The Tackeria Invitational polo tournament, which traditionally starts the fall polo season in Wellington, took place at Grand Champions Polo Club from Oct. 2 to 4.
"The Tackeria Invitational was the perfect way to kick off the season. It was a great weekend and an exciting tournament," said Tackeria proprietor Tony Coppola, a legendary high-goal tournament announcer and a governor-at-large of the United States Polo Association (USPA). "We are proud to be a returning sponsor, with the Tackeria Invitational now in its seventh year." The sidelines were packed for Sunday's final as Postage Stamp Farms won the medium-goal tournament, 9-4, over Audi. The Postage Stamp lineup was: Annabelle Gundlach (-1 handicap), Brandon Phillips (5), Guille Aguero (6) and Leo Mandelbaum (3). Audi's roster was: Santos Bollini (0), Marc Ganzi (1), Luis Escobar (6) and Juan Bollini (5). Earlier in the day Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Wes Finlayson, J.J. Celis and Julio Ezcurra) defeated Dutta Corp. (Timmy Dutta, Tim Dutta, Carlitos Gracida and Nic Roldan), 12-10, in the subsidiary match.
Throughout the weekend the tournament brought a fervor to spectators. "People in Wellington are ready for some polo!" said Audi patron Marc Ganzi, who said he was grateful to Coppola for being such a great supporter of the sport. "It's really nice to have Tony's support and that of other local vendors for the off-season polo (spring and fall). It's important. Wellington needs that to keep going, so that the pros have jobs, the feed stores stay open and the tack stores stay open." The Tackeria is a complete equestrian shop located in the heart of Wellington horse country. It carries one of the most complete selections of equestrian equipment in the world. The business has always sponsored the Tackeria Invitational, which was the inaugural tournament at Grand Champions when the club first opened years ago.
While it is an annual tradition, this year's Tackeria Invitational also brought some firsts. It marked the first time former 8-goaler Luis Escobar of Costa Rica has played in a tournament since being injured in play last winter at another club. It was also a sentimental first anniversary for player Annabelle Gundlach, who made her debut in tournament play at last year's Tackeria Invitational. "It's so exciting that my one-year anniversary is here, where I started," said Gundlach. "This is a great tournament, and the Ganzis always put on an amazing show. People don't appreciate how spoiled we are in Wellington - look at these fields!"
For Escobar, making a return to tournament play was an important step. He played an impressively strong game, holding his own in repeated contests against Mandelbaum. When asked what his comeback meant to him, Escobar paused. "Comeback. That's a big word," he said. "I'm not sure if I'm back yet. But I've definitely been working at it for three months." In June, July and August he rode horses and followed a consistent therapy program, followed by strengthening exercises for the last month-and-a-half, to get back into condition. He didn't push himself, but his eye was on the Tackeria Invitational.
"I told Melissa (Ganzi) and Juan (Olivera, polo manager at Grand Champions) in August, 'I might be ready for the Invitational, so keep me in mind. If you need me, I'll be there. Just don't count on me for my regular handicap; I don't know where I'll be.'" Then he looked across the field and said, "And here we are today!" Escobar played an impressively strong game, holding his own in numerous ride-offs with Mandelbaum, who was named Most Valuable Player. Mandelbaum, Brandon Phillips and Guille Aguero made three goals apiece for Postage Stamp Farm. Ganzi and Juan Bollini each scored twice for Audi.
Aguero, who also played on last year's winning team (Aspen Valley Polo Club), competed this weekend in slick tag-team mode for Postage Stamp Farm with Phillips. "I think the main thing is that it was a great game, and everybody had a good time," said Aguero.
Phillips, who has played every year in the Tackeria Invitational since it began, said, "Guille is a classic, great player, so he's very easy to play with. It's a lot of fun playing with him. It's simple. We're basically the same age and have been doing this for the same amount of time, so we've played against and with each other for a long time." The Tackeria Invitational is "a great tournament to start with, and this first weekend went well," added Phillips. "It's just great to be back home in Florida and playing this early, in October. This fall season is unbelievable at Grand Champions."
Click here for more information about The Tackeria or call the store at: (561)793-2012 or at: 1-800-882-POLO (7656).