By Alex Webbe
In the opening round of play in the 2016 ChukkerTV Arena Challenge Cup, La Karina (Brian Boy, Tincho Merlos and Julio Novillo Astrada) took an early lead over Aspen Valley (Gabriel Gracida, Juancito Bollini and Nic Roldan) and held on for a 7-5 win in the two-chukker mini-match.
La Karina’s Tincho Merlos scored the first goal of the game and followed it up with a two-pointer. Juancito Bollini scored both goals for Aspen Valley as they trailed by a single goal, 3-2.
Nic Roldan tied the game at 3-3 with the opening goal of the second chukker, but another two-pointer from Merlos was followed by a penalty conversion from the Argentine 9-goaler to make it 6-3. Gabriel Gracida scored back to back goals, cutting the La Karina lead to a single goal, 6-5, when the rally stalled. Julio Novillo Astrada scored the final goal of the game for a 6-5 win and a spot in the final.
ChukkerTV 6, Casablanca 4
In the second semifinal of the day Lucas Lalor scored three of his game-high four goals in the opening chukker as Chukker TV (Lucas Lalor, Carlitos Gracida and Juan Bollini) rode on to defeat Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Sebastian Merlos and Tomas Pieres) 6-4 to earn the second berth in the final.
Lucas Lalor opened the scoring onslaught from ChukkerTV with the first goal of the game followed by a goal from teammate Carlitos Gracida. A two-pointer from Lalor was countered by a single goal from Tomas Pieres, 4-1. Juan Bollini scored the final goal of the period for a5-1 ChukkerTV lead.
Lalor’s fourth goal of the day extended the ChukkerTV lead to five goals, 6-1 as Casablanca finally started to develop an effective attack. Goals from Sebastian Merlos, Grant Ganzi (penalty goal) and Pieres brought them closer but time was on the side of ChukkerTV as they recorded the 6-4 victory.
ChukkerTV 9, La Karina 6
The tournament was a wide-open, fast-paced smack down between ChukkerTV and La Karina in the final of the ChukkerTV Arena Challenge Cup at the Aspen Valley Polo Club, with ChukkerTV coming out on the winning end of the match.
Julio Novillo Astrada got La Karina on the scoreboard with the first goal of the game, 1-0, but ChukkerTV fired right back. A two-pointer from Juan Bollini leap-frogged ChukkerTV into a 2-1 lead. Tincho Merlos scored on a penalty shot to tie the game at 2-2 and then carried La Karina into the lead with a two-point goal for a 4-2 advantage. Lucas Lalor scored on a two-pointe for ChukkerTV, 4-4, but La Karina responded with a goal from Brian Boyd as the pace of the game quickened, giving La Karina a 5-4 edge. Goals from Lalor (penalty conversion) and Carlitos Gracida ended the period with ChukkerTV defending a delicate 6-5 advantage.
ChukkerTV continued to press the attack in the second and final chukker of play. Lalor added a goal on a penalty shot and added another from the field, stretching the lead to three goals, 8-5. Merlos added his fourth goal of the game, but ChukkerTV retained control of the match. Gracida closed the door on any idea La Karina had of a comeback, giving the game to ChukkerTV, 9-6.
Lucas Lalor led the field in scoring with five goals, and picked up MVP honors. Halo Polo’s Lujan, a five-year-old grey mare played by Lalor was named Best Playing Pony.
The first round of the Mount Sopris Cup is slated to begin on Friday with games at 11am (MST) at Sopris Mountain Ranch and 3pm (MST) at High Mesa Ranch.