WELLINGTON, FL-Feb. 28, 2014-—In an emotionally-charged game, Audi defeated Coca-Cola, 12-9, Thursday to advance into the championship final of the Les Armour Cup.
The noon game on Sunday will pit Grand Champions Polo Club-based pro teams Audi and Flight Options on Field 2 at International Polo Club.
Flight Options advanced with a thrilling 8-7 overtime victory over Lechuza Caracas on Alejandro Astrada’s 60-yard goal from the field with less than four minutes left in overtime.
Audi (Marc Ganzi, Gonzalo del Tour, Gonzalito Pieres, Rodrigo Andrade) and Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Sebastian Merlos, Julio Arellano, Facundo Obregon) players wore black arm bands in honor of polo great Carlos Gracida.
Gracida, 53, a player and coach for Audi, died earlier in the week from head injuries sustained in an accident during a game at Everglades Polo Club. Flags in the stadium flew at half-staff.
“Carlos was my teammate and my coach,” Audi captain Marc Ganzi said. “I hope today was a demonstration of our gratitude for him as a player and friend.
“It was really satisfying to be able to win for him,” Ganzi said. “Hopefully, we honored his memory today.”
Ganzi said during the game he tried to think of the “little things” that Gracida would tell him.
“He always used to tell me breathe going to goal,” Ganzi said with a smile. “Stupid things that would make me laugh. Sometimes you remember those things.”
An inspired Ganzi turned in one of his finest all-around games, scoring four goals and playing well defensively. Pieres led the team with six goals. Andrade added two goals and was outstanding on defense.
“I am happy we won, but it is difficult to say happy,” said Pieres, one of the world’s six 10-goal rated players. “It’s been a sad two days and it’s going to be a sad season because one of the greatest players ever is gone.”
Obregon led scoring for Coca-Cola with six goals. Johnston, Arellano and Merlos each scored one goal.
Audi dominated most of the game. After a 1-1 opening chukker, Audi pulled away for a 5-2 lead in the second chukker behind balanced teamwork (Pieres two goals, Ganzi one goal, Andrade one goal).
Coca-Cola reeled Audi back in for a 5-5 tie late in the third chukker after taking advantage of two Audi missed goals and penalty. Del Tour connected with Ganzi on a well-placed pass downfield to enable Ganzi to score with a minute left for a 6-5 halftime lead.
“I am happy that we won and we played good,” said Pieres, whose father Gonzalo Pieres Sr., an Argentine polo great, watched from the sidelines. “I think Marc had a great game and some great goals.
“Today felt better,” Pieres said. “The last game was really tough against Valiente where we started bad, but finished good. Today we started good. Our team ran well, we had velocity. It was a good game for us.”
In the second half, it was all Audi keeping a two or three-goal cushion lead to finish out the game.
“We played really clean, really open,” Ganzi said. “We made very few mistakes. This is what we envisioned for the season. If we can spread the field and open the game up like we did today, we are going to be very, very difficult to beat.
“Today was a lot of fun,” Ganzi said. “Carlos would have enjoyed today’s game, open fun polo with all four players hitting the ball. Carlos always preached that-you’re always stronger as four than three.”
On Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., Gracida will be remembered by family and friends during a celebration of Gracida’s life at IPC’s 7th Chukker Lounge patio.
The Les Armour Cup is the subsidiary tournament of the C.V. Whitney Cup which will feature Orchard Hill and Valiente in the Sunday final at 3.
2014 HIGH GOAL SEASON
SUNDAY: Les Armour Cup, Audi vs. Flight Options, noon; C.V. Whitney Cup, Orchard Hill vs. Valiente, 3 p.m.
FEBRUARY 28-MARCH 8: Iglehart Cup-MARCH 5, Semifinals 1, 3 p.m.; MARCH 8, Final, 1 p.m.
MARCH 5-23: USPA Piaget Gold Cup-MARCH 7, Alegria vs. Flight Options, 3 p.m.; MARCH 8, Audi vs. Orchard Hill, 10 a.m.; MARCH 13, Audi vs. Flight Options, 3 p.m.; MARCH 16, Orchard Hill vs. Flight Options, noon; Audi vs. Alegria, 3 p.m.; MARCH 19, Semifinals, 1, 3 p.m.; MARCH 20, Butler Handicap Semifinals, 1, 3 p.m.; MARCH 23, Butler Handicap Final, noon; USPA Piaget Gold Cup Final, 3 p.m.
MARCH 26-APRIL 20: 110th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championships
GRAND CHAMPIONS @ PALM BEACH POLO 2014 TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (HOTLINE 561-373-0073)
MARCH: Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (5 goals); The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; USPA Regional President’s Cup (8 goals); $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament; The Top Pony 12-Goal Series; Santa Rita Abierto (16 goals).
APRIL: Las Acacias (5 goals); USPA Association Cup (8 goals); Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Challenge Cup (12-goals); John T. Oxley Memorial Trophy (16 goals).
THIS WEEK’S GRAND CHAMPIONS AT PB POLO SCHEDULE
SATURDAY: 12-goal, USPA Sieber Memorial Trophy Final, Catamount vs. Palm Beach Equine, Field 8, 9:45 a.m.; 5-goal, Halo Polo Trophy Final, Series B, Alianos Realty vs. SLS Jets, Field 10, 11:30 a.m.; USPA Sieber Memorial Trophy Handicap Final, Pony Express vs. Goose Creek, Field 2, 4 p.m.
SUNDAY: 5-goal, Elegante/Tuffrider at Patagones, 10 a.m.; 8-goal, USPA Cyril Harrison Trophy Final, Cypress Field, 11 a.m.; 5-goal, Custer Capital/Ganaraska at Patagonez Azul, noon.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB SCHEDULE (561-644-5050)
MARCH 9: Great Futures Celebrity Polo Match, 10 a.m., benefitting the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club of Wellington.
MARCH 17: Buzz Welker Memorial Tournament
APRIL 4-5: Fifth annual Gay Polo League International Tournament
APRIL 8-12: Women’s Championship Tournament
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.
INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Flight Options. Everyone is welcome to watch high, medium and low goal polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the winter, spring and fall tournament season and other special events including International Cup in November, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament in March, ProKidz Tournaments in the spring and fall, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament, both in April.