with Marc and Melissa Ganzi and Bob Jornayvaz and the people involved in the whole project makes it really good. I am happy and thank the organization for being a part of this.

"I think the World Polo League is definitely here to stay," MacDonough said. "It's the very first year and it's already showing some new people who are very interested and coming to watch. It's only the first few games and that means something. It shows that 26 goals is the best level. Argentina is the highest but the best tournaments here in America is the World Polo League."

The evenly-matched teams battled throughout the game. After a scoreless opening chukker, Audi bounced back with two goals from Roldan and one from Sterling to take the lead, 3-2.

Audi extended its lead to 5-2 in the third chukker before Valiente scored its first goal from the field with 1:40 left on Torres' great cut shot and another from MacDonough scoring off a high angled goal with three seconds left to trail, 5-4, at the half.

MacDonough lofted another goal through the air to tie the game 5-5 with 4:58 left in the fourth chukker. MacDonough weaved his way through a crowd of defenders to score enabling Valiente to take the lead for the first time, 6-5, with 1:55 left.

Ganzi converted a 30-yard penalty shot to tie the game 6-6 with 7:23 left. Cambiaso then took off after winning the throw-in to regain the lead for Valiente, 7-6. Both teams had scoring opportunities early in the sixth chukker before Roldan hit a 30-yard penalty shot to tie the game again, 7-7. Both teams lost challenges and had two more scoring opportunities before time ran out sending the game into overtime for MacDonough's heroics.

"I thought to myself I hope Pablo's shot goes in," said Torres, less than 24 hours after winning the 20-goal Sterling Cup with his Colorado teammates Rob Jornayvaz, Diego Cavanagh and Nick Johnson with a 9-8 win over defending champion Valiente on Cavanagh's incredible safety conversion.

"I am very happy," Torres said. "It's been a great two days. This team was a lot of fun. We haven't played together. It was a long game and really tough. Luckily, we pulled it out again. Everyone was good teammates." 

Roldan led Audi with four goals including two penalty conversions. Ganzi had two goals including a great cut shot and Sterling added two.

Sterling's black mare Oriental Reina was named Best Playing Pony.

A packed house of fans were treated to a disc jockey playing live music throughout the day, free food and refreshments and viewing the game and replays on the club's Jumbotron.

World Polo League play continues  Tuesday with a doubleheader. Flexjet plays Grand Champions at 2 p.m. at Jan Pamela Field. Scone plays Colorado at 4 p.m. at Valiente.

Eight teams are competing in bracket play with the final set for Feb. 17 at Grand Champions Polo Club at 4 p.m.

Scone, Grand Champions, Colorado and Flexjet are in Bracket A and Audi, Valiente, Cria Yatay and Patagones are in Bracket B.

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 exciting new league, that will offer major prize money starting in the semifinals, 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, including no yellow cards, to improve the flow and action of the game.

The WPL, with 14 tournament-quality fields to play on, also includes the Feb. 20-March 3 Founders Cup, March 6-24 Palm Beach Open and March 27-April 14 Triple Crown of Polo.

The WPL game finals will be held Sundays on Field Two at Grand Champions at 4 p.m. and semifinal games at Valiente Polo Farm, Fields One and Two. Several games will also be held throughout the week at various times. Admission is free along with food and refreshments at the featured games. 

The World Polo League is open to other teams that wish to compete in one or more of the tournaments. Entries are still open and everyone is welcome to play. 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 Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, 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, in March.

In addition to the World Polo League, season highlights for 2019 at Grand Champions are the Sterling Cup, March 1-31 $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, March 1-16 John T. Oxley Memorial and March 3-24 $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament.

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.

Candace Ferreira