• Santa Rita Handicap

    Valiente Wins Santa Rita Handicap In Spring Season-Opener; Mia Cambiaso Named Most Valuable Player; Santa Rita Abierto Set For Sunday At Grand Champions

    By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
     
    Valiente, making its spring season debut, captured the Santa Rita Handicap Saturday at windswept Valiente Polo Farm.

    Valiente (Poroto Cambiaso, Mia Cambiaso, Robertito Zedda, Pablo Spinacci) was the top finisher in the two-day round robin tournament.

    Top finishers Valiente, Graff Capital and Altair in the Santa Rita Handicap.

    Graff Capital (Tommy Graff, Pablo Dorignac, Juan Bollini, Markus Graff) was second and Altair (Ashley Van Metre Busch, Will Jacobs, Jesse Bray, Brandon Phillips) finished third.

    Mia Cambiaso, 14, the oldest daughter of polo great Adolfo Cambiaso, was named Most Valuable Player.

    MVP Mia Cambiaso with awards presenter Irene Graff.
    It was Valiente's first spring tournament win in Grand Champions Polo Club history and first time Mia Cambiaso and her 11-year-old brother Poroto Cambiaso won a U.S. tournament as teammates.

    "I am not playing well but happy Valiente won, it was nice," Cambiaso said. "I am happy for my brother, he is playing well. I like playing against the older players.

    Mia Cambiaso of Valiente scores in the final seconds of the opening chukker.
    "I do enjoy polo. I have been playing a long time since I was a baby. I like horses. I am proud to be Adolfo Cambiaso's daughter. He taught me how to play. For me this is fun. It's a hobby. I am not going to be a pro."

    Cambiaso said she leaves on Monday after watching her father and Valiente teammates go after the Triple Crown at the U.S. Open on Sunday. She first heads to Argentina where she will compete in 
    Palermo and then travels to England to watch her father play for Ben Soleimani's RH Team along with Flexjet's Rodrigo Andrade and 6-foot-5 British player Tommy Beresford.

    Poroto Cambiaso of Valiente looking over after hooking Juan Bollini of Graff Capital.

    Bollini was impressed with the playing ability of both Mia Cambiaso and her younger brother.

    "Mia surprised me the way she controlled the horses," Bollini said. "She is an incredible rider. Of course, she has really good horses but the way she makes the horses play is unbelievable. 
    Someone her age controlling huge horses she is playing to stop and turn is just amazing. It's a pleasure to see someone that young get so much out of the horse."

    Mia Cambiaso of Valiente showing her horsemanship and MVP-winning form.
    During the round robin, Poroto Cambiaso hooked Bollini and broke up the play while he was headed to goal.

    "I didn't expect that," Bollini said with a smile. "He may be young and small, but you have to go hard with him. He goes hard and takes you out. You have to challenge these kids. I think that's the way kids should play polo." 

    Markus Graff of Graff Capital defended by Mia Cambiaso of Valiente.
    In Saturday's round robin, Busch scored three goals and Jacobs added one goal. Tommy Graff scored three goals. Poroto Cambiaso scored four goals and Mia Cambiaso scored two goals.

    A doubleheader is set for Sunday's Santa Rita Abierto. The subsidiary game will feature Lucchese/La Indiana (Jeff Hall, John Muse, Guille Aguero, Michael Bickford) against Whitehall Ranch (Bill Lane, Nic Roldan, Lucas Lalor, Marc Ganzi) at 9:30 a.m.

    Altair teammates Will Jacobs and Ashley Busch working together.

    In the Santa Rita Abierto Final at 11:15 a.m., Dutta Corp Carlitos Gracida, Timmy Dutta, Piki Diaz Alberdi, Tim Dutta) will play Alabama-based Sonny Hill Polo (Curtis Pilot, Grant Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Gonzalo de la Fuente).

    In Friday's opening round, Sonny Hill Polo defeated Whitehall Ranch, 7-6, at Patagones and Dutta Corp edged Lucchese/La Indiana, 9-8, at Everglades Polo Field to advance into the championship.

    Ashley Busch of Altair works the sideboards.
    The Santa Rita Abierto and Handicap spring opener, featuring seven teams, is the first of six medium-goal tournaments offered in April and May as the GCPC Spring Invitational League.

    During the Grand Champions' spring season, amateur polo players get the chance to play with and against some of the world's top professional polo players including former 10-goaler Piki Diaz Alberdi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Jeff Hall, Brandon Phillips, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini and Jesse Bray. It is geared towards improving polo skills and having fun.

    Poroto Cambiaso of Valiente working the ball downfield while his horse takes flight.
    "We are focusing on the game and concentrating on giving everyone an opportunity to play polo and improve their game," Bollini said. "Marc and Melissa (Ganzi) have opened Grand Champions to anybody in polo. We have great tournaments here. We are really trying to make polo better in America. We want to show the world we can have the best polo for everyone."

    The spring league is also a great opportunity for younger players to develop and hone their skills against their peers and more experienced, older players.

    Valiente teammates Robertito Zedda and Pablo Spinacci working together.
    "I think this concept is working pretty well," said Bollini, The Polo School Director and former Argentine 8-goaler. "We have to focus in polo for the kids who I hope are going to be very, very good players.The older players encourage and help them improve. I think the level of polo today was 10-goal but it looked a lot faster."

    The GCPC spring league features:

    *Medium Goal practice games at least once a week.

    *Stick-and-ball sessions available during the week.

    *Teams get two medium goal tournament games every weekend.

    *Ambulance and USPA umpires for all tournament games.

    *Complete turn-key tournament polo with some of the top professionals in the world.

    *Playing polo on some of Wellington's most prestigious and well-manicured fields.

    *Club-sponsored social events every weekend for all players.

    *Excellent trophies for all teams every weekend.

    Will Jacobs of Altair closely defending Tommy Graff of Graff Capital.
    Grand Champions hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its eleven well-manicured fields during the fall, winter and spring seasons.

    The spring season is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.

    Altair teammates Jesse Bray, Brandon Phillips and Ashley Busch between chukkers. Photos by ChukkerTV