Valiente Defeats Colorado, Plays Grand Champions In Sunday Founders Cup Final At Valiente; Audi Plays Flexjet Saturday At Santa Rita

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WELLINGTON, Fla., March 2, 2019---The stage is set for the battle of the unbeatens in the championship final of the World Polo League's Founders Cup Sunday afternoon at Valiente Polo Farm.

In one of the best games in the young history of the World Polo League, Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, 2, Agustin Nero, 6, Santi Torres, 6, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10) defeated Colorado (Rob Jornayvaz, 2, Juan Martin Zubia, 7, Diego Cavanagh, 9, Jero del Carill, 7), 10-7, in the semifinals Friday in front of a packed house at Grand Champions Polo Club.

Valiente, overtime winners of the season-opening All-Star Challenge Draw Tournament with Nero, Torres, Pablo MacDonough and Poroto Cambiaso, will try to make it two in a row when they face Grand Champions in the final at 4 p.m. Both teams are undefeated at 3-0.

The subsidiary Powerhorse Cup featuring Scone and Colorado is 1 p.m. also at Valiente.

Grand Champions (Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Rodrigo Andrade, 9, Juan Martin Nero, 10) won its Tuesday semifinal  with a 12-9 victory over Scone (David Paradise/Santino Zedda, 0, Guillermo Terrera, 8, Alejandro Taranco, 8, Pelon Stirling, 10). It will be the first 26-goal career final for Ganzi and Bollini.

On Saturday, one World Polo League game is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Santa Rita Polo Farm between Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Nic Roldan, 8, Kris Kampsen, 6, Pablo MacDonough, 10) and Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, A, Alfredo Bigatti, 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, Pablo Spinacci, 6). Both teams are looking for their first tournament win.

In a hardfought, fast and furious semifinal battle, neither Valiente or Colorado would give each other an inch in the first five chukkers. 

Valiente opened with a 2-0 advantage on handicap but the lead was shortlived with Colorado reeling them in for a first-chukker 3-2 advantage.

Valiente outscored Colorado, 2-1, with goals from Torres and Nero to end the second chukker tied, 4-4. The swarming defensive attack from both sides ended up with a 0-0 third chukker.

The second half was just as exciting with the teams tying 5-5 after four and 7-7 after five. It all came down to the sixth chukker when Valiente came up with an offensive attack behind Torres' two goals and Nero, who was relentless on both ends of the field, to outscore Colorado, 3-0, to clinch the win.

For Bob Jornayvaz, who played against his son, it will be his first final in his WPL tournament debut.

"It was a highly-defensive game, everyone played well, just incredible back shots and horsepower," Jornayvaz said. "It was always a race to get there first and hit another back shot. It was good, wide open polo.

"Both teams missed several easy goals," Jornayvaz said. "I thought it easily could have been three or four goals higher on each side. I think everyone had missed shots at goal. It was just a great wide open game and that's what I am most proud of. It was fun to play against them, they make you work. Those guys played really well and clicking like crazy. It was fun polo."

Cambiaso, with more moves than LeBron James, turned in his finest performance of the WPL season with his uncanny anticipation and sense of where the ball was every time it was hit.

"I told you it was going to be a war," Cambiaso said. "We were a bit lucky on a couple of plays, we got a couple of fouls and I scored the last two penalties that were important. Agustin and Santi played a hell of a game. Santi was the MVP.

"It was fun," Cambiaso said. "When you are out there it is fun, those are the games you want to play. They played amazing, too. I am happy for Bob, that he is back and in the final."

Cambiaso and Torres each had three goals and Nero added two goals. Rob Jornayvaz, Zubia and del Carill each had two goals and Cavanagh had one.

"It was a tight, very tough game," Nero said. "The field was good despite all the rain that came down. This was one of the best games I have been in. It was very intense."

Torres, in the midst of his finest high goal season, will be going after his third title of the winter season after winning the 20-goal Sterling Cup with Colorado and WPL opener with Valiente, both J5 Equestrian teams.

"We tried, that is a hell of a team," Torres said. "I don't know what happened. Luckily, we were able to come out with the win. It was anybody's game. Every play was the game, every play you had to try and win it. If not, then win the next one because they went hard on every play. It was one of the toughest games I've been in for sure."

In the early sun-drenched Friday game, Alegria (Freddie Mannix, 8, Jesse Bray, 6, Mariano Obregon, 6, Juan Martin Obregon, 5) won its first World Polo League game with a 14-11 victory over Black Watch (Juan Cruz Merlos, 5, Nacho Figueras, 6, Pite Merlos, 8, Tommy Biddle, 5).

Alegria had lost its first two games to Valiente and Colorado. 

"We played well today," Mannix said. "We have good energy on the team and everyone is getting along. We are trying our best out there."

Black Watch jumped out to a 5-2 lead early in the opening chukker before Alegria started to reel them in for a 6-6 tie at the end of the second chukker on Bray's nice goal run.

After six lead changes, Alegria took the lead for good at the end of the fifth chukker on Juan Martin Obregon's goal with 1:25 left for an 11-10 advantage. Juan Martin Obregon extended the lead, 12-10 on a 30-yard penalty conversion.  Bray's lofted goal shot run off the throw-in and Juan Martin Obregon's last-second goal iced the win.

Alegria was able to bounce back despite its first two losses in its WPL tournament debut.

"You have to be realistic," Mannix said. "Valiente is the New England Patriots of polo right now. They have the wizard Adolfo and Bob's support. They are always going to be tough to beat at any level whether it's 8-goal or 26-goal. Any time you play against Valiente, watch out, because they are going to be organized.

"We took it all in stride," Mannix said. "Nobody likes to lose. It's not like Alegria is fooling around. We watched a lot of videos, been training in the gym and been riding. I think that showed up today. Our first win in the World Polo League is in the books."

For Alegria, Bray and Mariano Obregon each had five goals. Juan Martin Obregon and Mannix each had two goals.

"I'm very happy that we won," Bray said. "It means a lot to get your first win and get everything moving. The two teams that played the final were our first two games but it was good for us to set us to reality and show us how far away we were. I think we improved a little bit every game and today we finally got a win."

Biddle led Black Watch with a game-high six goals, all on penalty conversions. Juan Cruz Merlos had two goals and Pite Merlos added one goal.

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 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 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.

Candace Ferreira