Coca-Cola Edges Flight Options In Final Minute Of Opening Game Of 110th Maserati U.S. Open

Apr 3rd, 2014 | By | Category: English Polo News
03 April 2014


Alejandro Novillo Astrada (4) of Flight Options leans out of his saddle to maintain possession with Sebastian Merlos (2) of Coca-Cola defending. Photo by Scott Fisher

The Flight Options-Coca-Cola matchup was anyone’s game until the final minute.

With the game tied at 9-9 with 1:09 left in regulation, Sebastian Merlos worked his way through defenders to score the winning goal for a 10-9 Coca-Cola victory in both teams’ tournament opener Tuesday in the 110th Maserati U.S. Open at Isla Carroll West.

Grand Champions Polo Club-based Flight Options (Melissa Ganzi, Eduardo Novillo Astrada, Miguel Novillo Astrada, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) had one last opportunity to send the game into overtime.

With less than 30 seconds remaining Miguel Novillo Astrada won the throw-in and worked the ball to brothers Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Eduardo Novillo Astrada.

Flight Options’ Alejandro Novillo Astrada (4) backs the ball to his brother and teammate Miguel Novillo Astrada (3). Photo by Scott Fisher

The brothers were in a tight bunch of Coca-Cola defenders near the goal when a whistle was blown as time ran out. Five seconds were added to the clock and Coca-Cola was awarded a re-hit and ran out the clock.

It was a frustrating one-goal loss in a penalty-marred game for Flight Options.

“Coke is a very strong team,” Ganzi said. “Gillian and Julio have been playing together for many years and seem to mesh well and anticipate one another. Coke got the better of us.

Miguel Novillo Astrada (3) of Flight Options goes for the hook against Sebastian Merlos (2) of Coca-Cola reaching for the ball. Photo by Scott Fisher

“I would like to have seen instant replay used in the U.S. Open,” Ganzi said. “I believe that all organizations need to continually work on performance improvement and quality assurance. I view PoloNow as a viable tool and mechanism to improve the sport. It would be a true benefit to all eight teams in the U.S. Open.”

In January, PoloNow Network introduced instant replay and team challenges for the first time at Grand Champions Polo Club, the only club worldwide to offer the cutting-edge technology. The club, owned by Melissa and Marc Ganzi, have used instant replay every week in its Saturday Feature Grand Champions at PB Polo Game and has received rave reviews from players and patrons.

Flight Options field general Miguel Novillo Astrada (3) gets ready to hit the ball to his brother and teammate Alejandro Novillo Astrada (4). Photo by Scott Fisher

Flight Options was led by Alejandro Novillo Astrada with five goals. Miguel Novillo Astrada scored three goals including two on penalty shots and Eduardo Novillo Astrada scored the only goal of the fifth chukker with an 80-yarder.

“We were in control sometimes and sometimes not,” said Miguel Novillo Astrada. “They are a good team. We couldn’t open the game like we wanted and I think they took advantage of it.

Miguel Novillo Astrada (3) of Flight Options defends Facundo Obregon (4) of Coca-Cola as he hits the ball downfield. Photo by Scott Fisher

“This was a good game to win to be in good position for the rest of the tournament. We are still in. We still have chances. We have things to improve and hopefully for the next couple of games we will do well.”

Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Sebastian Merlos, Julio Arellano, Facundo Obregon) was led by Arellano in scoring with seven goals including five on penalty shots. Merlos scored two and Obregon added one.

“That was a tough game to lose,” Flight Options coach Joey Casey said. “We came back a couple times. These guys played very well together. The thing about our team is we can beat any team in it. We are that good.

“It could have gone either way,” Casey said. “We had some shots on goal we missed and other times if we didn’t hit a horse we were going to goal.

Eduardo Novillo Astrada (2) of Flight Options works the ball off the boards despite three Coca-Cola defenders. Photo by Scott Fisher

“The team played well and the horses went very well today. There were a couple times during the game that could have gone Coke’s way and they could have gone ahead by two or three and we maintained our composure as a team and fought back.”

On Sunday, Flight Options will play in the stadium feature game at 3 p.m. against Alegria, 10-8 winners over Grand Champions Polo Club sister team Audi in the second game on Thursday.

Flight Options, one of the 2014 season’s new polo team sponsors, is the world’s second largest private aviation fleet that flies throughout the United States, Canada, northern Mexico, Cabo San Lucas and the Bahamas.

Flight Options’ Miguel Novillo Astrada (3) drives past defender Sebastian Merlos (2) of Coca-Cola with back-up from Flight Options teammate Melissa Ganzi (1). Photo by Scott Fisher

The U.S. Open Polo Championship, first played in 1904 at Van Courtland Park, celebrated 100 years in 2004. It is one of three major polo tournaments worldwide along with the British and Argentine Opens. It is also the third jewel of U.S. polo’s 26-goal Triple Crown that includes the C.V. Whitney Cup and USPA Piaget Gold Cup.

Since 1996, the U.S. Open has been held in South Florida. In 2005, Julio Gracida added to the Gracida family’s combined record of 36 U.S. Open Polo Championship wins.

Eduardo Novillo Astrada (2) of Flight Options gets ready to hit the ball with Julio Arellano (3) of Coca-Cola defending. Photo by Scott Fisher

For game recaps, news, features and photos of Grand Champions Polo Club-related events, go to

Game video and live webcasts can also be seen at PoloNow Network at

Alejandro Novillo Astrada (4) of Flight Options backs the ball past defender Gillian Johnston (1) of Coca-Cola. Photo by Scott Fisher


MARCH 30-APRIL 20: 110th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championships: SUNDAY: Audi vs. Coca-Cola, noon; Alegria vs. Flight Options, 3 p.m.; APRIL 10: Audi vs. Flight Options 4 p.m.; APRIL 13: Quarterfinals; APRIL 16: Semifinals; APRIL 20: Hall of Fame Cup Final, U.S. Open final.

Eduardo Novillo Astrada (2) of Flight Options puts the brakes on as he and Julio Arellano (3) of Coca-Cola follow the ball. Photo by Scott Fisher


APRIL: $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament; 6-17, USPA The National President’s Cup, 16-17, Las Acacias (5-goal); Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Challenge Cup (12-goal); John T. Oxley Memorial Trophy (16-goal).

Eduardo Novillo Astrada (2) of Flight Options bumps Julio Arellano (3) of Coca-Cola off the ball. Photo by Scott Fisher


WEDNESDAY: $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament semifinals, Palm Beach Equine vs. Flight Options/Newport, 11 a.m.; Valiente vs. Casablanca, 4 p.m.

Flight Options’ Melissa Ganzi (1) defends Coca-Cola’s Gillian Johnston (1). Photo by Scott Fisher


APRIL 4: 5th Annual Gay Polo League International Tournament qualifying games, 10 a.m.

APRIL 5: 5th Annual Gay Polo League International Tournament, Founder’s Cup, 1 p.m. and Senator’s Cup, 3 p.m.

APRIL 8-12: Women’s Championship Tournament


APRIL 17-19: Grand Champions Cup

APRIL 24-27: The USPA Spring Challenge

MAY 1-4: The USPA Sun Cup

MAY 8-11: The USPA Eastern Challenge

MAY 15-18: The Polo Gear Challenge Cup

MAY 22-26: The Memorial


WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.