Audi Captures Tackeria Invitational Season-Opener At Santa Rita Polo Farm; Marc Ganzi Named MVPAudi rallied in the final chukker to win the season-opening Tackeria Invitational Sunday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.By Sharon Robb
In front of a good local crowd happy to see polo return after a four-month break and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Audi pulled off an 11-10 overtime victory over rival Casablanca on a rainy morning.
Sponsor and newly-elected USPA President Tony Coppola hoists the winning trophy surrounded by Audi teammates.
Scoreless in the fourth chukker and trailing 9-7 going into the sixth chukker, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Brandon Phillips, Carlitos Gracida) outscored Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Andres "Lala" LaPlacette, Pablo Dorignac, Juan Bollini), 3-1, to tie the game at 10-10 as regulation time ran out.
Marc Ganzi converted a penalty goal to clinch the win in overtime. Ganzi scored a game-high six goals including three penalty conversions and was selected Most Valuable Player.
Tackeria Invitational finalists Audi and Casablanca with Tony Coppola.
"This was a fun tournament to show appreciation for the Tackeria and Tony Coppola, our newly-elected President of the USPA which is fantastic," Marc Ganzi said. "He is really one of the key pieces of connective tissue that keeps this whole thing going. He has been so selfless and so great to the polo community, it's great to see him recognized for that work on Saturday in Washington state.
"Today was a good way to tell him 'thank you' for all that he does for us. We appreciate him, we appreciate the Tackeria."
Moonquartz, owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm and ridden by LaPlacette, an Argentine 5-goaler, was named Best Playing Pony. LaPlacette, coming off the recent CBC Sport Arena Polo World Cup Azerbaijan that also featured Grand Champions Melissa Ganzi and Juan Bollini, was making his Grand Champions debut.
Andres "Lala" LaPlacette of Casablanca defends Brandon Phillips in his Grand Champions debut.
"What's not to like about this place," LaPlacette said. "This is a great place to play. Melissa's horses were great."
In addition to Marc Ganzi's six goals, Phillips had four goals and Crowder added one. GrantGanzi led Casablanca with five goals. LaPlacette added four goals and Bollini had one.
"It's finally good to be playing polo in Wellington again," Marc Ganzi said. "The fields are great and conditions were good although we got a little rain today. It's great to have the season kicked off."
Brandon Phillips of Audi controls the ball during a goal-driving run.
The two 17-goal teams were evenly-matched. Casablanca jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening chukker with both goals from LaPlacette. Audi came back with two goals in the second chukker from Ganzi, one from the field and one penalty goal.
Three more Audi goals from Ganzi, Phillips and Crowder gave Audi a 5-3 halftime lead.
After a few halftime adjustments, Casablanca shut out Audi, 4-0, with three goals from Grant Ganzi and one from LaPlacette to lead 7-5 after the fourth chukker.
Casablanca teammates Pablo Dorignac and Grant Ganzi follow the action downfield.
Audi found its offense in the fifth chukker with goals from Ganzi and Phillips but Casablanca maintained its two-goal advantage with goals from Grant Ganzi and Bollini.
Ganzi sparked Audi's rally in the sixth chukker opening with a quick goal to trail, 9-8. Phillips tied the game with 5:08 left and gave Audi a 10-9 lead with another goal at the 3:01 mark. After Phillips missed an insurance goal, LaPlacette tied the game as time ran out.
"Everyone is just getting into town and getting a feel for it again," said Phillips, who plans to play the entire month of October. "We haven't had a real chance to practice the new horses yet. It was a fun way to start the season."
Grant Ganzi of Casablanca attempts to block Brandon Phillips' hit.
Crowder is a repeat winner of the Tackeria Invitational as a member of last year's winning Flexjet team with Riley and Melissa Ganzi and Juan Bollini.
"It was really fun," said Dorignac, coming off a successful summer season at Aspen Valley Polo Club. "Playing with these people is always nice, it's a nice group of people. It's a nice way to start the beginning of the season. It was a good match for everybody to watch from the outside. We really enjoyed it."
Juan Bollini of Casablanca goes for the big hit downfield.
The Tackeria Invitational has been the inaugural tournament at the club since it first opened in 2007. A longtime supporter of polo and other equestrian sports, the Tackeria is a complete equestrian shop located in the heart of Wellington horse country. The store carries one of the most complete selections of equestrian equipment in the world. It is a go-to source for equipment, supplies, fashion and gifts for hunter/jumper, dressage and polo disciplines. The Tackeria is located on the corner of Pierson Road and South Shore at 13501 South Shore Blvd.
Rated No. 1 by Consumer Reports as the best auto brand overall, Audi is a valued sponsor with a rich winning tradition in polo. The German automobile manufacturer designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles throughout the world including West Palm Beach.
Marc Ganzi of Audi uses the sideboards to work the ball downfield.
Casablanca, founded by polo players who understand the needs of today's polo players, supplies a wide variety of polo products, equipment and apparel through superior quality, value and service around the world. Behind the Casablanca brand is a serious pledge to quality, excellence and elegance.
The Tackeria Invitational was the first of six medium goal tournaments along with two 20-goal tournaments, the USPA North American (Oct. 27-Nov. 5) Cup and USPA National 20-Goal (Nov. 8-19) and Nov. 25 doubleheader with the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo and International Cup pitting defending champion Team USA against Brazil.
Polo fans line up for waffles and fruit compote during the game. Photos by ChukkerTV