WELLINGTON, FL-April 29, 2017-—Brandon Phillips scored back-to-back goals in the fourth chukker to lead Virginia-based Altair Polo to a 7-6.5 victory over The Polo School to capture the Grand Champions Cup Saturday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
It was the Middleburg, Va.-based Altair Polo’s (Ashley Busch, Grant Ganzi, Brandon Phillips, Juancito Bollini) second spring tournament victory in three years.
|Altair Polo winning teammates Ashley Busch, Grant Ganzi, Brandon Phillips and Juancito Bollini with Grand Champions Cup awards presenter Dea Van Metre.|
The foursome of Busch, Santos Bollini, Brandon Phillips and Carlitos Gracida defeated Newport (Lucas Escobar, Gene Goldstein, Lucas Lalor, Nacho Lezica), 10-9, to win the 8-Goal Spring Challenge Tournament at Grand Champions in 2015.
|Grand Champions Cup finalists The Polo School and Altair Polo with awards presenter Dea Van Metre.|
With 3:30 remaining Altair Polo led, 7-4.5 before The Polo School (Rick Desich, Santos Bollini, JJ Celis, Jesse Bray) rallied behind goals by Desich and Celis but ran out of time.
Phillips, a 5-goal rated player, was named Most Valuable Player.
|Brandon Phillips of Altair Polo with his MVP plaque.|
Miss America, an 8-year-old Chestnut mare American thoroughbred out of Hennessey, and owned by Halo Polo, was selected Best Playing Pony.
|Brandon Phillips of Altair Polo attempts to hook Jesse Bray of The Polo School in mid-hit.|
For Busch, formerly Ashley Van Metre, it was her first win as a newlywed.
The 26-year-old equestrian, who started riding at 5 and playing polo at 11, and race car driver Kurt Busch, a 27-time race winner in the NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series and Daytona 500 champion, were wed on Jan. 7 at the Eden Roc Hotel in St. Bart’s. A week later the couple held their reception at The Breakers in Palm Beach.
|Ashley and Kurt Busch on their wedding day in St. Bart’s. File Photo|
“It really doesn’t feel any different being married and playing polo,” Busch said. “It’s been great.”
It was Busch’s final appearance in Wellington for the season. She was scheduled to leave on Saturday for Richmond to watch her husband race.
They are each other’s biggest fans. Kurt Busch follows her on ChukkerTV and tweets videos of her games on Twitter.
|Ashley Busch of Altair Polo waiting for a pass with Rick Desich defending.|
“This is my first tournament win as a newlywed,” Busch said with a smile. “It was a great, great finale.”
Altair Polo is named after her family’s farm in Virginia and great grandfather’s Navy battleship.
“It was fun playing with this team,” Busch said of her 10-goal team. “I always play with Brandon and then we pick the rest of the team and go with it.
|Santos Bollini of The Polo School gets a leg up on older brother Juancito Bollini of Altair Polo.|
“It’s always fun and I enjoy playing here. It was a great tournament. It’s fun to play with Grant and Juan, they play great together and score lots of goals.
“I wish I had more time to play,” Busch said. “I didn’t bring my horses down this winter so I was renting horses for the past two weekends just trying to get back into it after the wedding and everything.
“This was for fun and trying to get back in the swing of things. It was nice just to get on a horse and play.”
|Grant Ganzi of Altair Polo defends Santos Bollini of The Polo School.|
Busch plans to play more polo this summer in Virginia. She is also scheduled to play in the tenth annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic on June 3 at Liberty State Park in New York along with Melissa Ganzi and Hilario Figueras, oldest son of Nacho Figueras. The event is raising funds for the Keep A Child Alive non-profit organization.
In Saturday’s final, Phillips and Juancito Bollini each had three goals and Ganzi added one.
Celis scored a game-high four goals and Desich had two goals for The Polo School. The 9-goal team also received .5 handicap point.
|MVP Brandon Phillips of Altair Polo races to score one of his three goals against The Polo School.|
“It’s always fun playing with Ashley and we had a good team,” Phillips said. “She enjoys playing and has a good time. It was a great game and great that we won.”
Phillips plans to finish out the spring season at Grand Champions before heading to Greenwich to play with Postage Stamp Farm for the second consecutive season in Connecticut.
|Rick Desich of The Polo School scores his second goal in the fourth chukker.|
Grand Champions Polo Club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its’ eleven well-manicured fields including Santa Rita Polo Farm, during the fall, winter and spring seasons.
The spring season is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
|Awards table for the Grand Champions Cup at Santa Rita Polo Farm. Photos by ChukkerTV|
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. 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, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
The Polo School at Grand Champions, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
2017 GRAND CHAMPIONS SPRING SCHEDULE
(Subject to change because of weather and scheduling conflicts).
SUNDAY: USPA Eastern Challenge, 9:45 a.m. (Aspen Valley Polo Cup) Field 1; 11 a.m. Final, Field 2.
MAY 5-7: USPA Sun Cup
MAY 12-14: The Spring Challenge Cup.
MAY 19-21: Polo Gear Invitational.
MAY 26-29: The Memorial.