Casablanca Captures US Trust Cup; Jason Crowder Named MVP
Casablanca won its first tournament of the fall polo season Sunday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.
By: Sharon Robb
Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Brandon Phillips, 4, Jason Crowder, 6) defeated Audi (Santos Bollini, 1, Marc Ganzi, 2, Sterling Giannico, 4, Nic Roldan, 8), 5-0, and Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Kris Kampsen, 6, Juan Bollini, 5), 5-4, in round-robin play to win the US Trust Cup.
It was Casablanca’s second US Trust Cup victory in three years. In 2017, Casablanca (Cacho Galindo, Grant Ganzi, Mike Azzaro, Jason Crowder) won a spirited round-robin over Team USPA and Audi.
Jason Crowder, coming off summer polo in Kentucky, was named Most Valuable Player. Crowder scored four goals in six chukkers to lead Casablanca.
“Those guys played great,” said Crowder who has played with his teammates numerous times throughout his career.
“They all played awesome, it was great.”
Flashdance, a 12-year-old Chestnut mare, played and owned by Grant Ganzi, was Best Playing Pony.
“This was good after a weak showing on Friday,” Ganzi said, referring to his team’s early exit in the Tackeria Invitational. “It’s a fun team. We have four guys that can hit the ball and play simple, classic open polo. It is good to start out with a win this early in the season.”
Casablanca, buoyed by talent and great chemistry, got balanced play from all four of its players. In the opening three-chukker game, Casablanca jumped on Audi for a 2-0 lead after the opening chukker and was relentless in the final two chukkers not allowing Audi to mount any kind of offensive attack. Audi had its scoring opportunities but could not capitalize.
“We didn’t think it was going to be easy after that, it’s a whole new second half,” Crowder said. “We had to keep going. We couldn’t let up just because the first three went our way. Flexjet was a completely different team.”
In the second game, Audi found its offense behind Santos Bollini, celebrating his 20th birthday, who scored two goals, but could manage only a 4-4 tie with Flexjet, led by Kris Kampsen with three goals.
In the third and final game, Flexjet dominated the first two chukkers behind two goals by Juan Bollini and one by Melissa Ganzi for leads of 2-1 and 3-2. A brief rainshower early in the second chukker passed through which seemed to sway the momentum.
Crowder scored back-to-back goals, the first one to cut Flexjet’s lead to one late in the second chukker and the second to tie the game, 3-3, early in the third chukker.
Juancito Bollini’s goal with 1:35 gave Casablanca a 4-3 lead and Grant Ganzi scored for a 5-3 lead. Flexjet scored again before time ran out.
“This was a good win,” Phillips said. “We had a bit of a slow start on Friday. We put it together today and played a little harder. We started getting a bit of a rhythm. It was fun playing with these guys.”
Before the game, a moment of silence was held for auto dealer Anthony DePaula, who passed away suddenly in New York City of a heart attack. The businessman had a passion for cars, horses and polo. DePaula was a late convert to the sport, which he played as well as supported financially. “It’s such a wonderful experience to feel the inertia you have with that horse when you move into the ball,” DePaula told the Times Union in 1998. “It’s a blood rush.”
During the 2019 fall season, the nation’s largest polo club will host both medium and high goal polo featuring six medium goal tournaments and two 20-goal tournaments.
The fall season serves as a tuneup for the winter season for players and green horses. The winter season will feature the second season of the highly-successful 26-goal World Polo League at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm with the best polo players in the world.
The 2019 fall season is highlighted by the International Cup featuring Team USA against France; Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial, inaugural Wellington Open 20 and USPA National 20.
The well-organized fall tournaments attract players from all over the United States and world including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, England, France, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Uruguay, Switzerland, Nigeria and South Africa.
Grand Champions had its finest fall season in club history last year. It was the only club in the nation to stage two USPA-sanctioned 20-goal fall tournaments and again is hosting 20-goal tournaments this season.
The Grand Champions Fall Invitational League is geared toward improving a player’s polo skills at every level. Roster lineups change from tournament to tournament with evenly-matched teams featuring pro and amateur players.
Club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi, both accomplished players, take pride in teaching and sharing the exciting sport of polo with anyone interested in learning. The husband and wife team are coming off their most successful and historical summer season at Grand Champions’ sister club Aspen Valley Polo Club.
The fall league features: stick-and-ball sessions during the week; two tournament games every weekend; ambulance and umpires for all tournament games; world-class polo fields; club-sponsored social events every weekend for all players; and top-of-the-line trophies for all teams every weekend. Food and refreshments are available for players and fans after the finals.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ 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 at the turnkey facility.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its’ mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV will live stream the entire fall season. ChukkerTV’s state-of-the art technology also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
2019 Grand Champions Fall Schedule
Oct. 25-27, Polo Gear Challenge
Nov. 1-3, Fall Classic
Nov. 8-10, Fall Plates
Nov. 15-17, Pedro Morrison Memorial
Nov. 16-23, Wellington Open 20
Nov. 18-27, USPA National 20
Nov. 30, Legends of Polo and Carlos Gracida Memorial
Nov. 30, 2019 International Cup, USA vs. France