36th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz Begins Friday; Grand Champions Well-Represented
The 36th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz, the granddaddy of them all, begins today, Friday, against a magnificent backdrop of snow-capped Engadin Valley.
By: Sharon Robb
Four teams, including defending champion Badrutt’s Palace, will compete for the coveted title in the only high goal snow polo tournament on the frozen lake of St. Moritz.
The world’s most prestigious polo tournament on snow was the first snow polo tournament in the sport’s history created by polo promoter Reto Gaudenzi, founder and CEO of Snow Polo World Cup.
Snow polo is played around the world including Aspen in Colorado; Cortina in Italy; Tianjin in China, but St Moritz remains the most prestigious tournament that is played on snow, and awards the highest prize money.
“We are proud to be able to stage another top-rated event, presenting both social and sporting highlights to our guests and spectators,” Gaudenzi said. “We owe this to our loyal sponsors, partners and players, and their continued trust in us.”
Four high goal teams with players from the United States, England, Argentina, Azerbaijian, Great Britain, Russia and Switzerland will compete.
de GRISOGONO is the newest team sponsor this year. Team sponsors and rosters are:
Azerbaijan Land of Fire (15): Elcin Jamalli, 2; Pato Bolanterio 4; Agustin Kronhaus, 3; Santiago Marambio, 6; Reserves Rashad Hasanov, 0; Ali Rzayev, 0.
Badrutt’s Palace (18): Melissa Ganzi, 1; Juan Bautista Peluso, 2; Nic Roldan, 8; Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8.
de Grisogono (16): Zhanna Bandurko/Valery Mishchenko, 0; Robert Strom, 5; Max Charlton, 5; Nacho Gonzalez, 6.
Maserati (14): Kutlay Yaprak, 1; Fabio Meier, 1; Adrian Laplacette Jr., 6; Valentin Novillo Astrada, 6.
“We are thrilled to be able to count on so many top players, who, year after year, want to take part in the world’s only high goal tournament on snow,” Gaudenzi said. “At the same time, we are pleased to report a steady rise in attention and demand from sponsors and guests around the globe.”
Melissa Ganzi, President of Grand Champions Polo Club and co-founder of the 26-goal World Polo League that begins play in February, is making her fifth appearance in the tournament.
Ganzi was the first woman to win the 35th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz last year. She was also the first woman to compete in the St. Moritz Snow Polo Tournament in 2016 and first woman to make the final in 2017. She is also first woman to win both the St. Regis World Snow Polo Tournament in Aspen for Flexjet in 2016 and 2018 Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup.
“To be the first woman to play in the tournament was amazing as it inspired other women to play,” Ganzi said. “And, then to share being the first woman to win the tournament with my sponsors, Badrutt’s Palace to win for the first time in 35 years made it even more special to me.”
In last year’s St. Moritz event, Badrutt’s Palace (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Juan Bautista Peluso, 0, Alfredo Bigatti, 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) won for the first time in the hotel’s hallowed history. Badrutt’s Palace defeated previously unbeaten Maserati (Valery Mischenko, 0, Robert Strom, 5, Chris Hyde, 5/Jack Hyde, 4, Max Charlton, 6) with an impressive 7-3 victory in front of a record crowd
In 2018, Cartier (Rommy Gianni, 1, Juan Cruz Greguoli, 4, Dario Musso, 6, Chris Hyde, 5) held off Maserati (Zhanna Bandurko/Raya Sidorenko, Gerardo Mazzini, Hissam Ali Hyder, Robert Strom), 5-4.5, in the final. Musso was MVP.
“St. Moritz is a magical venue,” Ganzi said. “It was also the first snow polo tournament in the sport’s history. Reto Gaudenzi has done a tremendous job in creating something magical on snow. The scenic arena, atmosphere, fans, sponsors and parties make it the real deal.”
On Thursday teams will go through training game sessions at the lake. Badrutt’s Palace Hotel plays de Grisogono at 1 p.m. and Maserati plays Azerbaijan Land of Fire at 2 p.m.
The players and sponsor presentations at Kulm Hotel’s Sunny Bar and Fondue Night at Hotel Steffani will kick off the social events on Thursday.
The first two days teams will play qualifying games. On Friday, Badrutt’s Palace Hotel plays Azerbaijan Land of Fire in the opening game at noon for the President’s Trophy followed by de Grisogono against Maserati at 2:15 p.m.
On Saturday, Azerbaijan Land of Fire plays de Grisogono at noon for the Maserati Trophy followed by Maserati against Badrutt’s Palace Hotel at 2:15 p.m.
On Sunday, the La Martina Cup subsidiary is noon followed by the championship for the de Grisogono Trophy at 2:15 p.m.
The highlight of the weekend is the Snow Polo Night Gala Dinner Baku Moritz Night Saturday at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, located in the center of St. Moritz.
The three-day tournament is the social event of the season. Social events will be held both on the lake and first-class hotels around St. Moritz. Local chefs offer a wide array of culinary delights.
Since the tournament’s inception, admission to the event has always been free including access to the grandstand. The lavish VIP tent is expected to be sold out. Last year a record 14,000 spectators attended the three days of the tournament.
Badrutt’s Palace is the birthplace of Alpine winter sports and favorite European destination. The five-star hotel celebrated 120 years since opening its doors. It won the award for Most Renowned Luxury Hotel 2016 at the Hotel Spa Awards.
Jan-Erik Franck, the voice of polo who also announces the 26-goal World Polo League at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm, will handle the announcing duties in St. Moritz before returning to Wellington for the World Polo League season.
During the winter season in Wellington, Grand Champions is hosting 19 tournaments, the most of any club in the U.S., including five in January. The highlight of the schedule is the second season of the 26-goal World Polo League, featuring at least 11 teams and most of the best players in the sport.
With 18 safe and well-manicured fields, including 11-tournament grade, the club will host every level of polo for men, women and children including the World Polo League, the only 26-goal polo held outside of Argentina featuring the best players in the world.
The club attracts a large international field of players from all corners of the world including Australia, Chile, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, South Africa, Nigeria and England.
Grand Champions is coming off its finest fall season in the club’s 13-year history. It was the only club in the nation to stage two 20-goal fall tournaments in addition to the International Cup and Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial. The club also hosted a full schedule of successful and highly-competitive medium goal tournaments.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique polo facility, nestled in the heart of the world’s winter equestrian capital Wellington. It features 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and four polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball and new parking lot.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm’s expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program, created by Melissa Ganzi when the club first opened.