Tiburon, making its Aspen Valley Polo Club debut this summer, rallied in the sixth inning for an exciting 10-9 victory over Casablanca on Sunday to capture the ChukkerTV Challenge Cup.
Early first-half leaders Tiburon (Lauren Sherry, Collen Clark, Pablo Dorignac, Lucas Lalor) trailed Casablanca (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Mariano Gracida) by as many as four goals in the fourth chukker.
The Dallas-based team outscored Casablanca, 3-0, in the final chukker with goals from Clark, Lalor and game-winner from Dorignac in the final seconds of the game.
Lalor was named Most Valuable Player after turning in an all-around performance including a game-high five goals, saving back-to-back goal attempts by Grant Ganzi and Bollini in the sixth chukker and scoring the tying goal (9-9) by lofting the ball over two defenders from 120 yards out from a standstill.
Lujan, a 6-year-old mare bred by Wellington-based Santa Rita Polo Farm out of Juana by Twist of Lemon and ridden by Lalor, was named Best Playing Pony.
In the most competitive game of the five-team tournament, Tiburon jumped out to a 3-1 opening chukker lead with two goals from Lalor and penalty goal from Dorignac, who turned out to be the team’s one-two punch.
Casablanca started working its way back into the game in the second chukker behind Grant Ganzi and Bollini outscoring Tiburon, 2-1, and trailing by only one, 4-3, going into the third chukker.
Bollini and Ganzi combined for three goals to shut out Tiburon, 3-0, in the third chukker for a 6-4 halftime advantage.
Casablanca led 8-5 in the fourth chukker and 9-7 after the fifth before Tiburon worked its way back in the game behind Lalor and Dorignac in the final chukker.
In last weekend’s season-opening Independence Cup, Clark was a member of the Aspen Valley Polo Club team that finished runner-up to Brian Boyd’s La Karina team, 9-7. It was Boyd, vice president of the Aspen Valley Polo Club, who convinced Clark to play in Aspen this summer.
“I recruited him to play with us and I knew he would get going,” Boyd said. “He’s a nice addition for a couple of weeks. I have been trying to recruit friends and friends of friends.
“I am a huge supporter behind the scene,” Boyd said. “I want the patrons to come and enjoy Aspen and play super fun patron polo and have a good time. They are the heart and soul of this club.”
Every Tiburon player scored. Dorignac, a 6-goaler playing his first season in Aspen, added three goals. Clark and Sherry, the only woman player competing in the final, each had one goal.
For Casablanca, Bollini scored a team-high three goals. Marc and Grant Ganzi and Mariano Gracida each had two goals.
In the subsidiary game, Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Alex Gooding, Juan Bollini, Carlitos Gracida) defeated Tonkawa (Alejandra Foster, Brian Boyd, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Jimmy Seward), 5-1, and Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Gabriel Gracida, Mike Azzaro, Stewart Armstrong), 5-4, to capture the title. In the other game, Tonkawa and Los Amigos tied at 4-4 with Alejandra Foster scoring the tying goal with 1:36 left in the game.
Denver-born Alex Gooding, who lives nearby in Emma, was named Most Valuable Player after scoring four goals in six chukkers.
Maya, a 6-year-old Chestnut mare, owned and played by Gabriel Gracida, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Other top scorers in the round-robin was Melissa Ganzi and Stewart Armstrong each with four goals; Brian Boyd with three goals; and Paul Foster with two goals.
In a special presentation, Bento Da Silva of Aspen Valley Polo Club was awarded the circuit’s 2016 Clint Nangle Equine Welfare Award. The honor is awarded by the USPA to a recipient who has demonstrated excellence in the field of equine welfare.
Nangle, a longtime horseman and contributor to polo and USPA, was the initial recipient of the Equine Welfare Award, a trophy bearing his name.
The ChukkerTV Challenge Cup was the second of 12 tournaments scheduled, eight grass and four arena tournaments including the July 25-Aug. 6 USPA National Arena Handicap.
Polo is increasing in popularity in Aspen and surrounding areas with the club’s offering of various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Tuesdays, Kids Polo, indoor and outdoor arena polo, charitable events and The Polo School. Practice sessions are also held for players competing in weekend tournaments.
ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting since 2014, is live streaming the club’s entire summer season.
2017 SUMMER POLO SCHEDULE
July 14-16, Craig Sakin Memorial
July 21-23, Basalt Handicap
July 25-Aug. 6, USPA National Arena Handicap
July 28-30, Emma Challenge
Aug. 4-6, High Alpine Cup
Aug. 8-15, Arena World Cup
Aug. 9, ChukkerTV Arena Challenge
Aug. 11-13, Mount Sopris Cup
Aug. 18-20, Rocky Mountain Open
Aug. 25-27, Carbondale Classic
ASPEN VALLEY POLO CLUB
CLUB ADDRESS: 3275 County Road 100, Carbondale, Colo. 81623
POLO HOTLINE: 970-710-1663