St. Moritz Captures 36th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz Title; Max Charlton Named MVP
In front of a record crowd, St. Moritz won the 36th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz Sunday on the iconic frozen lake.
By: Sharon Robb
St. Moritz (Valery Mishchenko, 0, Robert Strom, 5, Max Charlton, 5, Nacho Gonzalez, 6) led from start-to-finish to defeat Azerbaijan Land of Fire (Elcin Jamalli, 2, Pato Bolanterio, 4, Agustin Kronhaus, 3, Santiago Marambio, 6), 4-1.5 for the coveted trophy sponsored by Chopard.
“The crowd was cheering us on and it was wonderful, thank you to you all,” Mishchenko said. “We did it.”
British player Max Charlton, a 10-goal arena player, was named Most Valuable Player. Fabio Meier of Maserati, the only Swiss player in the tournament, was Best Playing Patron. The Best Playing Pony was Casanova played by Nacho Gonzalez in the fourth chukker.
In the subsidiary La Martina Cup, Maserati (Kutlay Yaprak, 1, Valentin Novillo Astrada, 6, Adrian Laplacette, 6, Fabio Meier, 1) defeated Badrutt’s Palace (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Marc Ganzi, 2, Nic Roldan, 8, for the second day in a row, 7.5-5.
On a sun-drenched day in front of a soldout VIP tent and packed grandstands in the Engadin Valley, St. Moritz dominated the game and allowed Azerbaijan Land of Fire only one goal after it started out with a .5 handicap advantage.
“We wanted to play a more defensive game,” Charlton said. “We knew they could score from any where and we wanted to shut them down. It was a tough match but we played tough.”
St. Moritz scored back-to-back goals while shutting out Azerbaijan Land of Fire for a 2-.5 halftime lead. Charlton scored and Azerbaijan Land of Fire missed two clutch goals. Jamalli gave his team its first goal to trail, 3-1.5. Strom put the game away in the fourth chukker with another goal.
In the opening subsidiary game, Badrutt’s Palace turned in its best performance of the three-day tournament but still lost. Maserati started off with a 2.5-0 lead on handicap and led 3.5-2 at the end of the first chukker. Maserati extended its lead for a 5.5-3 halftime lead.
After a scoreless third chukker, Badrutt’s Palace was trailing 6.5-3 with three minutes left in the fourth chukker before rallying. Back-to-back goals by Alejandro Novillo Astrada cut Maserati’s lead to one with 1:30 remaining in the game.
Badrutt’s Palace missed a penalty conversion with less than a minute left and could not regain possession. Meier scored one final goal at the bell. Novillo Astrada finished with three goals and Roldan added two.
It was another first for Marc and Melissa Ganzi. After becoming the first husband and wife to compete in the tournament on Saturday, they were the first husband and wife to compete in a final.
The world’s most prestigious polo tournament on snow was the first snow polo tournament in the sport’s history created by Reto Gaudenzi, known as the Godfather of snow polo.
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.
Melissa Ganzi, President of Grand Champions Polo Club and co-founder of the 26-goal World Polo League that begins play in February, was making her fifth appearance in the tournament. Last year Ganzi became the first woman to win the tournament.
Ganzi 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 the 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.
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.
The highlight of the weekend was the stunning Snow Polo Night Gala Dinner Baku Moritz Night for 400 guests held Saturday at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, located in the center of St. Moritz.
The three-day tournament is considered the social event of the season. Social events were 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 which was packed with fans on Saturday. The lavish VIP tent is always sold out.
Badrutt’s Palace is the birthplace of Alpine winter sports and favorite European destination. The five-star hotel celebrated 121 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, announced the tournament in St. Moritz before heading to Wellington for the World Polo League’s highly anticipated second season opener in February.
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.