Playing near-perfect polo in the first half, Sebucan went on to defeat Casablanca and win its first fall tournament of the season.
The talented foursome of Pablo Pulido, Guille Aguero, Luis Escobar and Carlitos Gracida knocked off Casablanca, 11-7, to capture the USPA Fall Plates title on Sunday in front of a good local crowd at Santa Rita Polo Farm’s Aspen Field and worldwide ChukkerTV audience.
Casablanca, coming off back-to-back tournament victories, was making its fourth consecutive finals appearance.
With winds gusting 18 to 20 miles per hour, Sebucan gave the foursome of Benjamin Avendano, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini and Mike Azzaro all it could handle from the opening chukker.
Sebucan shut down Casablanca, 5-0, after the first two chukkers and led 6-2 at the half. Casablanca, a 13-goal team, regained its composure in the second half but could never reel in the upset-minded 16-goal Sebucan team.
“We ran a lot,” said Most Valuable Player Pablo Pulido with a smile. Pulido scored five goals in last weekend’s Grand Champions Cup subsidiary and had another outstanding game pulling his team and scoring a game-high four goals.
Eight-year-old Poker Face, owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm and ridden by Azzaro, was Best Playing Pony.
Escobar, coming off two tournament victories during the summer season at Santa Barbara, played an integral playmaking role in his team’s victory.
“The key for us was to be disciplined, this is what we talked about,” Escobar said. “Everybody had their job and were disciplined, whether it was playing No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4, do that and when you have the ball, get rid of it.”
The strategy worked with Sebucan leading Casablanca, 6-1 with 1:31 left in the third chukker and 7-2 to open to fourth chukker after scoring on a broken play.
Trailing 8-2 with 5:15 left in the fourth chukker, Casablanca started digging itself out of a hole scoring three unanswered goals in the fourth and early in the fifth chukkers. Casablanca squandered away four scoring opportunities late in the fifth and early in the sixth chukkers while Sebucan kept its composure and worked the clock to end the game.
“We were disciplined the whole game and that makes a huge difference and that makes Pablo Pulido play better than he normally does,” Escobar said. “He played amazing. He really did play great and the other guys played good, too. We just made less mistakes on our side.”
Pulido, a Cornell University alum and collegiate player rated at 2 goals, has been playing since age 12. He has played in Venezuela and started playing at Grand Champions five years ago. Pulido was also an MVP during the spring season at Grand Champions.
“It was a great game,” Pulido said. “Everybody was hitting the ball, not holding on to it and just passing it off. There were a lot of good breakaways and good plays.”
It was the first time Pulido played with Escobar, one of the game’s top players.
“My teammates were fantastic,” Pulido said. “They were all evenly talented and all played well. They all passed the ball which was great for me. Casablanca seemed unbeatable until today. We had a good time. The field played well. The horses played well. The weather held off, so it was good.”
Pulido said there was no sense of panic when Casablanca adjusted its gameplan in the second half with Bollini moving to the back position.
“You can’t let it go, we lost games like that before,” Pulido said. “We had to play hard and keep the momentum and we picked it up again in the sixth chukker.”
In addition to Pulido’s four goals, Aguero had three and Escobar and Gracida each scored two goals. Grant Ganzi led Casablanca with three goals, Azzaro added two and Avendano and Bollini each had one.
In the opening game of the doubleheader, Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Gene Goldstein, Juan Bollini, Jason Crowder) won the Just For Fun Cup.
Ganzi scored back-to-back goals including the game-winner for a 10-9 victory over Santa Clara (Nico Escobar, JJ Celis, Marc Ganzi, Kris Kampsen). Ganzi scored a game-high six goals for Flexjet. Nico Escobar, oldest son of Luis Escobar, led Santa Clara with three goals.
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The USPA Fall Plates Tournament was the fourth of six medium goal tournaments. The club is also hosting two 20-goal tournaments, the USPA North American (Oct. 27-Nov. 5) Cup and USPA National 20-Goal (Nov. 8-19) and Nov. 25 doubleheader with the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo and International Cup pitting five-time defending champion Team USA against Brazil.
The winner of the season-opening Tackeria Invitational was Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Brandon Phillips, Carlitos Gracida), 11-10 OT winners over Casablanca. Casablanca won both the US Trust Cup with Mike Azzaro, Grant Ganzi, Jason Crowder and Cacho Galindo and USPA Fall Classic with Cacho Galindo, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini and Mike Azzaro.