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NEWPORT AND CASABLANCA TO BATTLE FOR NORTH AMERICAN CUP®

Nov 19, 2020 7:41 AM

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Newport Sugar Erskine, Sebucan Pablo Spinacci
Sebucan's Pablo Spinacci and Newport's Sugar Erskine race to the ball.

Newport defeated Sebucan 13-10, while Casablanca defeated La Indiana 13-12 in sudden death overtime. The winning teams will meet in the North American Cup® Final on Wednesday, November 18, 2020.

The first semifinal match of the North American Cup® saw Newport (Gene Goldstein, Sugar Erskine, Michel Dorignac, Juan Bollini) take to the field at Santa Rita against Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, Brandon Phillips, Horacio Heguy, Pablo Spinacci). Both teams held a 17-goal handicap.

Sebucan dominated the first chukker, with Phillips scoring first for the team and Spinacci rocking the field with three consecutive goals. In the final 15 seconds, Erskine stole the ball for a breakaway and put Newport on the board to end the chukker 4-1. Spinacci found the goal yet again at the beginning of the second chukker, bringing the score up to five, but Newport came alive with Erskine finding the goal twice with a pair of flawlessly executed nearside neckshots. Dorignac picked up the ball on a broken play and scored to bring Newport within a goal 5-4. He tied the match up at 5-all with a successful Penalty 3 shot, but Phillps put Sebucan in the lead again with back-to-back goals. Juan Bollini snuck by Horacio Heguy to end the half 6-7, with Sebucan leading by one.

Newport came back strong in the second half, keeping Sebucan away from the posts while goals by Goldstein and Dorignac put the team in blue ahead for the first time in the match 8-7. Newport dominated the field in a decisive fifth chukker, with goals by each player giving the team a commanding lead of 12-7 going into the final period. After two chukkers away from the posts, Sebucan fought back hard, with Phillips scoring his team’s first goal of the second half. Goldstein scored for Newport, then Philipps and Pulido put two more balls through the posts before Sebucan conceded in the last 10 seconds of the match for a 13-10 win for Newport. Phillips was the high-scoring player, with five goals to his credit.

The second match of the day, played at Michael Bickford’s La Indiana Polo Farm, saw Casablanca (Grant Ganzi*, Henry Porter, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) pitted against La Indiana (Michael Bickford, Jeff Hall, Kris Kampsen, Nick Manifold).

It was an exciting day for polo in Wellington, Florida, demonstrating that a commanding lead in the first half of a match doesn’t guarantee a game’s outcome. Ganzi scored the first goal of the match, with an answer from Kampsen. However, goals by Porter and Roldan ended chukker one at 3-2 for Casablanca. In the first 30 seconds of the second chukker, Roldan picked up the ball and passed it to a well-positioned Juancito Bollini, who completed the play.

Newport Gene Goldstein and Juan Bollini
Newport's Gene Goldstein and Juan Bollini.

Manifold capitalized on a loose ball to score for La Indiana, but Roldan followed up with a coast-to-coast run to the goal and one of his characteristic power shots to end the chukker at 6-3 for Casablanca. La Indiana kept up its one goal per chukker, while Ganzi scored on a Penalty 3 and Juancito Bollini dazzled with a hat trick. At the half, Casablanca held a substantial six-goal lead at 10-4.

In the fourth chukker, Casablanca managed to hang on to its six-goal lead, with goals by Bollini and Roldan countering two goals, one on a Penalty 3 by Bickford. With two chukkers to go, La Indiana came out determined to show that a six-goal lead isn’t all she wrote and took control of the momentum. Just over a minute into play, Kampsen blasted a pass downfield to Bickford, who completed the play. Hall and Manifold both scored, and Hall ended the chukker with a goal that whittled Casablanca’s lead down to two, 12-10.

In the final chukker, Bickford scored on a Penalty 2 and Hall tied the match up at 12-all with just under two minutes of play left. La Indiana held a solid wall in front of the Casablanca goal, shutting off an attempt by Ganzi, and the chukker ended with a tie. In overtime, Juancito Bollini made short work of an opportunity, breaking away from the pack to score the winning goal for Casablanca. Roldan was the high-scoring player of the match with five goals.

Last year’s North American Cup® was held at the Aspen Valley Polo Club. Aspen-based La Karina (Brian Boyd, Carlitos Gracida, Tincho Merlos, Kris Kampsen) defeated McClure River Ranch (Hilario Figueras, Pablo Spinacci, Nic Roldan, Stewart Armstrong) by a score of 15-12. Former 10-goaler Tincho Merlos was named Most Valuable Player. He and teammate Kris Kampsen scored four goals each.

Casablanca's Henry Porter and La Indiana's Kris Kampsen battle for possession.
Casablanca's Henry Porter and La Indiana's Kris Kampsen battle for possession.

Linador, an 11-year-old gelding owned by Stewart Armstrong, was named Best Playing Pony, while Rumba, a 7-year-old chestnut mare owned and played by Merlos, was named the American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony. 

The tournament has played a significant role in American and Canadian polo since it was founded in 1974 and has been held at Grand Champions since 2011.

Casablanca Juan Bollini
Casablanca's Juan Bollini with a deep neckshot.

The National Twenty Goal® was first played at the Royal Palm Polo Club in Boca Raton in 2007, won by Houston-based team BTA (Chrys Beal, Mariano Gonzalez, Francisco Lanusse, Santiago Trotz) with a 13-12 win over Audi. The trophy then went on hiatus until 2011. Grand Champions Polo Club resurrected the tournament where it's been played ever since.

 The first winner was Tulsa with Hall of Famers John T. Oxley and Billy Linfoot, Corky Linfoot and Jim MacGinley. During the late 1990s and early 2000s Calgary Polo Club hosted the tournament before moving to Grand Champions.

Casablanca's Grant Ganzi and La Indiana's Jeff Hall looking after the ball
Casablanca's Grant Ganzi and La Indiana's Jeff Hall.

Both tournament's games can be watched live on Global Polo TV at GlobalPolo.com.

In 2019 Audi (Marc Ganzi, Sugar Erskine, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips) rallied for a hard-fought 11-10 victory over Sebucan (Santos Bollini, Jason Crowder, Kris Kampsen, Tommy Biddle) to secure their fourth National Twenty Goal® tournament win. Nic Roldan was named MVP and Gemma, a 7-year-old mare, bred by six-time Argentine Open winner Horacio Heguy and owned by Halo Polo/Santa Rita Polo Farm, was Best Playing Pony. Casablanca claimed the 2018 and 2017 victories.

*Grant Ganzi is a Team USPA alumni. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.

All photos courtesy of © Grand Champions Polo Club.

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