WELLINGTON – Audi won its second World Polo League title Sunday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.
The foursome of Marc Ganzi, brothers Jeta and Barto Castagnola and Paco de Narvaez broke open a close game in the fifth chukker to defeat Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (Melissa Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Juan Martin Zubia and Alejandro Novillo Astrada), 13-9.
Audi finished the two-week, nine-team tournament undefeated with a 4-0 record. Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, the wild-card entry, finished 2-2.
In the WPL season-opening 26-goal All-Star Challenge tournament, Audi defeated White Birch (Chris Brant, 0, Lerin Zubiaurre, 7, Mariano Aguerre, 7, Santi Toccalino, 8), 17-12.
“It feels really good to win another tournament,” Ganzi said. “The team is functioning really well. Everyone played a long list of horses today, so now it’s about preserving the horses and making sure we can get to the next one and one more after that.”
De Narvaez, playing one of his best games of the season, particularly in the second half, was named most valuable player.
Seminole Casino Coconut Creek jumped out to a 2-1 lead behind goals by Zubia and Pieres, the first of his five penalty conversions. Audi had a 2-1 second chukker with a Ganzi penalty conversion and goal by Jeta Castagnola to tie 3-3 after the second chukker.
Audi took a 7-5 halftime lead outscoring Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, 4-2. Pieres cut Audi’s lead to one, 7-6, with another penalty conversion, but it was the closest Seminole Casino Coconut Creek would get.
Audi, winning 80% of the bowl-ins throughout the game, was a well-oiled machine in the fifth chukker with a 4-1 chukker for an 11-7 lead headed into the final chukker.
De Narvaez, working hard on defense setting up the Castagnola brothers, scored to open the sixth chukker for a 12-7 advantage. Seminole Casino Coconut Creek was unable to mount more than two offensive attacks for goals.
“They had a couple of chances to go up by one or two and they missed a couple penalties,” Ganzi said. “I think we’ve always demonstrated that we can capitalize on other teams’ mistakes. The boys jumped on a couple loose plays and we got two quick goals off two plays where they should have scored goals.
“If you think about it, in a game that’s pretty tight, that’s a four-goal swing really fast, and I think it was the big difference. Both teams played really hard. It was a really close game.
“In the fifth chukker, had they gotten those two penalty fours it’s tied going into the sixth and it’s anyone’s game. Instead, we go the other way and we score a goal and get that two-, three-goal cushion and that was tough for them to recover. “
Audi got balanced scoring from its lineup. Jeta Castagnola scored a team-high five goals. Barto Castagnola and Ganzi each had three goals and de Narvaez added two second-half goals.
Pieres scored a game-high six goals for Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. Novillo Astrada had two goals and Zubia added one.
Last year, Ganzi, Jeta Castagnola and de Narvaez were members of the winning Richard Mille team in the Founders Cup.
Audi and Seminole Casino Coconut Creek advanced into the championship with one-goal wins in the semifinals.
Seminole Casino Coconut Creek knocked off previously undefeated Brookshire Polo (Valentino Echezarreta, 3, Nic Roldan, 8, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Pancho Bensadon, 7) in the final second, 8-7.
Audi defeated defending champion Richard Mille (Santos Bollini, 2, Paquito de Narvaez, 2, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Juan Martin Nero, 10), 10-9 in overtime.
Audi begins its quest for a third WPL title when it opens play Wednesday against Richard Mille. Seminole Casino Coconut Creek’s first game is Thursday against Brookshire.
Nelita, played by Barto Castagnola, was selected the World Polo League Best Playing Pony. Open Lujuria, played by Gonzalito Pieres, was selected Associon Argentina Criadores de Caballo de polo. Catwoman, played by Jeta Castagnola and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was the American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony.
The World Polo League, now in its fourth year, is the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina. The league runs through April 16. The remaining WPL tournaments are the Palm Beach Open, currently underway; Triple Crown of Polo; and Beach Polo World Cup Miami Beach.