Team USA Captures International Cup
By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
Team USA remained undefeated with a hardfought 6-3 victory over upset-minded Uruguay to capture the fifth annual International Cup Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
In front of a packed house including a soldout VIP tent and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Team USA’s Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Julio Arellano and Nic Roldan were pushed to the limit before claiming its fifth consecutive title.
Team USA has now beaten England, Chile, Mexico, South Africa and Uruguay in international play at Grand Champions. Marc Ganzi, Arellano and Roldan were teammates last year.
Arellano, a Cardinal Newman and Florida Atlantic University alum, was named Most Valuable Player.
“We missed a few opportunities to score early-on,” Arellano said. “We were a little tight in the beginning. We seemed to get our momentum in the third chukker and we were able to hold it. It was a great, fun, fast, open game.
“It’s always awesome to represent the U.S.,” Arellano said. “That’s something we are all very proud of. You never want to let your country down. There were a lot of people on the sidelines rooting for us as a country rather than a certain team. It’s a great honor.”
Cantina Mama, a 10-year-old dark bay mare, ridden by Uruguay’s Juan Curbelo and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Grant Ganzi, at 18, a freshman at Lynn University, made his International Cup debut and was the youngest player to compete in the game’s five-year history. It was Ganzi’s second time representing the U.S. internationally. He led Team USA to victory against Canada in the Royal Polo Match in
Toronto earlier this month.
“It means a lot to represent the U.S., it’s a really big deal for me,” Grant Ganzi said. “I felt the pressure. These guys haven’t lost here and putting me in the mix instead of Jeff Hall is a big difference and big shoes to fill. I was nervous and tried to play my best. This is a great team I’m on. All these guys together have great chemistry.”
Uruguay’s national team, making its international debut in the U.S., proved to be a formidable opponent for Team USA. The foursome of Mauricio Sanchez, Alexis de Boismenu, Guillermo Besozzi and Curbelo had several scoring opportunities throughout the five-chukker game but could not finish.
“We had our chances, but you cannot miss your chances against a good U.S. team like that,” Curbelo said.
The game was action-packed from the opening chukker. Team USA scored first when Grant Ganzi jumped on a loose ball to score at the 3:23 mark.
Curbelo got Uruguay on the scoreboard in the second chukker converting a penalty-two to tie the game at 1-1 with 5:50 left.
The U.S. regained the lead late in the second chukker when Roldan connected with Arellano on a great pass to score for a 2-1 lead late in the chukker.
The U.S. kept its momentum and found its chemistry going into the third chukker. Roldan’s penalty-three conversion gave the U.S. a 3-1 lead. Arellano’s early goal in the fourth chukker extended the lead to 4-1. Another early goal from Arellano after a great back shot pass from Marc Ganzi, gave the U.S. a 5-1 advantage.
Uruguay found its scoring punch in the fifth and final chukker with two goals from Sanchez and Curbelo, but ran out of time.
Uruguay, with only one practice session together as a team on Friday, handled the horses provided by Santa Rita Polo Farm well. Sanchez and Curbelo have competed in the U.S. For Boismenu and Besozzi, both first-time national team members, it was their U.S. debut.
“They are a really good team,” Team USA captain Marc Ganzi said. “What we noticed is all four of them can ride. When you get four guys that can ride as well as they can ride, it’s going to keep the game close every time.
“We watched them play in practice and we knew it was going to be a tussle,” Ganzi said. “Credit to them, they played well. They were organized and kept it close after two. We knew we had to really fight hard. They made a match of it and testimony to them and their horsemanship.
“This is probably the best team that’s come here, all four players knowing how to ride, even better than when the British came. These four guys can ride anything. They played really well and are a classy group of guys. This is what polo is all about, inviting friends to come and play polo. I think today we demonstrated again what’s good about U.S. polo and what’s good about the game in general.”
In addition to Arellano’s three goals, all from the field, Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi and Roldan each scored one goal. Curbelo led Uruguay with two goals and Sanchez added one.
The fifth annual International Cup was part of a doubleheader and holiday weekend tradition that ends the biggest week of fall polo and the season at Grand Champions Polo Club.
In the opening game, Aspen Valley (Tim Dutta, Mariano Gracida, Carlitos Gracida, Cali Garcia Valez) edged Grand Champions (Peter Rizzo, Weston Gracida, Martin Estrada, Tommy Biddle), 6-5, in the Carlos Gracida Legends of Polo Memorial. The four-chukker game honored the legacy of Gracida, who died tragically in February, 2014 at age 53.
Mariano Gracida, the youngest son of Carlos Gracida, was named Most Valuable Player after scoring a game-high three goals. Older brother Carlitos Gracida scored two goals including the game-winner with 1:09 left in the game on a penalty-two.
World Cup, ridden by Carlitos Gracida, was named Best Playing Pony. Melissa Ganzi purchased her as an embryo from Carlos Gracida and his legendary horse Mexicana.
The afternoon also featured a fun one-chukker kids foot mallet game and grooms race. VIP guests were treated to a catered affair prepared by Grand Champions Polo Club professional chef Shannon Atkins, a Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts alum and former Flavors of
Wellington winner, and Verdell Atkins-March. Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig and award-winning 33-year veteran anchorman Jim Sackett were awards presenters.
“What a great end of the fall season at Grand Champions Polo Club,” Gerwig posted on her Facebook page.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting, live streamed the doubleheader and 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, with eleven well-manicured fields, enjoyed its finest fall season in club history. Grand Champions is the only club in the nation to stage two USPA-sanctioned 20-goal fall tournaments. The club also hosted eight successful medium goal tournaments.
Grand Champions caters 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, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
Wall-to-wall cars, tents and people packed Grand Champions Polo Club. Photos by ChukkerTV