WELLINGTON, Fl., March 7, 2018-–San Saba defended its title in the Sunny Hale Memorial Tournament Wednesday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
The Grand Champions Polo Club rain-delayed monthly women’s league final for February featured 2018 champion San Saba, WIPN and CrossFit El Cid in a six-chukker round robin.
San Saba (Misty Allen, 0, Alina Carta, 4, Mia Cambiaso, 6, Clarissa Echezarreta, 5) defeated CrossFit El Cid (Malicia Von Falkenhausen, 2, Slaney O’Hanlon, 4, Jennifer Williams, 3, Cecelia Cochran, 5), 4-1.5, to win the tournament.
“This was the first time the four of us played together,” Carta said. “It was fun to have both Mia Cambiaso and Mia Astrada play. It raised our level of play. They are both quick. It’s great that they can play with us and that they are here. It was a great way to end the February league.
“The quality of play is fantastic,” Carta said. “We are getting the opportunity to play on a consistent basis, serious but for fun. We enjoy ourselves and the camaraderie.”
Finishing third in the three-team round robin was WIPN (Women’s International Polo Network) (Dawn Jones, 6, Rileigh Tibbott, 0, Mia Novillo Astrada, 6, Nicole Watson, 2).
Mia Cambiaso, 16, the oldest daughter of polo great Adolfo Cambiaso, was selected Masai of Palm Beach Most Valuable Player after scoring a tournament-high four goals in four chukkers.
Chici, a 10-year-old thoroughbred mare owned and played by Dawn Jones, was Best Playing Pony.
Clarissa Echezarreta, a longtime player and one of polo’s pioneers, was impressed by the quality of the women’s field. It was the first time she played with Cambiaso.
“That was very, very nice,” Echezarreta said. “It made my life easy.
“The level of competition here is great. I think it’s getting better and better. I give all credit to this league for getting us out here once a week every month. It makes a huge difference and it’s perfect leading up to the circuit that Dawn organized. We’re in our third week now and this was a great warm-up.”
Held every Wednesday during the winter polo season, the Women’s Weekly League is held under The Polo School’s umbrella. On the last Wednesday of each month a tournament is held with MVP and BPP honors and gifts exchanged among players.
All team entry fees benefit The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned club. The Polo School offers lessons to men, women and children of all ages and ability levels and offers scholarships.
The February tournament honors Hale, the all-time greatest women’s polo player. The part-time Wellington resident died February 26, 2017 in Norman, Okla. due to complications from cancer. She was 48.
Twelve players competed in honor of one of the sport’s pioneers and first woman in polo history to win the 26-goal U.S. Open in an era when the sport was male-dominated.
Many of the players have competed in qualifiers for the Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT), the largest women’s league in the world which Hale founded to help open the door and break down barriers for girls and women. The WCT final will be hosted by Melissa and Marc Ganzi in April at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The only full-time weekly women’s polo league in the world was created by Carta, a polo pioneer and one of the highest ranked women in the U.S. in the 1980s, and Melissa Ganzi, Grand Champions Polo Club President, World Polo League co-founder and avid player. She recently became the first woman in history to win the prestigious 35th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz.
Carta played with and against Hale in the U.S. and internationally including Singapore.
“We all played with Sunny and against Sunny,” Carta said. “The first time I played against Sunny was in California. She was 18, a great player and very good friend. There are many funny stories with Sunny. She was amazing. We will remember her always.”
Several players will compete in the 11th annual Tabebuia Cup, a WCT qualifier, Thursday through Saturday at Port Mayaca and Women’s U.S. Open starting March 16 at Port Mayaca with the final at IPC on March 23. Among the eight-team U.S. Open field are Grand Champions, San Saba and CrossFit El Cid.
During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation’s largest and innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, is hosting 24 tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 0 to 40 goals, WCT Finals and women’s weekly league play and 26-goal World Polo League tournaments at both Grand Champions, Valiente Polo Farm and several other fields in the area.
Grand Champions tournaments attract a large international field of players from all corners of the world including India, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Venezuela and England.
Season highlights for 2019 are the Sterling Cup, $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, John T. Oxley Memorial and $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament and inaugural World Polo League.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and three polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball with plans to build more polo fields in the future.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels and ages. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program, created by Grand Champions President Melissa Ganzi when the club first opened in 2007.