Sterling Cup With Star-Studded Field Gets Under Way Thursday
One of the strongest fields ever assembled for a 20-goal tournament at Grand Champions Polo Club will compete in the Sterling Cup.
By Sharon Robb
The Sterling Cup is one of two prestigious tournaments that the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club resurrected two years ago after a 22-year absence.
The six-team tournament begins Thursday with a doubleheader. Casablanca, led by 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero, plays Santa Clara at 2 p.m. followed by Audi, led by 8-goaler Nic Roldan, meets Sebucan at 3:30 p.m. The playing field will be announced late Wednesday.
Team rosters representing five countries are:
BRACKET A: (Casablanca, Colorado, Santa Clara)
Casablanca, 20: Grant Ganzi, 3, Tony Calle, 3, Juan Martin Nero, 10, Juancito Bollini, 4.
Colorado, 20: Rob Jornayvaz, 2, Nick Johnson, 3, Santi Torres, 6, Diego Cavanagh, 9.
Santa Clara, 20: Lucas Escobar, 1, Nino Obregon, 6, Cubi Toccalino, 8, Luis Escobar, 5.
BRACKET B: (Audi, Sebucan, Valiente).
Audi, 19: Mia Cambiaso, 2, Marc Ganzi, 2, Juan Martin Zubia, 7, Nic Roldan, 8.
Sebucan, 18: Pablo Pulido, 2, Juan Bollini, 5, Kris Kampsen, 6, Tommy Biddle, 5.
Valiente, 20: Poroto Cambiaso, 3, Bautista Panelo, 3, Roberto Zedda, 4, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10.
The highly-anticipated tournament has attracted not only some of the world’s best and most experienced players but also the sport’s rising stars including 7-goaler Juan Martin Zubia and 3-goaler Poroto Cambiaso.
In 2012, at age seven, Poroto Cambiaso made his debut at the Palermo Field, hallowed site of the Argentine Open. At 13, he is the youngest player in the tournament.
Poroto Cambiaso, his father Adolfo and older sister Mia, made history in last year’s Sterling Cup. It was the first time the world’s No. 1 ranked player and two of his children won their first ever high goal tournament together.
Along with teammate Magoo Laprida, Valiente knocked off pre-tournament favorite Audi (Marc Ganzi, Henry Porter, Nic Roldan, Nico Pieres), 10-4, in the final.
“It was great fun,” Adolfo Cambiaso said. “It was amazing. It was a good thing they played well and played safe. It’s always the dream of a father to play with your kids as long as they enjoy it and have fun.”
Mia Cambiaso was named the game’s Most Valuable Player and Adolfo Cambiaso was selected the tournament’s MVP. Mia, then 13, and Poroto, then 12, were the youngest players to win the tournament.
Valiente got balanced scoring. Adolfo Cambiaso and Laprida, making his Valiente team debut in the Sterling Cup, each had three goals. Mia and Poroto Cambiaso each scored two goals. Roldan led Audi with three goals, including two penalty conversions, and Pieres added one goal.
The Sterling Cup was resurrected by Grand Champions owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi in hopes of recapturing polo’s glory days.
The Sterling Cup was the second tournament of the 22-goal season at Palm Beach Polo after the January Challenge Cup and last played in 1995. It was considered the 22-goal championship and attracted as many as eighteen teams.
It was first played in 1989 with Saniva B.G.K. winning the title. Other past winners include Pegasus, C.S. Brook, Grant’s Farm Manor, Revlon, Calumet Farm, Pony Express, Palm Beach Polo, Isla Carroll and White Birch.
For several players the tournament will also serve as a highly-competitive tuneup for the upcoming 26-goal World Polo League which makes its debut in February at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm.
The tournament will also serve as a showcase for some of the best horses in the sport. Three awards will be presented: Best Playing Pony for the final game, Best Playing Pony for the tournament and the coveted American Polo Horse Association best registered horse of the game.
The APHA was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.
The Sterling Cup continues on Sunday with two games. Colorado plays the loser of Game 1 at 10 a.m. and Valiente plays the loser of Game 2 at 1 p.m. On Wednesday, Colorado plays the winner of Game 1 at 11 a.m. and Valiente plays the winner of Game 2 at 3 p.m. The final is set for Saturday, Feb. 9 at 3 p.m. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting, will live stream the Sterling Cup.
During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation’s largest and innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club nestled in the heart of the world’s winter equestrian capital, is hosting 22 tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 0 to 40 goals, WCT Finals and women’
s weekly league play and 26-goal World Polo League tournaments at both Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm.
Grand Champions tournaments attract a large international field of players from all corners of the world including India, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, South Africa, Nigeria, Venezuela and England.
Season highlights for 2019 are the Sterling Cup, March 1-31 $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, March 1-16 John T. Oxley Memorial and March 3-24 $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament.
The biggest highlight of the season is the debut of the Feb. 5-April 15 World Polo League, the nation’s only 26-goal league featuring some of the world’s top players and team sponsors at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm. The WPL will fill the void created when the U.S. Polo Association, the sport’s governing body, announced it was lowering high goal polo to 18-22 goals at International Polo Club and would not have 26-goal polo and instead feature the Gauntlet Polo Series with the C.V. Whitney Cup, USPA Gold Cup and U.S. Open.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and three polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball with plans to build more polo fields in the future.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels and ages. 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, created by Grand Champions President Melissa Ganzi when the club first opened.
The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is thriving. 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. Headed by Director of Operations Juan Bollini, The Polo School has nurtured several men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception.
2019 WINTER SCHEDULE
Jan. 10-26, Metropolitan Cup (6 goal)
Jan. 10-26, Aspen Valley Cup (8 goal)
Jan. 10-26, Limited Edition (12 goal)
Jan. 26-Feb. 9, Sterling Cup (20 goal)
Women’s League (6-12 goal), Every Wednesday & Monthly Final, Santa Rita Polo Farm