Article courtesy of Aspen Valley Polo Club/Sharon Robb.
Marking a historic day for Aspen Valley Polo Club, the 119th Silver Cup® began on Saturday, July 27, with three action-packed bracket games. In front of a local crowd and worldwide USPA Polo Network audience at McClure River Ranch, Audi, Tonkawa and Casablanca won their first games all by a narrow one-goal margin.
The first game tied 10-all with only 30 seconds remaining in the sixth chukker, Sapo Caset stole the ball and scored the winning goal to lead Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, 0, Juan Martin Obregon, 5, Sapo Caset, 10, Mason Wroe, 4) to an 11-10 victory over Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Gussie Busch, 2, Hilario Ulloa, 10, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8).
Flexjet’s Alejandro Novillo Astrada goes for the ball with Tonkawa’s Sapo Caset in pursuit. ©Candice Ferriera/Aspen Valley Polo Club
In the second game of the day, Hilario Figueras converted a penalty shot in the final minute of regulation time as Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Hilario Figueras, 3, Nic Roldan, 8, Jared Zenni*, 6) held off La Karina’s (Brian Boyd, 0, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Sebastian Merlos, 8, Tincho Merlos, 8) late charge to claim the victory 10-9.
Trailing for most of the game, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi*, 3, Lucas Lalor, 5, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8, Juancito Bollini, 4) turned the scoreboard around in the final chukker, rallying for a 12-11 triumph over McClure River Ranch (Salvador Lockey, 2, Stewart Armstrong, 3, Kris Kampsen, 6, Alfredo Bigatti, 8) in the third matchup of the afternoon.
Despite two weather delays in the second and third games, opening day showcased fierce and competitive polo. Each team armed with a 10-goal player in their lineup, Flexjet and Tonkawa were evenly matched from the opening throw-in. Tonkawa maintained a two-goal lead in the first couple of chukkers, but Flexjet bounced back in the third chukker ending halftime 5-all.
Flexjet secured their biggest lead, 7-5, after Gussie Busch scored with 3:22 left on the clock in the fourth chukker. However, a missed penalty conversion and uneven ride off penalty opened the door for Tonkawa to close the gap, ending the chukker 7-all after a goal a piece from Obregon and Caset. The lead changed hands three times in the fifth chukker as the teams battled for control, Tonkawa assuming a narrow lead 9-8. Tonkawa extended their advantage 10-8 early in the sixth chukker. Flexjet worked their way back when Ulloa stole the ball and worked his way between Caset and Obregon to score and Astrada converted a Penalty 3 to tie 10-all before Caset launched the game-winning goal to end the game 11-10.
In a thrilling finish that included an hour weather delay for lightning, Audi maintained their composure with the game tied 9-all with 2:18 left to knock off 2019 North American Cup® champion La Karina.
Audi and La Karina prepare to play. ©Nick Tininenko
Audi, leading 9-8 and playing without Ganzi (two yellow cards) for two minutes, kept their poise when La Karina tied the game 9-all on Tincho Merlos’ 40-yard penalty conversion with 2:18 left in the game. Only a minute left, Roldan and Zenni looked to Figueras for the game-winning penalty conversion. Figueras then went on the defensive and saved the ball from Sebastian Merlos’ goal attempt with a back shot, the game ending 10-9 in favor of Audi.
In another exciting finish, Casablanca, trailing after the first two chukkers, started gaining on McClure River Ranch in the third. After a 15-minute rain delay, McClure River Ranch led 7-4 at halftime, Casablanca fighting back to close the gap to one, 10-9, after the fifth chukker.
McClure River Ranch’s Stewart Armstrong with control of the ball ©Nick Tininenko
Ganzi’s 50-yard goal tied the game 10-all which was followed by a Penalty 1 conversion on an uneven ride off. Astrada controlled the ball allowing Casablanca to assume the lead, 11-10, for the first time in the game. Kampsen tied the game back at 11-all when he stole the ball and scored with 2:30 left on the clock. After McClure River Ranch lost their challenge on a penalty call, Bollini converted a Penalty 2 to regain the lead, 12-11. On the next series of plays, Ganzi stole the ball and then took turns with Astrada to run out the clock.
On Wednesday, July 31, Audi (1-0) will play Tonkawa (1-0) at 12:00pm ET and La Karina (0-1) will challenge McClure River Ranch (0-1) at 4:00pm ET.
U.S. Polo Assn., the official brand of the USPA, is the Silver Cup®’s official apparel sponsor. The tournament is being livestreamed by the USPA Polo Network on uspolo.org, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
*Jared Zenni and Grant Ganzi are members of Team USPA. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.ASPEN VALLEY POLO CLUB