Valiente Wins Inaugural WPL U.S. National Mixed Doubles Championship; Nina Clarkin, Adolfo Cambiaso Named MVPs
WELLINGTON, Fl., April 6, 2019----Valiente added another exciting chapter in the history of the World Polo League.
On a perfect sunny afternoon for polo at Valiente Polo Farm, Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Pamela Flanagan, Mia Cambiaso, Adolfo Cambiaso) defeated Audi (Milli Sanchez, Nina Clarkin, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Marc Ganzi), 6-4, Friday in the WPL U.S. National Mixed Doubles Championship.
Created by WPL co-founder Bob Jornayvaz, the unique first-of-its-kind game featured two men and two women with combined handicaps on each team.
"It was so much fun, it was great," Jornayvaz said. "I am really happy. I think we took women's polo to another level in terms of just accelerating the pace. I am really proud of the girls and how they played. They did well. I am just so proud of what they did."
Jornayvaz, who grew up playing mixed doubles in tennis, came up with the idea to help promote women's polo, the largest growing sector of polo throughout the world.
"I watched the women, they are a big, big part of the game and need to be recognized more than they are," Jornayvaz said. "This is a great way to elevate them, speed up their game and be a part of the entire polo community. I hope they feel that same way. I am a man with two daughters and I am very appreciative of where we are trying to go with the women in the world."
Jornayvaz said there is great interest in the event and he hopes to attract more teams in 2020. "It was a great start and we will have more time next year to organize and schedule it," Jornayvaz said.
Ten-goalers Nina Clarkin of Great Britain and Adolfo Cambiaso of Argentina were named Female and Male Most Valuable Players.
"It was great fun," Cambiaso said. "I think the idea from Bob is great and I hope in the future we can get eight teams and play a real tournament flat out with handicaps. We can go six chukkers.
"The thing is we need to find the right time and we can do it in a week or week and a half," Cambiaso said. "Today we played flat out. It was a great start, something new."
Cambiaso also enjoyed playing with his 16-year-old daughter, Mia. "It was fun, sometimes I get mad at her and she gets mad at me, but it was great fun," Cambiaso said.
It was the second time Clarkin played against Cambiaso and first time with 18-year-old Milli Sanchez. Clarkin beat Cambiaso in the semifinal of the 2003 Gold Cup in England which her team went on to win. Coincidentally, her sister Tamara sent her a photo on Friday of the two of them playing against each other.
"I played against him before but never in a situation like this," Clarkin said. "It was good fun to play against him today and see how he played with Mia and coached her. He is fantastic. He is so good and it's an honor to be on the same field as him.
"I thought it was fantastic, what a brilliant idea," Clarkin said. "I think it could grow into something really big in the future. I really enjoyed it. I am real excited to see where it goes. I can't wait to play it next year.
"This has never been done anywhere officially like this with the women and men playing off their handicaps," Clarkin said. "I think that is an interesting idea and good concept and works very well.
The fast, wide open four-chukker game was a battle from the opening chukker. The lead changed hands six times before Flanagan and Clarkin scored back-to-back goals in the final 3:29 minutes to put the game away.
"I love this concept," said Flanagan, coming off the finals of the Susan G. Komen Women's U.S. Open. "It was a dream playing with Adolfo. I think everybody would probably feel that way. Not only Adolfo but Mia and Bob, too. They are all incredible teammates.
"This was Bob's project and he is really passionate about it," said Flanagan, 25, who has been playing polo since her sophomore year of high school at Culver Academy. "Having Bob be so passionate about incorporating women's polo says a lot. That is really special for women's polo and what the World Polo League is doing incorporating women's polo is also really special so we have to give them a big shoutout."
It was the first time Argentine 8-goaler Alejandro Novillo Astrada played with and against women players in a regulation game. Astrada replaced 10-goaler Pablo MacDonough, who sprained his ankle earlier in the day during a WPL game with his team Audi against Grand Champions.
"I have played practices with my nieces but not like this," Astrada said. "This was fun. Those women played very well. They know how to play good polo. I hope it catches on here. It is a fun format. Maybe they will do something a little different like the men cannot score from inside 60 yards. It's something to work on, but I think it is a great start."
"I love the concept and I mentioned to Bob that I really love the idea mixing the women's handicaps with the men's handicaps," said Dawn Jones, one of the co-founders of the Women's International Polo Network. "I think it's really essential that we promote the women's handicaps because there are only nine countries in the world that implement that handicap scale and I want to see all the other associations that are part of the Federation International Polo adopt that scale.
"Without a doubt I was very impressed with the game and the level of play," Jones said. "The types of plays that were made will help improve the women's game. I love seeing Adolfo and his daughter playing together. They made some beautiful team plays."
Valiente got balanced scoring. Adolfo Cambiao, Mia Cambiaso and Flanagan each had two goals. For Audi, all four players each scored one goal.
Fausto, a 6-year-old gelding played by Mia Cambiaso in the third chukker and owned by La Dolfina, was Grand Champions Best Playing Pony.
Augustina, a 14-year-old mare, played by Flanagan in the third chukker and owned by J5Equestrian, was named American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony.
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/Polo Channel/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 11 tournament-quality fields to play on, features the All-Star Challenge Draw Tournament, Founders Cup, Palm Beach Open and Triple Crown of Polo. The WPL is open to 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 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.