Aspen Valley 8-Goal Cup

Patagones Wins Aspen Valley 8-Goal Cup Handicap Final At Grand Champions;
Benjamin Avendano MVP
By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
Patagones won its second tournament of the season-opening month at Grand Champions Polo Club.

On a cool, breezy Saturday afternoon in front of a worldwide ChukkerTV audience, the foursome of Joaquin Avendano, Santi Wulff, Benjamin Avendano and Santi Avendano captured the Aspen Valley 8-Goal Cup Handicap Final with an impressive 15-11 victory over Odosan.

Patagones finished with a 3-1 record. Odosan (Joe Chai, Juanse Olivera, Matt Coppola, Nick Manifold) evened its record at 2-2.


Last weekend Patagones (Santi Wulff, Joaquin Avendano, Benjamin Avendano, Tavi Usandizaga) won the Limited Edition 12-Goal Series Final with an 11-8 win over Dutta Corp. In December, Patagones won an 8-goal tournament in Port Mayaca as a tuneup for the winter season.


This time around it was a total family affair on Saturday with Wulff teaming up with his three nephews.
Benjamin Avendano of Patagones defended by Matt Coppola.
“We are having fun and the boys are playing amazing,” Wulff said. “Each one of them are playing really good. I think that is a big plus. They learn polo here in Wellington and in Argentina. They have been playing this sport a long time now.”


Benjamin Avendano, 18, a freshman at Lynn University, scored four goals including one penalty shot. Wulff scored a team-high five goals, Joaquin Avendano had three goals and Santi Avendano added one goal.


Brothers Joaquin and Benjamin Avendano of Patagones working together.
“I am very happy with this win,” Benjamin Avendano said. “Every win is a big win for the family. The score was a surprise. We sent my little brother, Joaquin, up front to get the ball. I just stayed in the middle controlling.”


Said Wulff: “Any of the three could have been MVP. Benjamin played amazing.”


The chemistry among teammates was obvious from the opening chukker. Benjamin Avendano has been playing with his brothers since he was 8-years-old.
Benjamin Avendano of Patagones drives past two defenders.
“We understand each other and we all know what we are going to do,” said Benjamin Avendano, rated at one goal. “It shows on the field. My uncle has been playing with us for a while.”


Santi Avendano, 20, was the newcomer to the lineup after returning from school in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He is a sophomore at Skidmore College. Santi Avendano started playing polo in 2008.


Joaquin Avendano of Patagones avoids Matt Coppola’s hook.


“I am really happy with how we did,” Santi Avendano said. “I am astounded. Coming back here and playing with my family, seeing my brothers again after being up north for a half a year is great. There are so many Avendanos playing polo. This is definitely a family affair for us in polo.”


Patagones played with confidence throughout the match, jumping out to a 3-1 lead early in the opening chukker. Odosan worked its way back to tie the game at 5-5 late in the second chukker but Patagones pulled away for good in the third chukker. Patagones led 10-6 at the half and never
relinquished its lead in the penalty-riddled second half.


Benjamin Avendano of Patagones and his MVP award.


“Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to practice beforehand, I had been away,” Santi Avendano said. “We were very fortunate. We have been playing together for so long that we figured it out in the first chukker. We analyzed and figured out our strategy and we kept using that synergy.”


For the second week in a row, one of Wulff’s American thoroughbred race horses was selected Best Playing Pony. Negrita, a 6-year-old dark brown mare, was played by Wulff in the second chukker.


Best Playing Pony 6-year-old mare Negrita.
Negrita, now in her second season of competitive polo, is one of the quickest studies among race
horses that retire from the track and are given the chance at a new career in polo. She learned to play polo within nine months.


“Eighty percent of my horses are American thoroughbreds,” Wulff said. “They run a lot and they can take a lot of polo. They are very strong. I have a few Argentine horses but most of them are American thoroughbreds.”


Joaquin Avendano of Patagones wins the throw-in late in the game.
Odosan’s leading scorer Matt Coppola scored a game-high nine goals despite having an off day at the penalty line. Nick Manifold added two goals.


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.


Awards table for the Aspen Valley 8-Goal Cup Handicap Final. Photos by ChukkerTV
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.

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