By Alex Webbe
It was a defensive battle through the first three chukkers of the final of the 2016 Rocky Mountain Open Sunday at the Aspen Valley Polo Club, with Los Amigos-Red (Paul Foster, Gabriel Gracida, Julio Novillo Astrada and Carlitos Gracida) exploding for five goals in the in the fourth chukker on their way to a lopsided 10-3 win against a Tonkawa (Alex Gooding, Jeff Hildebrand, Jimmy Seward and Nic Roldan) team that couldn’t buy a goal.
Los Amigos Red scored the only goal of the opening chukker on a 60-yard penalty conversion from Carlitos Gracida. Several Tonkawa shots on goal went wide, giving them an indication of where the day would take them.
Nic Roldan seemed to get the Tonkawa offense going in the second period with a pair of goals from the field. Los Amigos Red were held scoreless and trailed 2-1 after two periods of play.
A third chukker from Julio Novillo Astrada tied the game for Los Amigos Red as the missed Tonkawa shots at goal continued to add up. After three chukkers of play the score stood at an anemic 2-2.
Astrada sparked the Los Amigos Red offense when he scooped up the opening throw-in of the second half and raced 150-yards down the field for a goal, 3-2. Carlitos Gracida scored on a 30-yard penalty shot before goals from Astrada and Gabriel Gracida had Los Amigos Red on top of a 6-2 score. Astrada closed out the scoring for Los Amigos Red with his third goal of the chukker, 7-2. Jeff Hildebrand scored the final goal of the period to trail, 7-3.
Scoring was limited in the fifth chukker with Tonkawa shots on goal continuing to go wide of the mark. Gabriel Gracida accounted for the only goal as Los Amigos Red extended their lead to five goals, 8-3. Sixth chukker goals from Astrada and Paul Foster went unanswered from the snake-bitten Tonkawa offense as Los Amigos Red celebrated the 10-3 victory.
Astrada scored a game-high five goals for Los Amigos Red and was named MVP for his efforts. Teammates Carlitos Gracida and Gabriel Gracida each scored twice with Foster adding a goal for the win. Roldan scored twice for Tonkawa with Hildebrand adding a single goal in a disappointing offensive effort in the loss.
Diva, an 8-year-old Bay mare earned Best Playing Pony honors. Diva is owned by Santa Rita Polo Farms and was played by Astrada in the fourth chukker.
Los Amigos White 9, La Karina/Flexjet 8
Los Amigos White (Alejandra Foster, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini and Sebastian Merlos) closed out the day with a hotly-contested 9-8 win over La Karina/Flexjet (Ailsa Currier, Marc Ganzi, Lucas Lalor and Juan Bollini) in the Rocky Mountain Open subsidiary game Sunday afternoon.
Three consecutive first chukker goals from Alejandra Foster, Juancito Bollini and Sebastian Merlos set the pace for the day as Los Amigos White jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Juan Bollini scored the final goal of the period, with La Karina/Flexjet trailing, 3-1.
Second chukker goals from Juan Bollini and Ailsa Currier were the only offense posted as a disciplined La Karina/Flexjet defense kept Los Amigos White off of the scoreboard. After two chukkers of play the score was all even at 5-5.
The two teams traded goals in the third, with Los Amigos White getting single goals from Merlos and Juancito Bollini and La Karina/Flexjet responding with goals from Currier and Juan Bollini. At the end of the first half the score remained tied, 5-5.
Foster gave the 7-6 lead to Los Amigos White with the opening goal of the fourth period, but La Karina/Flexjet stormed right back. A goal from the field from Juan Bollini and a 60-yard penalty conversion from Marc Ganzi had La Karina/Flexjet leaving the field at the end of the chukker with a narrow 7-6 edge.
The Los Amigos White defenders were at their best in the fifth. Grant Ganzi scored the only goal of the period for Los Amigos White, but shutout defense allowed them to level the score at 7-7.
Marc Ganzi had a 60-yard penalty attempt blocked over the end-line and followed up by converting the 60-yard safety for an 8-7 La Karina/Flexjet lead, when Argentine 9-goaler Sebastian Merlos went to work. Back-to-back goals from the former 10-goaler and a resolute defense gave the game to Los Amigos White, 9-8.
Merlos scored four goals for Los Amigos White and earned MVP honors. Teammates Alejandra Foster and Juancito Bollini each scored twice with Grant Ganzi getting credit for a goal in the win. Juan Bollini’s four goals led the La Karina/Flexjet attack. Marc Ganzi and Ailsa Currier each scored twice in a losing effort.