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La Dolfina Captures $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament; Juan Martin Zubia Most Valuable Player

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La Dolfina Captures $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament; Juan Martin Zubia Most Valuable Player
WELLINGTON, Fl., March 31, 2019---La Dolfina became the youngest team in tournament history to capture the sixth annual $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club.

By: Sharon Robb 

La Dolfina winning teammates Juan Martin Zubia, Poroto Cambiaso, Santos Merlos and Secundo Merlos.

La Dolfina (Santos Merlos, 0, Segundo Merlos, 2, Poroto Cambiaso, 3, Juan Martin Zubia, 7) defeated Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, 0, Geronimo Obregon, 4, Hilario Figueras, 3, Tolito Ocampo, 5), 13-10.

The team averaged 16 years in age with Santos Merlos, 13, Cambiaso, 13, Secundo Merlos, 19, and Juan Martin Zubia, 19. In 2017, GSA (Henry Porter, Santino Magrini, Juan Martin Zubia, Toro Ruiz) was the youngest team with an average age of 18.

Santos Merlos of La Dolfina zeroes in on the ball with Beverly Equestrian defenders Tolito Ocampo and Bill Ballhaus bearing down.

For the second time in tournament history, Zubia was named Most Valuable Player. Zubia, who scored a game-high six goals in 2017, scored eight goals, including five on penalty conversions, against Beverly Equestrian and joins past MVPs Luis Escobar (2014), Mark Tomlinson (2015), Jesse Bray (2016) and Toro Ruiz (2018). 

Santos Merlos of La Dolfina takes off after the ball with Bill Ballhaus of Beverly Equestrian defending.

"This is the most important win for us out of the 12-goal tournaments," said Segundo Merlos, oldest son of polo great Sebastian Merlos, who congratulated both his sons after the game. "This is a friends team. It was really good fun. Everyone played the best they could."

Poroto Cambiso of La Dolfina out of the saddle waiting on the ball.

La Dolfina joins past team champions Palm Beach Equine (Scott Swerdlin, Alejandro Gonzalez, Tommy Collingwood, Luis Escobar), Audi  (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Mark Tomlinson, Wes Finlayson), Palm Beach Illustrated/Team USPA (Todd Thurston, Jared Zenni, Geronimo Obregon, Jesse Bray) and GSA (Henry Porter, Santino Magrini, Toro Ruiz, Nachi Viana).

MVP Juan Martin Zubia of La Dolfina goes for the neck shot down field with Tolito Ocampo defending.

La Dolfina finished undefeated at 3-0 in the nation's only 12-goal tournament that offers major prize money in the single-elimination, winner-take-all competition. La Dolfina defeated WPL, 15-6, in the quarterfinals and Team USPA, 11-6, in the semifinals. Beverly Equestrian finished 2-1.

Also scoring for La Dolfina, Santos Merlos had three goals and Segundo Merlos and Cambiaso each had one goal. Ocampo led Beverly Equestrian with six goals and Obregon had four.

Segundo Merlos of La Dolfina goes for the near side back shot with Tolito Ocampo of Beverly Equestrian on his hip.

It was the first time the four young players had played in a tournament. In the physical, hardfought game, La Dolfina led for most of the game after a 2-2 opening chukker. Beverly Equestrian tied the game, 4-4, early in the third chukker and cut the lead to one, 11-10, at the end of the fifth chukker, but La Dolfina came up with a 2-0 final chukker to clinch the win. Zubia scored both goals, the first on a penalty conversion and the second from the field weaving his way through a crowd of defenders.

Hilario Figueras of Beverly Equestrian chases down Juan Martin Zubia of La Dolfina.

"This is the highlight of the season for us," Merlos said. "I think it helped that we were friends and to watch my brother play well was fun. Beverly Equestrian is a hell of a team. They never stopped. They come at you 100 percent. We were lucky. They had the same horsepower as us but somehow we managed to win."

Geronimo Obregon of Beverly Equestrian tries to hook Juan Martin Zubia of La Dolfina.

For 13-year-old Santos Merlos, it was the biggest win in his young career. "I am very happy," Merlos said. "I was a little bit intimidated in the first chukker but we played together. This is my biggest win. Maybe I will buy a horse with the prize money."

The Grand Champions Polo Club Best Playing Pony was bay mare Norma Jean, played by Figueras in the second and third chukkers, out of the Cria Yatay breeding operation.

Grand Champions BPP Norma Jean played by Hilario Figueras.
Staff Photo

The American Polo Horse Association best registered horse of the game was Dolfina Lufthansa, played by Cambiaso in the sixth chukker.

American Polo Horse Association BPP Dolfina Lufthansa played by Poroto Cambiaso.
Staff Photo

The American Polo Horse Association was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.

During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation's largest and most innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, is hosting 24 tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 0 to 40 goals, WCT Finals and women's weekly league play and 26-goal World Polo League tournaments at both Grand Champions, Valiente Polo Farm and several other fields in the area.

Most Valuable Player Juan Martin Zubia of La Dolfina with awards presenter Delfina Blaquier.

Grand Champions tournaments attract a large international field of players from all corners of the world  including India, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Venezuela and England.

La Dolfina teammates Poroto Cambiaso and Juan Martin Zubia work together while Geronimo Obregon of Beverly Equestrian goes for the hook.

Season highlights for 2019 are the Sterling Cup, $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, John T. Oxley Memorial and $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament and inaugural World Polo League.

Geronimo Obregon of Beverly Equestrian hits the reverse neck shot.

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.

Like father, like son. Poroto Cambiaso of La Dolfina works the ball out of the air for the big hit downfield.

Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels and ages. Its' expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its' Polo On Demand program, created by Grand Champions President Melissa Ganzi when the club first opened in 2007.

Finalists La Dolfina and Beverly Equestrian with awards presenter Delfina Blaquier.

The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November. Headed by Director of Operations Juan Bollini, The Polo School has nurtured several men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception.

Grand Champions awards table for the National 12-Goal Final.
Photos by Ramon Casares

APRIL
Mar. 29-Apr. 14, World Polo League Triple 
Crown of Polo, at Grand Champions & Valiente Polo Farm

April 2-6: Sunny Hale's Legacy WCT Finals,
(8 goals, 16 goals, Open) at Grand Champions.

John T. Oxley Memorial (20 Goal)
$100,000 World Cup (0-40 goal)

Monday 4/1 4pm
Limited Editon 8 Goal Final
WPL vs Dutta Corp at Grand Champions Field 3   

 
THE POLO SCHOOL 

The Polo School at Grand Champions and Director of Operations Juan Bollini are dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. The school's mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November. For lessons contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099. 


Chukker TV is live streaming the entire winter polo schedule. 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 on ChukkerTV please contact Mike Ferreira at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB

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.

STAY CONNECTED:
ChukkerTV, 13444 Southfields Road, Wellington, FL 33414
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