Wellington, Fla. – March 4, 2019 – In one of polo’s biggest upsets, Grand Champions knocked off Valiente, 12-11, in overtime to win the World Polo League Founders Cup Sunday at Valiente Polo Farm.
In front of an overflow crowd, Argentine 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero scored the winning goal in the first two minutes of overtime to upset previously unbeaten Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, 2, Agustin Nero, 6, Santi Torres, 6, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10).
Playing together for the first time in the WPL’s second tournament of the season, Grand Champions finished the eight-team, 26-goal tournament undefeated at 4-0.
Nero and teammates Rodrigo Andrade, 9, Grant Ganzi, 3, and Juancito Bollini, 4, earned $60,000 in prize money.
“I don’t know what happened, they say that we won,” joked Nero, named the Tournament Most Valuable Player. Nero also earned the Catena Watch Play of the Day for his game-winner. Andrade was selected Tato’s Game MVP.
“I saw Grant was with Adolfito, I was open and went for it,” Nero said. “I said to myself ‘I can’t miss this goal.’ I was completely alone. I was lucky to get it.
“This is huge for us,” Nero said. “This is the first tournament we played together and we won. The game was really, good, it was open. We had a lot of fun.”
The stunning victory marked a successful 26-goal final debut of longtime friends and teammates Grant Ganzi, 20, and Juancito Bollini, 22.
“I am at a loss for words, I can’t describe it, this is insane,” Ganzi said. “This is a huge upset. The last time Adolfo lost at this level other than last year’s U.S. Open final was a long time ago. It’s tough to beat these guys. Congrats to them, they have been playing unbelievable polo.
“This is huge for the club, huge for the team, just a huge, huge win,” Ganzi said. “This is my No. 1 win, for sure. At this level against the best in the world and taking Adolfo out on the last play, you can’t top that.”
Valiente opened with a 3-0 lead on handicap and extended it to 5-0 early in the first chukker. With Valiente leading, 7-3, Grand Champions clawed its way back scoring five unanswered goals in the third and fourth chukkers to take an 8-7 lead on Ganzi’s goal run. The game was tied four times before Nero’s heroics.
“We just had a determined mentality,” Ganzi said. “We never gave up. We just kept going harder and harder at every play. We knew this team could come back. Against Scone, we were losing the whole game, too. It’s been an uncommon pattern for us.
“We have had to give goals to teams at the beginning and it’s been tough,” Ganzi said. “We have been able to get ourselves out of it.”
Nero finished with a game-high seven goals, including four on penalty conversions. Andrade had
four and Ganzi added one. Torres led Valiente with five goals, Cambiaso had two and Agustin Nero added one.
“I was super nervous before the game,” Ganzi said. “It was probably the most nervous I have ever been before a game.”
The Grand Champions Best Playing Pony of the Game was Dolfina Miami played and owned by Cambiaso in the fourth chukker.
The American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony of the final was Mermelada played by Agustin Nero in the sixth chukker and owned by J5 Equestrian.
The American Polo Horse Association best horse of the tournament was JM Muneca played by Juan Martin Nero in the second and sixth chukkers.
The American Polo Horse Association was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.
Valiente, overtime winners of the season-opening All-Star Challenge Draw Tournament with Nero, Torres, Pablo MacDonough and Poroto Cambiaso, was the heavy favorite and looking for its second title.