Boca Raton, FL-Sept. 29, 2013 - Paladin captured the fall season-opening Prisa Invitational Tournament on Sunday with an impressive 11-8 victory over Newport at Palm City Polo Club. On paper, the 15-goal rated Paladin team (David Krantz, Leo Mandelbaum, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini), looked like the team to beat. And, in two games, lived up to expectations particularly against the upset-minded Newport team (Gene Goldstein, Guille Aguero, Luis Escobar, Marc Ganzi).
Mandelbaum, 38, of Wellington was named the tournament Most Valuable Player. He scored nine goals in two games including four in the championship. "It feels great to be MVP, I haven't played in a long time," said Mandelbaum, sidelined from tournament action for nearly a year because of a serious leg injury.
Mandelbaum, who started playing polo at age 16, played all summer on green horses in Wellington to get fit for the fall season. He plans to compete the entire season. "When I was out of polo I missed it," Mandelbaum said. "I was out of shape. I had to train a lot to get back into it and feel good."
Paladin advanced into the final with a 12-9 victory over Beluga. Newport came from behind to defeat Casablanca, 13-11.
"They are just amazing players," said Atlanta-based David Krantz, who scored one goal. "It was a fast game and a lot of fun. It made me think. I learn a lot every time I get out and play with these guys." Added Mandelbaum, "I knew we had a great shot at winning. Nic is just amazing and Juan is the strongest back and playing awesome, too. I played with them before so I knew what I was getting into. It was an All-Star team."
Paladin controlled the game early, jumping out to a 5-1 lead after the first two chukkers. Newport, known for its comebacks, evened the game at 5-5 when Goldstein scored at the 1:10 mark in the third chukker. It was the closest Newport would come as Paladin regained its composure and the lead, 8-5, in the fourth chukker and 10-6 in the fifth chukker.
In the sixth chukker, Roldan inadvertently scored one of Newport's goals prompting the 8-goaler to joke, "My horse is a traitor," but Paladin maintained the lead for the remainder of the game. "We controlled the game," said Bollini, who scored one goal and played well defensively. "I didn't really want to push the horses, this is the first tournament. I knew the final would be harder, but I expected my team to win. I always play to win."
"The horses are not 100 percent ready in the first tournament," Bollini said. "It's a long and really nice season of really competitive polo so I didn't want to push."
For Newport, Ganzi led scoring with three goals and finished with ten goals for the tournament. Escobar scored two. Aguero and Goldstein each had one. The 14-goal team led 1-0 by handicap to open the game.
The season-opening tournament allowed players and green horses to ease into game action and gear up for the remainder of the season.
Roldan, who led all scoring with five goals, left on Sunday afternoon for China where he will represent the U.S. in the Oct. 1-5 Fortune Heights Super Nations Cup at the Tianjin Polo Club in Hong Kong. Roldan will join U.S. teammates Mike Azzaro, Tommy Collingwood and Ulysses Escapite. "It's always an honor to represent the USA," Roldan said. "It's my first time going to China so I am looking forward to that. I think we have a fun, really good team.
"I was using this tournament to get ready a little but for China, trying to focus and get back into the rhythm...I haven't played polo for a while," Roldan said. "This was the first weekend and it's a long season, so we were just cruising."
Best playing pony went to Bacall, owned and bred by Melissa Ganzi.
After a successful spring season, Grand Champions Polo Club is hosting nine tournaments, including two 20-goal tournaments in November for the club's sixth fall season.
The Prisa Invitational was the first of seven medium goal tournaments, and only tournament scheduled for Palm City Polo Club.
The remaining fall tournaments will be hosted at Grand Champions Polo Club. They are the Oct. 4-6 USPA Fall Classic, Oct. 13-15 USPA Kay Colee Memorial; Oct. 18-20 US Trust Cup, Oct. 25-27 USPA Fall Plates; Nov.1-3 Pedro Morrison Memorial and Nov. 8-10 Palm Restaurant Invitational.
The two 20-goal tournaments are the prestigious Oct. 30-Nov. 9 USPA North America Cup and Nov. 13-24 The National 20-Goal Championship.
During the 2012 fall season, Audi dominated the season winning back-to-back USPA North America Cup and USPA National 20-Goal Tournament titles with Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Nic Roldan and Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida. In the national 20-goal final, Audi edged Piaget, 10-9.
All tournaments are USPA-sanctioned and have grown in stature since their start in the mid-1990s.
GRAND CHAMPIONS FALL SCHEDULE
Oct. 4-6, USPA Fall Classic
Oct. 13-15, USPA Kay Colee Memorial
Oct. 18-20, US Trust Cup
Oct. 25-27, USPA Fall Plates
Oct. 30-Nov. 9, USPA North America Cup
Nov. 1-3, Pedro Morrison Memorial
Nov. 8-10, Palm Restaurant Invitational
Nov. 13-24,The National 20-Goal Championship
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 561-644-5050.
INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro team Audi. Everyone is welcome to watch high and medium goal polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the International Cup in November, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament in March, Women's Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament, both in April.