Audi/Excalibur’s Michael Donahue (1) on his flying horse keeps possession driving downfield. Photos by Scott Fisher.
WELLINGTON, FL – Oct. 31, 2013 — After three thrilling opening round games, Audi/Excalibur, Casablanca and Palm Beach Equine/ELG advanced into Friday’s semifinal round of the Pedro Morrison Memorial Polo Cup at Grand Champions Polo Club.
In Friday’s semifinals, Paladin, which received a first-round bye, will play Casablanca and Audi/Excalibur will meet Palm Beach Equine/ELG. Games times are 3 and 4:30 p.m.
Historically, the most competitive fall tournament features a record seven teams for the four-day tournament.
In Wednesday’s opening game at Palm City Polo Club in Boca Raton, Audi/Excalibur edged Beluga, 10-8, after jumping out to a 7-2 lead in the opening two chukkers.
Audi/Excalibur’s Carlitos Gracida, oldest son of Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida, had a team-high four goals, Nic Roldan added two and Marc Ganzi and Michael Donahue each had one. Big-hitting Tommy Biddle led Beluga with six goals. Misha Rodzianko and Joey Casey each had one goal.
Gracida, 22, an American Heritage Delray Beach alum, is preparing for the fall season’s 20-goal tournaments. He is a member of both of Audi’s defending teams that also feature Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan and Carlos Gracida.
“I think Marc is smart because he wants Nic and me to play together,” said Gracida, who called his 94-year-old grandmother in Mexico City after his game. “Even though we played together last year, the more we play together the better it is for me. The goal is the 20-goal season.”
The fall season’s medium goal games has enabled Gracida to hone his skills and game against top and more-experienced players.
“It’s great to try plays that I wouldn’t try in the bigger games,” Gracida said. “This is the perfect time to do that. The next tournament I am playing with my dad and that will be good.”
During the summer, Gracida groomed for his father and played an eight-goal tournament with Brandon Phillips making it to the finals. “I think I can still play better,” Gracida said.
In the other two first round games held at Grand Champions until dusk, Casablanca jumped out to a 7-3 halftime advantage and held on for a 10-9 win over KIG. Juancito Bollini and Mike Azzaro each had four goals, Grant Ganzi had one goal and one goal was picked up on handicap. Mariano Gracida led KIG with four goals, Leo Mandelbaum had three and Brandon Phillips scored two goals.
In a hotly contested game that saw the lead tied seven times, Palm Beach Equine/ELG broke open the game in the final chukker with two goals from Kris Kampsen and one from Avery Chapman, to win, 12-9. Kampsen led scoring with six goals and two-time MVP Guille Aguero had five goals. Biddle, the Ironman of the day competing in two six-chukker games, had five goals for Newport and Gene Goldstein added two and Luis Escobar had one.
The team lineups advancing into the semifinals are:
Audi/Excalibur: Michael Donahue, Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Nic Roldan.
Casablanca: Juancito Bollini, Grant Ganzi, Wes Finlayson, Mike Azzaro.
Paladin: David Krantz, Juan Bollini, Piki Alberdi, Melissa Ganzi.
Palm Beach Equine/ELG: Scott Swerdlin, Tommy Biddle, Guille Aguero, Avery Chapman.
The winners will advance into Sunday’s final at 3:30 p.m. The consolation final starts off the day at 1:30 p.m. Both games are at Grand Champions. Don’t forget to set your clocks back one hour for Daylight Saving Time so you don’t miss the games, refreshments and fun. The public is welcome and admission is free.
The tournament subsidiary game is 10 a.m. Saturday at Palm City Polo Club in Boca Raton.
The Pedro Morrison Memorial is the sixth medium-goal tournament of the fall season which has been the most competitive in Grand Champions’ seven-year history. Casablanca has won two tournaments; Paladin, Audi and Palm House have each captured one tournament title.
Pedro Morrison, born in Spain and University of Miami alum, died Dec. 11, 2003 in Wellington at age 49. He was an avid polo player, patron of The Sympatico Polo team and helped develop Wellington into a thriving community. He was active in several local and area charities and businesses and touched countless lives. He remains an inspiration. His work on behalf of the YMCA of the Palm Beaches continues on through Polo with Pedro.
KIG (Kris Kampsen, Jason Crowder, Juancito Bollini, Grant Ganzi) is defending tournament champion, defeating Piaget (Melissa Ganzi, Joey Casey, Juan Bollini, JJ Celis), 10-9, in the 2012 final.
The tournament is played in honor of Morrison in a casual, laid-back and fun atmosphere, the way he would have liked it. A hospitality tent in the middle of the polo club’s fields will serve food and refreshments.
Two 20-goal tournaments are scheduled for November and will be held simultaneously with two medium-goal tournaments.
The two 20-goal tournaments are the Nov. 5-9 USPA 2013 Beluga North America Cup and Nov.13-24 USPA National 20-Goal Championship.
During the 2012 fall season, Audi dominated the season winning back-to-back USPA North America Cup and USPA National 20-Goal Tournament titles with Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Nic Roldan and Carlos Gracida. In the national 20-goal final, Audi edged Piaget, 10-9.
GRAND CHAMPIONS FALL SCHEDULE
Oct. 30 – Nov. 3, Pedro Morrison Memorial
Nov. 5-9, USPA Beluga North America Cup
Nov. 8-10, Palm Restaurant Invitational
Nov. 13-24, The National 20-Goal Championship
Nov. 30, International Cup, Team USA vs. Chile
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 561-644-5050.
INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Piaget. Everyone is welcome to watch high and medium goal polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the International Cup in November, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament in March, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament, both in April.
Sharon Robb for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International