Nov 17, 2021 4:00 PM

2021 North American Cup® Champions: Casablanca- Tommy Biddle, Jeff Hall, Grant Ganzi, Kris Kampsen.
2021 North American Cup® Champions: Casablanca - Tommy Biddle, Jeff Hall, Grant Ganzi, Kris Kampsen.

Kicking off the fall 2021 high-goal tournament schedule at Grand Champions Polo Club (GCPC) in Wellington, Florida, defending champion Casablanca (Grant Ganzi*, Kris Kampsen, Jeff Hall, Tommy Biddle) faced-off against Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Santiago Toccalino, Juan Bollini, sub. Brandon Phillips, sub. Pablo Spinacci) in the Final of the distinguished North American Cup®.

Casablanca’s potent offense emerged in the semifinals utilizing a balanced approach to overtake Newport (Sugar Erskine, Pablo Spinacci, Agustin Obregon, Gene Goldstein) 14-11, while Seminole Coconut Creek advanced to the Final overcoming an early deficit led by Toccalino, making his fall debut at GCPC and scoring seven goals to lead Seminole Casino Coconut Creek to a 12-11 comeback against a talented Audi (Juancito Bollini, Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Luis Escobar) team.

Casablanca's Grant Ganzi creates space in the field.
Casablanca's Grant Ganzi scored three goals on the day.

Seeking to defend their North American Cup® title with the addition of superstar and 2022 Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame inductee Tommy Biddle, the all-American line up focused on playing a simple, classic game of polo. Centered on chemistry and experience, Casablanca continued their dominance in the Final, taking a commanding lead from the onset of play and cruising to a 12-7 victory.

“We talked about [the Final] before hand and said, ‘let’s just try and play good polo.’ The team sets up so well [with] the positions we play. We all have the same ideas on how to play polo, it’s a lot of fun.”  – Tommy Biddle

Originally awarded two goals on handicap, Phillips stepped in for Seminole Casino’s Coconut Creek as an injury to Bollini following the semifinals left him sidelined. Casablanca’s ability to rotate and create space was demonstrated from the beginning of the game, as a breakaway from Biddle caught Seminole Casino Coconut Creek off-guard for the first goal of the match. Casablanca made quick work of eliminating their initial two goal deficit with Ganzi knocking the ball mid-air on a quick pass from Biddle to put it in for the goal.

Biddle’s veteran confidence continued to exude in the opening of the second, finding Kampsen on another brilliant pass to let the ball roll past the goal line. Struggling to create offensive chances from the field, Toccalino’s accuracy from the penalty line gave Seminole Casino Coconut Creek their first goal. Responding for Casablanca, Kampsen found the goal twice on back-to-back drives to end the chukker.

Each team was awarded one challenge in the North American Cup® Final with the ability for officials to review calls with the assistance of video replay to determine the outcome of safety’s, goals scored, sportsmanship violations and ride away violations. If a team were to use their challenge and have a call overturned, they would not be penalized and lose their challenge. However, if the call was upheld, the ability to challenge later in the game would be lost. Casablanca was the only team to utilize their challenge in the Final. A no-goal call on the field from Hall was up-held upon review, as the pass from Kampsen to Hall was determined to be a right-of-way violation.

Despite losing their challenge for the remainder of the match, Kampsen remained focused and hit his first Penalty 2 open goal shot. Adding another point on the board, Kampsen took advantage of a bouncing ball to tap in the final goal before the half, with Casablanca taking a commanding 7-3 lead.

Seminole Casino Coconut Creek's Brandon Phillips reaches for the ball as Casablanca's Grant Ganzi lines up on the forehand.
Seminole Casino Coconut Creek's Brandon Phillips prepares for a shot down field as Casablanca's Grant Ganzi reaches for the hook.

Despite Casablanca’s dominant play on the field, Biddle, the ultimate competitor reflected on the first half, “we played well. We missed a couple of goals in the first chukkers that could have been better for us.” Comfortable in Casablanca’s attuned abilities to create open space in the field, Ganzi managed to overcome a difficult angle to create the separation needed to find the goal. Injuries continued to plague Seminole Casino Coconut Creek as substitute Brandon Phillips also suffered a riding injury with 3:46 remaining in the fourth chukker. Unable to continue, Newport’s Spinacci stepped in for the injured Phillips as the second substitute of the game for Seminole Casino’s Coconut Creek.

Entering the game with a 6-goal handicap, Spinacci raised Seminole Casino’s Coconut Creek team handicap even with Casablanca at 20-goals, resulting in the removal of their two-goal handicap from the scoreboard. Now trailing 8-2, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek desperately needed to overcome their adversity quickly if they had any chance of a comeback. Continuing his success from the penalty line, Toccalino generated the first goal for Seminole Casino Coconut Creek following the injury replacement on a Penalty 2. Crowder would follow suit, scoring his first of the match on a gorgeous neckshot.

Casablanca's Jeff Hall on a breakaway.
Casablanca's Jeff Hall on a breakaway.

Opening the fifth Casablanca’s Hall worked around Toccalino to put the ball between the posts, as another pass from Kampsen would result in Biddle’s second goal of the game, sharing, “in the second half we tried not to get soft. We kept marking hard on them and kept doing what we were doing. I think the best thing we did was play really good polo. We hit the ball away.”

Toccalino hit his fourth conversion of the day to end the fifth chukker, this time on a Penalty 2. Showing no signs of tiring, Casablanca’s Kampsen kicked-off the sixth with an open backshot goal. Attempting to generate some offense from the field, Crowder scored on an open backshot on a brilliant neckshot pass from Melissa Ganzi. Casablanca’s Ganzi promptly responded with another open goal from the field and despite Crowder adding one last goal for Seminole Casino Coconut Creek at the end of regulation, Casablanca soared to the 12-7 victory.

Most Valuable Player Tommy Biddle, presented by George Dupont.
Most Valuable Player Tommy Biddle, presented by George Dupont, Executive Director of the Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame.

Celebrating his fifth North American Cup® title in eight years, Ganzi remarked, “[it’s] an important tournament to win in the fall. It was cool to see four Americans win it, it’s a good feeling to have. We all played well [and] as good as we could have. The chemistry was working the first game and we just tried to build off that. We had a strategy and it worked.” Previously winning the North American Cup Final® with High Hope Farm in 1992, Biddle reflected, “It means a lot to win it, the last time I won [it] was twenty-nine years ago. It’s been a long time.”

Biddle, Casablanca’s big-hitting veteran field general was named Most Valuable Player and humbly credited his younger teammates, “it’s a great honor, it could have gone to anybody.” Previously playing with Ganzi, Kampsen, Hall in high-goal polo at International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Wellington, Florida, Biddle continued, “this is the first time all of us have played together. The team was so awesome [and] so easy to play with.”

Best Playing Pony was awarded to Charlatton. Played by Jeff Hall and owned by Michael Bickford. Pictured with Christian Gomez, Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Director of Development Brenda Lynn, and Daniel Dominguez.
Best Playing Pony was awarded to Charlatton. Played by Jeff Hall and owned by Michael Bickford. Presented by Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Director of Development Brenda Lynn and pictured with Christian Gomez and Daniel Dominguez.

Best Playing Pony was awarded to Charlatton, a 10-year-old gelding played by Jeff Hall in the third and sixth chukkers. Owned by Michael Bickford and originally from Matias Magrini, Hall shared his joy of receiving the honor, “he’s a really solid horse. We’ve had him for about two years, he’s super handy, quick and easy. He’s a great horse.”

With little time for celebration, Casablanca is set for a quick turnaround to compete in the National Twenty Goal® beginning November 19, at GCPC (Wellington, Florida). Three of Casablanca’s current roster will look to add another National Twenty Goal® title to their resume with Biddle hoisting the trophy in 2011 for KIG Investment, Kampsen in 2014 with Flight Options, and most recently, Ganzi’s three-titles with Casablanca in 2017, 2018 and 2020. The National Twenty Goal® will be livestreamed exclusively on Global Polo TV.

Casablanca vs Seminole Casino Coconut Creek Final Statistics.
Casablanca Final Statistics.
Seminole Casino Coconut Creek Final Statistics.

All photos courtesy of ©Chukker TV-Candace Ferreira.

*Grant Ganzi is 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.