Flexjet won the opening tournament of the fall polo season with an exciting 7-6 victory over Casablanca in the Tackeria Invitational on Sunday, Oct. 2 at the Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington.
Melissa Ganzi took a pass from Juan Bollini and scored on a cut shot just before the 30-second bell in the final chukker to clinch the win.
Flexjet (Riley Ganzi, Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini and Jason Crowder) and Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Jared Sheldon, Carlitos Gracida and Juancito Bollini) battled back and forth throughout the game, with Casablanca taking a 3-1 lead after two chukkers and Flexjet a 6-4 lead after four chukkers.
Riley Ganzi, a junior at St. Andrew’s School, was named Most Valuable Player. At 16, she is one of the youngest MVPs in club history.
“I was pretty happy with how I played considering I haven’t played in over a month,” Ganzi said. “I was just going out there to get back into it and get the feel for things. It turned out really well for me. It’s kind of surprising. I usually don’t feel as comfortable when I haven’t played for a long time. Being surrounded by my mom, brother and Juan, I felt the positive energy, which I think helped.”
Ganzi played with her mother, Melissa, a longtime player, and against her brother, Grant, a freshman at Lynn University and a rising player in the sport.
The mother-daughter team combined for seven goals, with Melissa Ganzi leading with a game-high five goals. Juancito Bollini led Casablanca with three goals.
A third generation polo player, Riley Ganzi started playing polo at age 4. Her mother has been a role model throughout her young career.
“She has honestly taught me everything,” Ganzi said. “She has definitely been a role model my whole life. It’s hard to live up to all that she has accomplished in polo. It’s not the same going to the barn when she’s not there. I’m happier when she’s with me. It has made our relationship special and what it is today.”
Playing with and against top players including Crowder and Sheldon, a Team USPA member, helps Ganzi hone her skills and improve her game.
“They are such great players to learn from,” Ganzi said. “I still have so much room to improve. I do it because I love it, that’s what motivates me. I think keeping at it, practicing all the time and being with people who support me, has helped me get to where I am.”
Open Quarzo, an 8-year-old Bay stallion ridden by Melissa Ganzi and owned by Santa Rita Farm, was named Best Playing Pony.
In the lightning-shortened subsidiary five-chukker game, Palm Beach Equine (Toro Roldan, J.J. Celis, Martin Estrada and Guille Aguero) defeated Newport (Nic Roldan, Gene Goldstein, Marc Ganzi and Glenn Straub), 7-5.
Aguero was named Most Valuable Player. Gittle, a 12-year-old Bay mare ridden by Goldstein, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Estrada had three goals and Celis added two for Palm Beach Equine. Roldan and Goldstein each scored two goals for Newport.
The Tackeria Invitational is the first of 10 fall tournaments at one of the nation’s busiest polo clubs.
The club will host seven medium-goal events, two 20-goal tournaments, the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo game and the International Cup.
“It’s going to be a busy season,” Grand Champions co-owner and player Marc Ganzi said. “We keep pushing the envelope. We want to keep polo fun and spice it up. This is a fun time and gets us primed and ready for the winter season.”
Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in worldwide polo broadcasting, is live streaming the entire fall season. For more info., visit www.gcpolo.com.
ABOVE: Flexjet’s Riley Ganzi, Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini and Jason Crowder with awards presenter Jesse Coppola.