Fall Plates Tournament

Sebucan Captures Fall Plates Tournament At Grand Champions; Julio Gracida Named MVP 

Fall Plates champion Sebucan’s Pablo Pulido, Pablo Dorignac, Whistle Uys and Julio Gracida with awards presenter Gwen Rizzo.

WELLINGTON, Fla., November 4, 2018—-Sebucan defended its title and won its third tournament of the fall season Sunday in front of a good local crowd at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.

On a perfect day for polo, Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, 2, Pablo Dorignac, 5, Whistle Uys, 3, Julio Gracida, 4) led for most of the game to defeat Audi (Tony Calle, 3, Marc Ganzi, 2, Brandon Phillips, 4, Carlitos Gracida, 4), 14-10.

Fall Plates finalists Sebucan and Audi with Peter Rizzo helping his wife Gwen with awards.

Sebucan, winners of the US Trust, Fall Classic and Fall Plates, is one of the winningest teams in club history during the fall.

“What can I say, it’s a good season,” Pulido said. “The first half we were kind of messy and not all together. The second half we opened it up and played much better and you saw it in the score. We just started passing the ball and making the plays.”

Julio Gracida, 30, one of the most dominant players on the field, was named Most Valuable Player. The son of Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Memo Gracida is enjoying one of his finest seasons of his pro career after taking four months off. He scored five goals and was outstanding on defense.

MVP Julio Gracida of Sebucan on his way to scoring one of his five goals.

“I just took time off to focus on myself and regroup and I think it’s showing,” Gracida said. “I am happy with the way I am playing and I am happy I got MVP.”

Gracida’s prized 12-year-old bay mare Fantastic Roo was selected Best Playing Pony. 

“She’s very special to me,” Gracida said. “She’s a mare that we bought from Argentina. She’s one of the last ones I got from there. It’s one that my mom broke for me. I’ve had her since she was 2-years-old. It’s been a 10-year engagement.”

Whistle Uys of Sebucan defends Carlitos Gracida of Audi as he hits a near side shot.

Whistle Uys scored a game-high six goals to lead Sebucan. Pulido had two goals and Dorignac added one. 

For Audi, scoring was balanced. Marc Ganzi led with three goals, including two on penalty conversions; Phillips and Carlitos Gracida each had two goals and Calle added one.

Audi, a 13-goal rated team, started off with a 2-0 lead and built a 3-2 advantage after the opening chukker. Sebucan found its momentum outscoring Audi, 4-1, to take a 6-4 lead after two chukkers. Audi took advantage of Sebucan fouls in the third chukker, converting three penalty shots to go into halftime tied at 7-7.

Audi’s Marc Ganzi on his way downfield to intercept Sebucan’s Julio Gracida’s near side shot.

“We started the second half with a lot of energy,” Dorignac said. “We started playing well and calming down. We took our time hitting the ball and making good passes.”

The halftime deadlock was the closest Audi would get. Sebucan, playing four-man team polo, controlled the last three chukkers outscoring Audi, 4-2 for an 11-9 lead, 1-0 to lead 12-9 and 2-1 for the final score.

“We tried to open it up,” Gracida said. “We have a lot of confidence in Pablo Pulido, he is a heck of a one. He pushes and pushes. We tried to get the ball open to him as much as we could. He did his part and we tried to do ours. This team is a lot of fun and I hope to get to play with them again.”

Sebucan’s Pablo Pulido and Audi’s Tony Calle in a horse race to the ball.

Added Dorignac, “This is a good team. For me it was really fun and a pleasure to play with Pablo, Whistle and Julio. We are very good teammates. We have fun, we always push together the same way and are positive all the time. Nobody complains. We are always saying keep going, we will get the next one. I think the good atmosphere on the team helps you win. It was not my best game today but we won and that’s what’s important.”

Sebucan survived a marathon game on Friday, winning a thrilling 12-11 sudden death shootout over Casablanca in the dark to make it to the final. Audi defeated Flexjet, 11-7, to advance.

“Finishing in the dark was quite scary and daunting, but it was a lot of fun,” Pulido said. “It was nice to win it.”

Whistle Uys of Sebucan stretches out of the saddle for the ball with Carlitos Gracida of Audi defending.

“We had a good first win on Friday,” Gracida said. “It gave us good momentum and it carried over today. We did get lucky on Friday.”

In the Just For The Fun Of It subsidiary game, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 2, Mariano Gracida, 4, Juancito Bollini, 4, Jeff Blake, 6) bounced back from its sudden death loss to defeat Flexjet (Santos Bollini, 1, Guille Aguero, 5, Justin Daniels, 2, Juan Bollini, 5), 9-7.

Grant Ganzi and Blake shared leading scoring honors each with three goals. Juancito Bollini had two goals and Mariano Gracida added one.

Julio Gracida of Sebucan receives his MVP award from Gwen Rizzo.

For Flexjet, Daniels and Aguero each had two goals and Juan and Santos Bollini each scored one goal.

The game was a fun family affair featuring two generations of Bollinis. Juan Bollini played with his youngest son Santos and against his oldest son Juancito.

Casablanca jumped out to a 5-2 halftime lead with Blake scoring three first-half goals. Flexjet clawed its way back behind Daniels and Aguero to tie the game at 5-5 after four chukkers. Casablanca regained its momentum outscoring Flexjet, 4-2, in the last two chukkers.

Lulu Dorignac makes sure the Grand Champions awards table is perfect.

The Fall Plates was the fourth of six medium-goal touraments in addition to two 20-goal tournaments during the season. 

Casablanca (MVP Mariano Gracida, Juancito Bollini, Julio Gracida, Grant Ganzi) won the season-opening Tackeria Invitational; Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, Juancito Bollini, MVP Whistle Uys, Carlitos Gracida) won the US Trust Cup and Sebucan (MVP Pablo Pulido, Whistle Uys, Mariano Gracida, Julio Gracida) won the Fall Classic last weekend.

World-renown polo announcer Jan-Erik Franck is calling the action during the fall season, St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship in Aspen in December and winter season at Grand Champions. Franck, popular among fans, makes it both entertaining and educational. He has been a polo announcer at various tournaments around the world for more than 20 years. Franck is also a polo player, HPA instructor, La Martina ambassador and polo columnist. He was recently the featured cover story in POLO+10 magazine.

Casablanca’s Grant Ganzi hits the big neck shot downfield to teammate Juancito Bollini.

Grand Champions is one of the few USPA-sanctioned clubs that offers fall polo. The fall season is a good tuneup for the winter season for players and green horses. The winter season features the debut of the highly-anticipated 26-goal World Polo League at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm featuring 10-goalers Adolfo Cambiaso, Pablo MacDonough, Pelon Sterling and Juan Martin Nero.

Grand Champions is one of the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo clubs, hosting both medium and high goal polo in the fall highlighted by the Triple Crown of Polo Tournament and International Cup.

Among season highlights are the USPA National 20-Goal Championship; Triple Crown of Polo Tournament and Romero Britto Celebration; and doubleheader featuring the Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial and International Cup on Thanksgiving weekend.

Grant Ganzi of Casablanca hooks Juan Bollini of Flexjet as he attempts to hit the ball.

This year’s Nov. 24 International Cup  will feature defending champion Team USA against Azerbaijan. This year the U.S. team will put its six-year winning streak on the line against Azerbaijan, known as the Land of Fire and Ice, and one of the most improved polo teams in the world. Recently, Azerbaijan finished runner-up to Italy in the FIP European Championship.

Last year Team USA ( Grant Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Julio Arellano, Mike Azzaro) defeated Brazil, 9-7, to capture the sixth annual International Cup event. Arellano was named Most Valuable Player for the third consecutive year. Since 2012, Team USA has defeated England, Chile, Mexico, South Africa and Uruguay in International Cup history.
The well-organized fall tournaments attract players from all over the United States and world including Azerbaijan, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, England, France, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria and South Africa.

Juan Bollini of Flexjet drives downfield with his son Juancito Bollini of Casablanca defending.

Grand Champions had its finest fall season in club history last year. Grand Champions was the only club in the nation to stage two USPA-sanctioned 20-goal fall tournaments and again is hosting two 20-goal tournament 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 a successful summer season at their Aspen Valley Polo Club which concluded over Labor Day Weekend.

Jeff Blake of Casablanca leans back for the ball with Justin Daniels of Flexjet defending.

The fall league features: stick-and-ball sessions during the week; two medium tournament games every weekend; ambulance and USPA 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.

Wellington-based ChukkerTV is live streaming 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.

Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal during the winter season in addition to special events at its well-manicured fields during the fall, winter and spring seasons.

Juancito Bollini of Casablanca outraces Guille Aguero of Flexjet downfield. 

Photos by Gregory S. Ratner

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 thriving at Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm. It 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 June and September through November.