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Palm Beach Illustrated beats Valiente I to win $100,000 World Cup

Palm Beach Illustrated won the $100,000 World Cup presented by Audi in front of a record crowd at Grand Champions Polo Club late Saturday.

The foursome of Jared Zenni, Santi Torres, Agustin Obregon and Tommy Collingwood, a Wellington High School alum, knocked off Valiente I, 13-7, to win the 16-team, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament.

Palm Beach Illustrated, the underdog when the 0-26 goal tournament began two weeks ago, finished 4-0.

“This is awesome,” said the 21-year-old Zenni. “We all came in with the same mindset. All four of us wanted to win.

“We understood that none of us are really awesome players so we all had to work for each other, all young kids working for each other. We had to play as a team to beat other teams. It’s not easy to beat two Valiente teams in the same tournament.”

Obregon, who scored a game-high eight goals and was a catalyst for the team, was named Most Valuable Player.

Palm Beach Illustrated’s road to its biggest prize check in polo included wins over 16-goal International Polo Club (Grant Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Jesse Bray, Juancito Bollini), 14-8; 17-goal GSA (Henry Porter, Torito Ruiz, Joaquin Panelo, Matias Magrini), 9-8 in OT; and 23-goal Valiente II (Rob Jornayvaz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Diego Cavanagh, Tomas Garcia del Rio), 17-12.

In three of its four games, Palm Beach Illustrated had to dig itself out of a hole because of opponents’ handicap ratings.

“They were a very solid team,” Valiente I’s Roberto Zedda said. “They were a true four-man team. They listened to each other and followed their system. They are well-deserved winners of the tournament.”

Valiente I (Bob Jornayvaz, Roberto Zedda, Pablo Spinacci, Gringo Colombres) saw its three-goal handicap lead quickly disappear at the end of the opening chukker.

Valiente I never could gets its offensive attack going. In the first half, Valiente I scored one goal in the second and one goal in the third to add to its three-goal handicap cushion and trailed 7-5 at the half. Valiente I added another goal in the fourth chukker and another goal in the final two minutes of the game.

Palm Beach Illustrated put the game away in the fifth chukker, outscoring Valiente I, 3-0.

Collingwood was outstanding at the back with his physicality, blocked goals, steals and big passes to teammates.

“This win is awesome, it really is,” Collingwood said. “When we made the team, we said let’s just go for it. We played game-by-game. It’s crazy. To beat another Valiente team is huge, just huge.

“This win is up there for sure. You do it with friends, you do it with well-organized people, everybody committed 100 percent. Everybody was focused. Never was there any negativity going around on the team. Yeah, you got hot-headed on a couple of plays, but there was always somebody bringing you back up.”

The American Polo Horse Association picked two Best Playing Pony for the game: Torres’ Mini Watt and Delfina Chita, owned by Bob Jornayvaz. For the tournament overall, it was Creciente, ridden by Adolfo Cambiaso and Pablo Spinacci.

Teams for Wednesday’s 113th U.S. Open semifinals were determined on Sunday at International Polo Club Palm Beach. Flexjet will play defending champion Orchard Hill at 11 a.m. Valiente plays Travieso at 5 p.m. Flexjet (3-0), the tournament’s only undefeated team and Valiente (2-1) received byes into the semifinals.

In Sunday’s quarterfinals:

Travieso 12, Coca-Cola 10: Travieso, making its 26-goal debut, knocked off the former U.S. Open champion. Sebastian Merlos and Alfredo Capella scored the winning and insurance goals. Mariano Gonzalez led the scoring with six goals, five on penalty shots.

Travieso converted 6 of 9 shots from the field and penalty line. Coca-Cola could manage only 8 of 21 shots. Capella was MVP. Merlos’ home-bred 9-year-old Guri mare Pipi was Best Playing Pony.

Orchard Hill 11, Audi 10: The defending champions are inching closer to a return to the final. Orchard Hill, led by 10-goaler Facundo Pieres, took a 4-1 lead in the second chukker and never trailed.

Audi narrowed the gap to one goal twice in the fifth chukker but could get no closer. Pieres scored a team-high seven goals and along with his teammate and cousin Polito will now face brothers Gonzalito and Nico on Flexjet.

“Any time you have four Pieres on the same field, it’s going to be a great game,” Orchard Hill patron Steve Van Andel said.

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