Grand Champions Upsets Valiente In Overtime Thriller To Capture Founders Cup; Juan Martin Nero Tournament MVP; Rodrigo Andrade Tato's Game MVP
WELLINGTON, Fl., March 4, 2019---In one of polo's biggest upsets, Grand Champions knocked off Valiente, 12-11, in overtime to win the World Polo League Founders Cup Sunday at Valiente Polo Farm.
In front of an overflow crowd, Argentine 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero scored the winning goal in the first two minutes of overtime to upset previously unbeaten Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, 2, Agustin Nero, 6, Santi Torres, 6, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10).
Playing together for the first time in the WPL's second tournament of the season, Grand Champions finished the eight-team, 26-goal tournament undefeated at 4-0.
Nero and teammates Rodrigo Andrade, 9, Grant Ganzi, 3, and Juancito Bollini, 4, earned $60,000 in prize money.
"I don't know what happened, they say that we won," joked Nero, named the Tournament Most Valuable Player. Nero also earned the Catena Watch Play of the Day for his game-winner. Andrade was selected Tato's Game MVP.
"I saw Grant was with Adolfito, I was open and went for it," Nero said. "I said to myself 'I can't miss this goal.' I was completely alone. I was lucky to get it.
"This is huge for us," Nero said. "This is the first tournament we played together and we won. The game was really, good, it was open. We had a lot of fun."
The stunning victory marked a successful 26-goal final debut of longtime friends and teammates Grant Ganzi, 20, and Juancito Bollini, 22.
"I am at a loss for words, I can't describe it, this is insane," Ganzi said. "This is a huge upset. The last time Adolfo lost at this level other than last year's U.S. Open final was a long time ago. It's tough to beat these guys. Congrats to them, they have been playing unbelievable polo.
"This is huge for the club, huge for the team, just a huge, huge win," Ganzi said. "This is my No. 1 win, for sure. At this level against the best in the world and taking Adolfo out on the last play, you can't top that."
Valiente opened with a 3-0 lead on handicap and extended it to 5-0 early in the first chukker. With Valiente leading, 7-3, Grand Champions clawed its way back scoring five unanswered goals in the third and fourth chukkers to take an 8-7 lead on Ganzi's goal run. The game was tied four times before Nero's heroics.
"We just had a determined mentality," Ganzi said. "We never gave up. We just kept going harder and harder at every play. We knew this team could come back. Against Scone, we were losing the whole game, too. It's been an uncommon pattern for us.
"We have had to give goals to teams at the beginning and it's been tough," Ganzi said. "We have been able to get ourselves out of it."
Nero finished with a game-high seven goals, including four on penalty conversions. Andrade had four and Ganzi added one. Torres led Valiente with five goals, Cambiaso had two and Agustin Nero added one.
"I was super nervous before the game," Ganzi said. "It was probably the most nervous I have ever been before a game."
The Grand Champions Best Playing Pony of the Game was Dolfina Miami played and owned by Cambiaso in the fourth chukker.
The American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony of the final was Mermelada played by Agustin Nero in the sixth chukker and owned by J5 Equestrian.
The American Polo Horse Association best horse of the tournament was JM Muneca played by Juan Martin Nero in the second and sixth chukkers.
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.
Valiente, overtime winners of the season-opening All-Star Challenge Draw Tournament with Nero, Torres, Pablo MacDonough and Poroto Cambiaso, was the heavy favorite and looking for its second title.
In the tournament semifinals, Grand Champions defeated Scone, 12-9, on Tuesday. Valiente defeated Colorado, 10-7, on Friday.
Also on Sunday, Scone (David Paradise, 0, Guillermo Terrera, 8, Alejandro Taranco, 8, Pelon Stirling, 10) won the subsidiary Powerhorse Cup and $40,000 in prize money with a 15-12 victory over Colorado (Rob Jornayvaz, 2, Juan Martin Zubia, 7, Diego Cavanagh, 9, Jero del Carril, 7).
Stirling scored a game-high eight goals and was Most Valuable Player. Liberata, played by Stirling, was Grand Champions Polo Club Best Playing Pony. Jordib, played by Rob Jornayvaz and owned by J5 Equestrian, was the American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony.
In addition to Stirling's eight goals, Taranco added four goals, Terrera had two and Paradise had one. For Colorado, Zubia and Cavanagh each had three goals. Jornayvaz and Del Carril had two goals apiece.
Colorado started out with a 2-0 lead on handicap. The game was close in the first half. After a 4-4 opening chukker, Scone outscored Colorado, 3-2, in the second chukker for a 7-6 advantage and Scone tied Colorado 2-2 in the third chukker with the half tied at 9-9.
Scone kicked it up a gear in the second half, outscoring Colorado, 6-4, including a 3-0 fifth chukker to clinch the first 26-goal subsidiary title for Aussie team sponsor David Paradise in his 26-goal playing debut.
"This was great, they are really nice guys and I loved it," Paradise said. "It was fast, open polo. I would love to come back. It was really good polo. It was fun. It was really organized with a lot of good players, lot of good horses and a lot of nice people. I hope to come back.
"These guys are so much on the ball, the other side couldn't afford to have any mistakes because they were on top of it straightaway," Paradise said.
Added Stirling, "We played well. It was a very difficult team, they have been having a great season. Luckily we managed to get the two goals back quickly. We played very well in the second half.
"Hopefully, David had a good experience, we really enjoyed playing with him," Stirling said. "He's a lot of fun around us, he is like one of us so we can joke with him and he can joke with us so that makes it much more fun. It's been great for him to play this kind level of polo which he thought he was unable to and I think he is up for it. Hopefully, we will get him back next year."
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 14 tournament-quality fields to play on, includes the Feb. 19-March 3 Founders Cup, March 6-24 Palm Beach Open which gets under way on Wednesday with two games including the debut of SD Farms, and March 27-April 14 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 Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Nigeria, 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.