• Sterling Cup

     Audi, Dutta Corp, Travieso Win On Day Three Of Sterling Cup At Grand Champions

    By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
    Undefeated Dutta Corp continued its domination while Audi and Travieso rebounded after opening-tournament losses on Thursday in Sterling Cup action at Grand Champions Polo Club.

    In front of a great crowd throughout Day Three's tripleheader and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Audi downed Flexjet, 11-7; Travieso edged Palm Beach Equine, 11-10, in its tournament opener and Dutta Corp knocked off Casablanca, 12-11.

    AUDI 11, FLEXJET 7
     
    Jesse Bray of Flexjet attempts to back the ball out of a crowd.

    Trailing 5-1 (two Flexjet goals by handicap) after a slow opening chukker, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan, Inaki Laprida) came out swinging and shut out Flexjet (Joaquin Avendano, Lucas Lalor, Jesse Bray, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) in the second, third, fourth and fifth chukkers and that was all she wrote.

    Juancito Bollini of Audi works the ball downfield.

    Audi had an answer for everything as Flexjet attempted to hold on to its lead. Audi lived up to expectations on both ends of the field while Flexjet struggled to find its offensive firepower.

    Audi scored four unanswered points to lead by  two goals (7-5) at the half. With Bollini taking Bray out of the play with six seconds showing on the clock, Ganzi went on a nice goal run to score the final goal of the half on a neck shot with two seconds left.

    Nic Roldan of Audi reaches for the ball.
    Audi continued to frustrate Flexjet in the second half and extended its lead, 11-5, in the fifth chukker.
    Roldan scored a game-high six goals including three penalty conversions. Laprida had three goals and Ganzi added two goals.

    Flexjet picked up two goals on handicap. Bray had four goals and Novillo Astrada added two.

    TRAVIESO 11, PALM BEACH EQUINE 10
     
    Sebastian Merlos of Travieso hooks Magoo Laprida of Palm Beach Equine.

    After losing its opener 10-9 to Valiente, Travieso (Tony Calle, Hugo Barabucci, Sebastian Merlos, Torito Ruiz) rebounded with a thrilling goal as time ran out against Palm Beach Equine (Gringo Colombres, Juan Martin Zubia, Magoo Laprida, Scott Swerdlin).

    Trailing for most of the game, including 6-1 with3:48 left in the third chukker, Travieso took the lead for the first time, 7-6, after winning the throw-in, Barabucci taking out Laprida and Merlos scoring with 2:45 left in the chukker.

    The game stayed close until the end. With Palm Beach Equine leading 10-9 with 3:18 left, Ruiz scored on a 30-yard penalty goal to tie the game at 10-10 with 1:30 remaining.

    Tony Calle of Travieso outraces Juan Martin Zubia of Palm Beach Equine.

    In what only can be described as the shot of the tournament so far, Calle charged downfield and with one big angle swing and scored the winning goal as time ran out. Barabucci had a great defensive play to ride off Laprida before Calle's heroics.

    "I saw the ball bounce and I said there's no time, I am going to hit it and it went to goal," Calle said. 
    "I thought Holy Shit, we just won a game."

    Added Ruiz, "Amazing, just amazing shot."

    It was Travieso's first 20-goal win of the season as a team.

    "It's refreshing having a little bit of good luck," Calle said. "We lost all our other games in the 20-goal. Finally, now it was our turn to win. It was an enormous win for us. Our team has great chemistry. We have fun and I have learned so much from them."        
         
    Gringo Colombres of Palm Beach Equine ahead of a sea of players.
    Merlos scored a game-high five goals. Calle had three goals, Ruiz had two and Barabucci added one. Zubia, 16, one of the hottest young players on the scene this season, and Colombres each had four goals. Laprida added two.

    In a great show of sportsmanship early in the sixth chukker, Ruiz was knocked off his horse and GSA teammate and friend Zubia not only stopped playing to help him as they continued to play three-on-three polo, but blocked a ball coming his way and waited to make sure he could return to the game.

    "He wait for me, that was nice," Ruiz said. "I am very happy with the win. This is a very fun team. It's very nice to play with Sebastian and Hugo. They have a lot of experience and they know how to teach. It's perfect.

    DUTTA CORP 12, CASABLANCA 11
     
    Matias Magrini of Dutta Corp reaches out of the saddle to hook Rodrigo Andrade.

    In the battle of the unbeatens, it was Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, Carlitos Gracida, Piki Diaz Alberdi, Matias Magrini) that prevailed for a thrilling upset win over Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres, Harrison Azzaro).

    It was Dutta Corp's second 20-goal win of the season at Grand Champions.

    Dutta Corp, a 19-goal team, trailing 5-4 after the second chukker, used a total team effort to outscore Casablanca, 4-1, in the third chukker to take an 8-6 halftime lead. Dutta Corp never relinquished the lead after that.

    Piki Alberdi of Dutta Corp defends Rodrigo Andrade of Casablanca.
    Casablanca scored three unanswered goals in the fifth chukker to trail, 11-10. Magrini scored off Alberdi's rebounded shot for a 12-10 lead. Despite a tight defense, Pieres made his way downfield and scored with 1:44 left to trail 12-11. Dutta won a clutch throw-in and with incredible poise used up the clock.  

    "It was a big test for the horses," said Gracida, who scored a game-high six goals. "I am very happy with the win. For us to beat Gonza is huge. It was a huge win and if we win the next game we are in the semis. Timmy was amazing."

    Dutta, at 15, the youngest player in the seven-team tournament and with less than three years playing experience had two goals.

    Matias Magrini of Dutta Corp works the ball away from defenders.

    "The difference in 20-goal and 12 I have been playing is it's more open and you are playing with better players," Dutta said. "You have to play smarter and make the percentage plays instead of the risky plays. The key for us today was always making the percentage plays. We kept putting the pressure on Gonzalito and Rodrigo and it turned out in our favor.

    "This was a huge win for the team," Dutta said. "For us to be out there and playing is a dream. This is our first 20-goal tournament at Grand Champions. It's a great opportunity for me."

    Alberdi, a former 10-goaler in England, also had two goals.

    "This was a big game," Alberdi said. "All the games are important for us. We want to win. We want Timmy to learn, this is the first time that he has played in the 20-goal. He is playing very well."

    Carlitos Gracida of Dutta Corp controls possession with Rodrigo Andrade defending.
    Magrini, a workhorse on defense, scored one goal. "This was Piki's idea, he put a great team together," Magrini said. "We have been playing together well. When we start working as a team and play polo it is a pleasure.

    "To be honest I quit looking at the scoreboard," Magrini said. "If you play good, maybe you lose, but you enjoy the way you are playing."

    Pieres led Casablanca with five goals. Andrade added three and Ganzi had two. Azzaro, 16, the second youngest player in the tournament, had one.

    The Sterling Cup is one of two classic and prestigious tournaments that the nation's busiest and most innovative polo club has revived thanks to generosity of Glenn Straub of Palm Beach Polo, where the tournaments were last held.

    Another great crowd at Great Champions enjoys Day Three action of the Sterling Cup. Photos by ChukkerTV
    Club owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi hope to recapture the legacy and prestige of polo's hey days.

    The Sterling Cup was the second tournament of the 22-goal season at Palm Beach Polo after the January Challenge Cup. It was considered the 22-goal championship and attracted as many as 18 teams. It was first played in 1989 at the 18-22 handicap.