Wellington, Fla. – Oct. 15, 2018 – Casablanca captured the fall season-opening Tackeria Invitational Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club, but it wasn’t easy. In front of a good crowd on an unseasonably hot day, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Julio Gracida, Mariano Gracida) won a hard fought 10-9 overtime decision over Flexjet (Santos Bollini, Lucas Escobar, Kris Kampsen, Juan Bollini).
Flexjet controlled most of the game until the sixth chukker when the game was tied twice, 8-8 and 9-9, before Mariano Gracida scored the winning goal in a crowd of players around the goal mouth to clinch the victory.
Gracida, the youngest son of Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida, was named Most Valuable Player. He scored four goals including one in the sixth chukker to tie the game and game-winner in overtime. The game-winner materialized when Gracida hit a good knock-in to Bollini who hit to Ganzi. All four players pushed toward the goal mouth and Gracida came up with the ball and goal.
“I knew I had the line and no one could go for it so I just got there quick, took my time and tapped it in,” Mariano Gracida said. “It feels great to win. I was just worried about playing well. I know it’s the first week and everyone is going at their own pace. It’s always good to win the first tournament of the season. Today was the hottest day for both the horses and players,” Gracida said. “I think we had a lot of confidence off our first game which took away from our second game. I think today we started off with too much confidence. We weren’t playing as a team in the first half. At halftime we decided to be calmer when hitting the ball and let them make the mistakes. We played our positions a little bit more, took our time and relied on each other.”
Cupid, a 6-year-old gelding owned and played by Julio Gracida, was selected Best Playing Pony for the second time this year. In April, Cupid was Best Playing Pony in the USPA Eastern Challenge at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
Ganzi also scored four goals for Casablanca. Juancito Bollini added two goals and Julio Gracida was the big-hitting playmaker and anchor on defense.
“It was a good game, it was two strong teams playing up in polo,” said Julio Gracida, son of Hall of Famer and former 10-goal polo great Memo Gracida. “We are just exhausted, it was a hot day but we played great polo. It was hitting and running. Both teams played at a higher level. We’re just not ready for that right now, it’s just the beginning of the season.” Despite both horses and players being exhausted and soaked in sweat, Casablanca came out poised in the overtime period.
“We just wanted to simplify things and not rush,” Julio Gracida said. “We didn’t want to overdo things, just hit it forward and hit it backwards and respect your teammates. It was a good team effort. We just rotated really well. I’m very happy to win, it’s good to be back.”
Sixteen-year-old Lucas Escobar led Flexjet with three goals. Kris Kampsen and Juan Bollini each had two goals and Santos Bollini added one goal.
Casablanca was the youngest team in the tournament averaging 22 years in age. The foursome are childhood friends who have played with and against each other for years.
Added Juancito Bollini, “We couldn’t score goals. It was really hard for us to score today. We couldn’t make the penalties either. It was tougher on the horses and it was very hot today. I feel fortunate to come out with a win especially how many goals we missed. We felt like we deserved it so we are happy. It wasn’t the prettiest goal but it was a goal anyways.”