Colorado, Valiente Meet In Historic Final Of World Polo League All Star Challenge Draw Tournament Sunday at Grand Champions


WELLINGTON, Fla., February 16, 2019---Colorado and Valiente will meet in the much-anticipated final of the inaugural World Polo League's All Star Challenge Draw Tournament Sunday at 4 p.m. at Grand Champions Polo Club.

Valiente (Agustin Nero, 6, Santi Torres, 6, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Poroto Cambiaso, 3) advanced into the final with a thrilling come-from-behind 11-9 victory over Patagones (Santi Wulff, 5, Santiago Toccalino, 8, Tomas Garcia del Rio, 8, Gonzalo Avendano, 2) Friday at Valiente Polo Farm.

Colorado (Rob Jornayvaz, 2, Juan Martin Zubia, 7, Rodrigo Andrade, 9, Jero Del Carril, 7) was the first finalist to qualify. Colorado (3-0) defeated Grand Champions, 10-7; Scone, 11-9; and Flexjet, 10-9. Valiente (2-0) also defeated Audi, 8-7, in bracket play.

"I am really looking forward to the finals," said World Polo League Commissioner Dale Smicklas. "Obviously, we have the two undefeated teams going into the finals which is as it should be.

"What I am most excited about is the overall progress that the highest level of polo in the northern hemisphere has made," Smicklas said. "I think anybody that's come to the games, watched the games and experienced the energy has witnessed the feeling and positive momentum we have around this style of play and this level of play.

"I am just ecstatic that it's come down to what it has come down to in the first tournament and I can't wait to get the Founders Cup started next week."

Patagones opened the game with a 5-0 lead on handicap and despite scoring only one goal in the second chukker hung on to a 6-4 halftime lead.

"When we went out there the score was kind of scary to start with, five down, but you never know and you got to try," Torres said. "This is only the second game we have played together as a team." 

The momentum shifted in the final three chukkers for Valiente that outscored Patagones, 7-3. While Patagones was unable to mount any offensive attack, Valiente started its rally in the fourth chukker with a goal from Agustin Nero and back-to-back goals from Santi Torres to tie the game at 7-7.

"Luckily, those plays happened and I was on a faster horse," Torres said. "I was able to pass some people on one play and luckily score the other one. We started taking the lead a little more and luckily maintained it."

Nero played a key role keeping Patagones on the defensive for most of the game.

"It was a long match," Nero said. "We had to go chukker by chukker. We were lucky we could get past their handicap scoring one goal at a time and then those moments (in the fourth chukker) changed the game and that made the difference. Colorado is going to be very tough. They have a lot of young guys who play very well."

After a 3-1 Valiente fourth chukker, Valiente took the lead, 8-7, for the first time early in the fifth chukker on Poroto Cambiaso's angled goal from 25 yards out after a nice pass from Torres for a 3-1 Valiente chukker.

Valiente outscored Patagones, 3-1, again in the fifth chukker with two goals from Pablo MacDonough including a flick-of-the-wrist back shot tap into the goal mouth and another from Cambiaso for a 10-8 lead.

Gonzalo Avendano's goal with 6:38 left in the game, cut Valiente's lead to one but two minutes later Cambiaso raced to another goal for a two-goal cushion. Patagones, which squandered away several scoring opportunities including four penalty conversions, had two more chances to score but fell short.

Argentine 10-goaler Pablo MacDonough scored a game-high five goals. Santi Torres had three goals, Poroto Cambiaso had two and Agustin Nero added one goal.

"It was a difficult game because we had to give them five goals and that's not a team you want to give away five goals to," MacDonough said. "The beginning is always tough. It is only our second game together so it takes a little bit of time to get the rhythm of the game and to start getting sharp. Hopefully for Sunday we are in better shape. It's going to be a very very tough final. Hopefully we will wake up to a great day."

Santiago Toccalino led Patagones with three goals and Gonzalo Avendano added one. Wulff and Del Rio were shut out.

It is the second time in eight days Colorado and Valiente, both J5 Equestrian teams, have met in a final. Colorado (Rob Jornayvaz, 2, Santi Torres, 6, Diego Cavanagh, 9, Nick Johnson, 3) won the 20-goal Sterling Cup with a 9-8 upset of defending champion Valiente (Kian Hall, 3, Robertito Zedda, 4, Poroto Cambiaso, 3, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10).

"Another Valiente-Colorado final," Torres said. "Again, either way the trophy is going back to the barn. It's important to win this one because it's the first (in the World Polo League). It's nice to win any tournament you have the chance to win.

"It's going to be a tough final," Torres said. "I don't know what we are going to do against that team. We're going to have to sit down and do something for the finals because that's a really tough team."

Eight teams competed in bracket play to determine the two finalists. 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