WELLINGTON, FL – February 12, 2013 — Grand Champions Polo Club-based pro teams Audi and Piaget will be well-represented on Saturday in the Outback 40-Goal Challenge Game at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Eight 10-goal players will compete for Equus & Co. and EFG Bank in the annual game that benefits the Polo Players Support Group, a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to seriously injured or ill polo players and grooms.
Piaget 10-goalers Miguel Astrada and Sapo Caset, members of the team’s 26-goal team that also features player-padrone Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini and Nacho Badiola, will compete. Astrada will compete for Equus & Co. Caset will play for EFG Bank.
Audi 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres, a member of the teams’ 26-goal team that also includes his youngest brother, Nico Pieres, player-padrone Marc Ganzi and Jeff Hall. Gonzalito Pieres will compete for Equus & Co.
Gonzalito Pieres, 30, is the oldest son of legendary Argentine player Gonzalo Pieres, Sr. He has been rated at 10 goals in the U.S. since 2010 and has been a member of Audi’s 26-goal team for six seasons.
Caset, 26, won the C.V. Whitney Cup and U.S. Open in 2011 for Lechuza Caracas and was raised to 10 goals. In April 2012 he was stricken with a serious staph infection where he was in a medically-induced coma for six days and lost thirty pounds. He returned to the polo field in September and is back at full-strength.
Rounding out the EFG Bank lineup are Adolfo Cambiaso, the game’s best player in the world; Pablo MacDonough and Juan Martin Nero.
The remaining Equus & Co. players are Facundo Pieres, another Pieres brother, and Pelon Stirling.
Astrada, a father of five and one of the sport’s greats, has competed in seven 40-goal games throughout his career.
“You have to think like you are playing in Argentina because it is the same kind of polo,” said Astrada, who played in the inaugural game in 2000. “It’s good fun but it is competitive.
“It takes you a couple of chukkers to adjust but then the game has the same speed you get in Argentina because you have four really good players that don’t make mistakes. No one pushes because no one wants to get hurt but the kind of polo you play is the best you play in the season like the speed of the game in the U.S. Open.
“It is an honor to play the game and it is for a very good cause,” Astrada said. “The fact we can do something to help other people is a great idea. It’s very important that the 10-goal players support that as an example for the rest of the players.”
The benefit started in 2000 at Royal Palm Polo Sports Club in Boca Raton as the 40-goal Rob Walton Challenge and raised more than $100,000 that first year. Walton, a former Palm Beach player rated at 8 goals, broke his neck in 1995 playing in a game in Malaysia.
To date, the event has provided more than $1.5 million and helped 44 players and grooms, according to organizer Dave Offen.
Game organizers said the game is like having “Ten LeBron James on the basketball court at the same time.” But the game has greater meaning.
Unlike most pro sports, polo players lack union or company-sponsored insurance programs, leaving the financial impact of an illness or injury potentially devastating to family and friends.
As an added twist to the match, a two-point line has been added to the field, much like a three-point arch in basketball, giving two points for shots from downtown (outside 80 yards of the goal mouth).
The game is 3 p.m. Before the game, one long chukker featuring sons and daughters of some of the world’s top players will compete.
Grand Champions Polo Club will be represented by Adolfo Cambiaso Jr., Mia Cambiaso, Lucas Criado and Mia Astrada. The Lucchese team is Santos Merlos, MacKenzie Weisz, Lucas Escobar and Hope Arellano.
A dinner will be held in the IPC Pavilion after the 40-Goal trophy presentation. Tickets are available to the public for $20 for lawn seating, $100 for box seat and $150 for reserved tailgate spot. Tickets will be available at the gate on game day.
Currently, Audi and Piaget’s 20-goal teams are preparing for Friday’s Ylvisaker Cup semifinals. Audi (Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Nico Pieres, Mariano Gracida) will play Villa del Lago at 2 p.m. followed by defending champion Piaget (Melissa Ganzi, Miguel Astrada, Juan Bollini and Joaquin Panelo) against Lucchese at 4 p.m.
Also on Friday, the National Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame will host its 24th annual dinner, induction ceremony and silent auction at 6:30 p.m. Among this year’s inductees are former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro and Outback’s Tim Gannon, who will be awarded the Iglehart Award for his selfless generosity to polo and charities including the Outback 40-Goal Challenge.
Melissa Ganzi is vice president of the museum’s Board of Directors. Grand Champions Polo Club is also among a long list of supporting sponsors for the induction ceremony.
YLVISAKER CUP AUDI/PIAGET SCHEDULE
Friday, February 15: Quarterfinal round, Audi vs. Villa del Lago, 2 p.m.; Piaget vs. Lucchese, 4 p.m.
Saturday, February 16: Outback 40-Goal Challenge (with three players from Audi/Piaget: Miguel Astrada, Sapo Caset and Gonzalito Pieres), 3 p.m.
Sunday, February 17: CV Whitney 26-goal games, schedule TBA after drawing.
Wednesday, February 20: Ylvisaker Semifinals, 1 and 3 p.m.
Thursday, February 21: George Haas Cup Semifinals, 1 and 3 p.m.
Sunday, February 24: Haas Cup final, noon; Ylvisaker Cup Final, 3 p.m.
AUDI/PIAGET TOURNAMENT LINEUP
Jan. 31 – Feb. 24, Ylvisaker Cup
Feb. 20 – March 3, Iglehart Cup
Feb. 20 – March 3, CV Whitney Cup
March 5 – March 24, USPA Piaget Gold Cup
March 26 – April 21, 109th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championship
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: On the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington.
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 polo during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League Tournament.
Sharon Robb for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International