Oct 23, 2017 12:00 AM


By Sharon Robb

Playing near-perfect polo in the first half, Sebucan went on to defeat Casablanca and win its first fall tournament of the season. The talented foursome of Pablo Pulido, Guille Aguero, Luis Escobar and Carlitos Gracida knocked off Casablanca, 11-7, to capture the USPA Fall Plates title on Sunday, October 22, in front of a local crowd at Santa Rita Polo Farm's Aspen Field in Wellington, Florida, and worldwide ChukkerTV audience.

Sebucan teammates
USPA Fall Plates Champion: Sebucan - (L to R) Pablo Pulido, Guille Aguero, Luis Escobar, Carlitos Gracida.

Casablanca, coming off back-to-back tournament victories, was making their fourth consecutive finals appearance. With winds gusting 18- to 20 miles per hour, Sebucan gave the foursome of Benjamin Avendano, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini and Mike Azzaro all it could handle from the opening chukker. Sebucan shut down Casablanca, 5-0, after the first two chukkers and led 6-2 at the half. Casablanca, a 13-goal team, regained their composure in the second half but could never reel in the upset-minded 16-goal Sebucan team.

Sebucan and Casablanca with awards presenter
USPA Fall Plates finalists Sebucan and Casablanca with awards presenter Michelle Devrient.

"We ran a lot," said Most Valuable Player Pablo Pulido with a smile. Pulido scored five goals in last weekend's Grand Champions Cup subsidiary and had another outstanding game pulling his team and scoring a game-high four goals. Eight-year-old Poker Face, owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm and ridden by Azzaro, was Best Playing Pony. Escobar, coming off two tournament victories during the summer season at Santa Barbara, played an integral playmaking role in his team's victory.

MVP Pablo Pulido
Pablo Pulido of Sebucan receives his MVP stirrups from awards presenter Michelle Devrient.

"The key for us was to be disciplined, this is what we talked about," Escobar said. "Everybody had their job and were disciplined, whether it was playing No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4, do that and when you have the ball, get rid of it." The strategy worked with Sebucan leading Casablanca, 6-1 with 1:31 left in the third chukker and 7-2 to open the fourth chukker after scoring on a broken play.

Trailing 8-2 with 5:15 left in the fourth chukker, Casablanca started digging itself out of a hole scoring three unanswered goals in the fourth and early in the fifth chukkers. Casablanca squandered away four scoring opportunities late in the fifth and early in the sixth chukkers while Sebucan kept its composure and worked the clock to end the game.

"We were disciplined the whole game and that makes a huge difference and that makes Pablo Pulido play better than he normally does," Escobar said. "He played amazing. He really did play great and the other guys played good, too. We just made less mistakes on our side."

Sebucan's Guille Aguero and Pablo Pulido
Sebucan's Guille Aguero and Pablo Pulido working together with Benjamin Avendano defending.

Pulido, a Cornell University alum and collegiate player rated at 2 goals, has been playing since age 12. He has played in Venezuela and started playing at Grand Champions five years ago. Pulido was also an MVP during the spring season at Grand Champions.

"It was a great game," Pulido said. "Everybody was hitting the ball, not holding on to it and just passing it off. There were a lot of good breakaways and good plays." It was the first time Pulido played with Escobar, one of the game's top players. "My teammates were fantastic," Pulido said. "They were all evenly talented and all played well. They all passed the ball which was great for me. Casablanca seemed unbeatable until today. We had a good time. The field played well. The horses played well. The weather held off, so it was good."

Juancito Bollini of Casablanca
Juancito Bollini of Casablanca leans in to try and hook Pablo Pulido.

Pulido said there was no sense of panic when Casablanca adjusted its gameplan in the second half with Bollini moving to the back position. "You can't let it go, we lost games like that before," Pulido said. "We had to play hard and keep the momentum and we picked it up again in the sixth chukker." In addition to Pulido's four goals, Aguero had three and Escobar and Gracida each scored two goals. Grant Ganzi led Casablanca with three goals, Azzaro added two and Avendano and Bollini each had one. In the opening game of the doubleheader, Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Gene Goldstein, Juan Bollini, Jason Crowder) won the Just For Fun Cup.

BPP Mike Azzaro
Best Playing Pony 8-year-old Poker Face ridden by Mike Azzaro of Casablanca.

Ganzi scored back-to-back goals including the game-winner for a 10-9 victory over Santa Clara (Nico Escobar, JJ Celis, Marc Ganzi, Kris Kampsen). Ganzi scored a game-high six goals for Flexjet. Nico Escobar, oldest son of Luis Escobar, led Santa Clara with three goals.

The USPA Fall Plates Tournament was the fourth of six medium goal tournaments. The club is also hosting two 20-goal tournaments, the USPA North American (October 27-November 5) Cup and USPA National 20-Goal (November 8-19) and November 25 doubleheader with the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo and International Cup pitting five-time defending champion Team USA against Brazil.

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