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Patagones Defeats Cria Yatay On Day Two Of World Polo League; Audi Plays Valiente Sunday At Grand Champions Polo Club

Patagones Defeats Cria Yatay On Day Two Of World Polo League; Audi Plays Valiente Sunday At Grand Champions Polo Club
WELLINGTON, Fla., February 9, 2019---Patagones team sponsor Gonzalo Avendano has been training for the World Polo League's All Star Challenge Draw Tournament since December and it showed in his first game in two years.

Teams shake hands after the game with another World Polo League game in the history book.

Leading by as many as seven goals in the third chukker, Patagones (Santi Wulff, 5, Santiago Toccalino, 8, Tomas Garcia del Rio, 8, Gonzalo Avendano, 2) defeated Cria Yatay (Juan Cruz Merlos, 5, Nacho Figueras, 6, Pite Merlos, 8, Tommy Biddle, 5), 13-9, Friday in front of a good crowd at Jan Pamela Field. 

"I think it's fun to have a choice of what level of polo to play," Avendano said. "Twenty-six goals is easier than eight goals. You have the anticipation. You know where the ball should go so you can go straight to the play and you don't have to run so much. It's a good thing to start like this."

Gonzalo Avendano of Patagones gets ready to hook Tommy Biddle of Cria Yatay.

Avendano was forced to take a break from polo when he had an accident two years ago and heart surgery for arrhythmia. He was on blood thinners and not allowed to play.

In December 2018 he started preparing his sons for the winter season and started to stick-and-ball. He started riding and played a few practices.

Gonzalo Avendano of Patagones outraces Juan Cruz Merlos of Cria Yatay.

"I said okay, I'm going to try and play at least practices," Avendano said. "I lost 20 pounds in two months. Melissa Ganzi and Bob Jornayvaz asked my sons Joaquin and Benjamin to play this tournament. First I said yes, yes, yes and then I said no, no, no, wait a minute, I am going to play. I said I was going to prepare myself and see if I can do it. We talked to the other guys and thought it would be a lot of fun."

It was Avendano's first 26-goal career tournament. Before that his highest was 24 goals. He won the 0-40 Republic of Argentina Cup with a 22-goal team and played 20, 22 and 24-goal tournaments in Argentina, Wellington and Santa Barbara. The Patagones organization currently has teams playing 8, 12, 20 and 26 goal polo.

Santi Wulff of Patagones working the ball in the air with Tommy Biddle of Cria Yatay defending.

"The level of polo you choose depends on many things: your horses, your organization and your willingness to commit time to polo," Avendano said. "It's good to have the option to choose 26 goals."

After playing with and against each other in tournaments and practices, Patagones already had the chemistry before the game even started.

Tomas Garcia del Rio of Patagones works the ball downfield with Nacho Figueras of Cria Yatay defending.

"We have a very fun team," said Garcia del Rio, who played high goal with Avendano's son Benjamin in Argentina for three months and won the Metropolitano and Ellerstina Gold Cup. "We didn't think the game would be like this. We have been playing good mixed practices in the last couple of months and we are in rhythm.

"We wanted to play a nice game and have fun," Garcia del Rio said. "Before the game we didn't really talk about winning. If we won, we won and if we didn't, we just wanted to have fun and play nice. Winning was a bonus. Gonzalo played great. He has been preparing all season to come back in this tournament."

Juan Cruz Merlos of Cria Yatay on his way to scoring in the fifth chukker.

Garcia Del Rio said he was happy when the World Polo League was created last year.

"It's great having this much polo in Wellington," Garcia del Rio said. "The best players in the world are here and having the chance to play with them and against them and enjoying watching them I think is great for everyone. I hope it's here to stay."

Big-hitting Tommy Biddle led Cria Yatay with four goals. Pite Merlos had three and Juan Cruz Merlos added one goal.

Tomas Garcia del Rio of Patagones leans into his near side shot with Pite Merlos of Cria Yatay defending.

Patagones got a 2-0 lead based on handicap and quickly built a 6-0 cushion in the opening chukker. Pite Merlos scored Cria Yatay's first goal early in the second chukker but the team could not dig itself out of a hole and trailed 9-2 at the half.

Playing together for the first time, Cria Yatay found its rhythm in the final two chukkers scoring four unanswered goals before time ran out.

Nacho Figueras of Cria Yatay tries to ride off Santi Wulff of Patagones.

Patagones got balanced scoring from its four-man team. Garcia del Rio led scoring with four goals, Wulff added three. Toccalino and Avendano each had two goals.

"Gonzalo played amazing and he is better than that," Wulff said. "The game was a lot of fun. We didn't know what to expect. We just started in the World Polo League but it is amazing. I am super happy with everything about it, the presentation, the draw, the teams and the field was good. It is amazing to be part of this."

Santiago Toccalino of Patagones follows up his hit with Juan Cruz Merlos of Cria Yatay defending.

On Sunday at 4 p.m., Valiente (Santi Torres, Agustin Nero, Pablo MacDonough, Bob Jornayvaz) plays Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Nic Roldan, 8, Pelon Stirling, 10, Kris Kampsen, 6) in the featured game at Grand Champions' Field 2.

Eight teams are competing in bracket play with the final set for Feb. 17 at Grand Champions Polo Club at 4 p.m.

Juan Cruz Merlos of Cria Yatay listens intently to polo great Sebastian Merlos. 

Scone, Grand Champions, Colorado and Flexjet are in Bracket A and Audi, Valiente, Cria Yatay and Patagones are in Bracket B.

Co-founded by Grand Champions owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi and Valiente Polo Farm owner Bob Jornayvaz, the World Polo League is the only 26-goal polo in the world outside of Argentina.
Delfina Blaquier gives her husband Nacho Figueras a pep talk during halftime.

The exciting new league, that will offer major prize money starting in the semifinals, is preserving the highest level of polo and its rich, hallowed tradition in the U.S. 

The WPL has its own set of simpler fan-friendly rules, including no yellow cards, to improve the flow and action of the game.

The WPL, with 14 tournament-quality fields to play on, also includes the Feb. 20-March 3 Founders Cup, March 6-24 Palm Beach Open and March 27-April 14 Triple Crown of Polo.

The WPL game finals will be held Sundays on Field Two at Grand Champions at 4 p.m. and semifinal games at Valiente Polo Farm, Fields One and Two. Several games will also be held throughout the week at various times. Admission is free along with food and refreshments at the featured games. 

The World Polo League is open to other teams that wish to compete in one or more of the tournaments. Entries are still open and everyone is welcome to play. Games are offered on the flat (Open) and on Handicap.

The World Polo League has attracted a large international field of players from all corners of the world  including Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Uruguay and U.S.

Grand Champions and Valiente are also launching the U.S. National Mixed Doubles Championship, featuring two men and two women with combined handicaps, in March.

In addition to the World Polo League, season highlights for 2019 at Grand Champions are the Sterling Cup which ends Saturday at 3 p.m. with the final between defending champion Valiente and Colorado at Grand Champions Field 1, March 1-31 $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, March 1-16 John T. Oxley Memorial and March 3-24 $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament.

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.


Feb. 7-17,
All Star Challenge Draw Tournament

Sunday 2/10:
4pm Audi vs. Valiente 
at Grand Champions Polo Club field 2
Tuesday 2/12: 
11am Flexjet vs. Grand Champions Polo Club
4pm Colorado vs. Scone

Wednesday 2/13: 
11am Audi vs Cria Yatay
4pm Patagones vs Valiente

Thursday 2/14: 
10am Grand Champions Polo Club vs. Scone
4pm Flexjet vs. Colorado

Friday 2/15: 
11am Patagones vs. Audi
4pm Valiente vs. Cria Yatay

Final Sunday 2/17 4pm
at Grand Champions Polo Club

Feb. 20-March 3, Founders Cup

March 6-24, Palm Beach Open
March 27-April 14, Triple Crown of Polo

Games at Grand Champions Polo Club, Valiente Polo Farm and other local fields.

Chukker TV is live streaming the entire World Polo League season with film material content provided by Polo Channel. ChukkerTV, featuring cutting-edge technology, was the first to introduce state-of-the-art live streaming technology and instant replay in January, 2014 at Grand Champions Polo Club. For advertising opportunities please contact Mike Ferreira at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Rob Jornayvaz at Polo Channel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jan-Eric Franck
"The Voice of Polo"

ESPN West Palm (106.3FM) and ESPN Deportes (760AM) signed an exclusive contract with the World Polo League and will target the West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami markets with various broadcasts, commercials and exposure on radio, ESPN.com, ESPN app and social media platforms to promote the exciting new 26-goal league. With nearly two decades of sustained success in sports and entertainment broadcasting, Josh Cohen is among the most influential, respected and popular on-air personalities and live event hosts in South Florida. Julian Zaldivar has been a part of ESPN West Palm Beach team and ESPN Deportes760AM manager since its inception. He is the host of Comunidad ESPN Monday through Friday that features all-sports talk and interviews with the Latino community leaders from the local Hispanic market.

Josh Cohen
Julian Zaldivar


WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.

DIRECTOR OF POLO: Juan Olivera, 561-644-5050, juan.olivera @gcpolo.com; hotline  561-644-5050.

INFORMATION: For spectators, there are great field side views for tournament action and also the Grand Champions Polo Club Boutique. The club is home base for pro teams Audi and Flexjet. Everyone is welcome to watch every level of polo in a relaxed atmosphere with food and refreshments during the featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.


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Grand Champions Polo Club, 13444 Southfields Road, Wellington, FL 33414
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