• Molina Cup

    Travieso Advances Into Molina Cup Final; Plays Winner Of Dutta Corp-Beverly Equestrian Thursday Semifinal

    By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
    Travieso became the first team to qualify for back-to-back 20-goal tournament finals during the winter season at Grand Champions Polo Club.

    With lightning-quick horses and well-balanced team, Travieso dominated previously undefeated Goose Creek in the third and fourth chukkers and went on to win 10-7 to advance into Saturday's Molina Cup final at 4 p.m. at Grand Champions.

    Travieso (Teo Calle, Torito Ruiz, Sebastian Merlos, Hugo Barabucci) will play the winners of Thursday's other semifinal between undefeated Dutta Corp (2-0) and Beverly Equestrian Polo (1-1) at 3 p.m. at White Birch Field No. 4 off Pierson Road.

    Peke Gonzalez of Goose Creek double teamed by Travieso teammates Sebastian Merlos and Torito Ruiz.
    It is the second 20-goal tournament final appearance for Travieso (2-1). Travieso (Tony Calle, Torito Ruiz, Sebastian Merlos, Hugo Barabucci) won the prestigious Sterling Cup with a remarkable comeback and thrilling 13-8 victory over Casablanca.

    "The team today was fantastic, we had a good result," Barabucci said. "We played quite good. We knew Goose Creek was a very good team. The main thing was our concentration from the beginning. We are very excited to be in the final."

    In front of a packed house and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Goose Creek (Maureen Brennan, Peke Gonzalez, Tomas Garcia del Rio, Mariano Gonzalez) was unable to match Travieso's horsepower for most of the game and firepower in the third and fourth chukkers.

    Sebastian Merlos of Travieso breaks away from defender Mariano Gonzalez of Goose Creek.
    "The whole plan was to get ourselves confident," Calle said. "I think we had been lacking that a little bit. We showed today that we can get back to it. The main objective today was to be confident and be able to make some plays and I think we achieved that. I think we do have enough confidence going into the final. We know we can, now we just have to get it done."

    After two close first and second chukkers that featured Peke Gonzalez' banked goal shot off the post with 4:18 left in the second chukker, Travieso pulled away with a 4-1 third chukker for a 7-3 halftime lead.

    Sebastian Merlos of Travieso keeps possession despite pressure from Mariano Gonzalez of Goose Creek.
    Goose Creek tried to regroup during halftime but Travieso continued to press and shut out Goose Creek, 3-0 in the fourth chukker for a 10-3 lead.

    "We needed to try and get confidence in ourselves," Merlos said. "Our last game wasn't that good so I think we had a really good third and fourth chukker that we could get a difference of seven goals.

    "It was really awesome to have that big a gap against this team which I think is a really good team. 
    They are really well-organized and they know what they have to do on the field. We were a little bit surprised and amazed that we had such a big lead."

    Polo's future stars, 18-year-olds Peke Gonzalez of Goose Creek chased by Torito Ruiz of Travieso.
    Goose Creek came back in the fifth to shut out Travieso but could manage to score only one goal.
    In the sixth chukker Goose Creek tried to play catch up but ran out of time finishing the tournament at 2-1 and its winter season.

    Merlos, who has had a hot mallet the past few weeks, played another superb game scoring a game-high seven goals while leading his team's attack. Ruiz added two goals. Mariano Gonzalez led Goose Creek with four goals.

    "We came to play these two tournaments, one we won and the other one we are in the final," Merlos said. "We are happy about that."

    Sebastian Merlos of Travieso works the ball down the sideboards.
    The Molina Cup, a first-year 20-goal tournament, comes on the heels of the successful and historical 20-goal Sterling Cup.

    The two-week tournament features a star-studded lineup of some of the world's top players from six different countries.

    The 120-year-old handcrafted silver Molina Cup trophy was given to Marc Ganzi by Alfredo Molina, Chairman of the Phoenix-based Molina Group and owner of Molina Fine Jewelers.

    Ganzi was competing in the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships this past fall and admired Molina's work with the winning trophy presented to two-time defending champion Aspen Valley Polo Club (Melissa Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) at the Scottsdale event.

    Another good crowd on hand for the opening semifinal of the Molina Cup. 
    Photos by ChukkerTV
    The tournament is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.