Redemption was sweet for Los Amigos Red, winners of the sixth annual Craig Sakin Memorial.

After losing in last year’s final by one goal, Los Amigos Red (Hilario Figueras, Lucas Lalor, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Paul Foster) won a hardfought 16-14 decision over defending champion Piocho Ranch (Grant Ganzi, Salvador Ulloa, Nacho Figueras, Tom Barrack) to win the five-team tournament in front of a good crowd Sunday at Aspen Valley Polo Club. It was one of the highest scoring games in club history.

Argentine 8-goaler Nacho Novillo Astrada was named Most Valuable Player. Astrada finished with a team-high six goals, matching last year’s final, including a 100-yarder in the sixth chukker, selected ChukkerTV Goal of the Day.

Milonga, a 10-year-old Chestnut mare, was selected the American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony. Milonga, owned and played by Barrack in the fifth chukker, was bred by Cria Yatay, Figueras’ breeding operation in Argentina.

In one of the club’s most exciting games in tournament history, Piocho Ranch grabbed the momentum early for a 6-2 lead midway through the second chukker with three goals each from Nacho Figueras and Ulloa.

Salvador Ulloa of Piocho Ranch gets ready for the big hit downfield.

Hilario Figueras’ deep neck shot goal rallied Los Amigos Red late in the second chukker, to trail 6-3. Astrada’s goal with 3:20 left in the third chukker had his team trailing by only one before Ulloa scored again for an 8-6 halftime lead for Piocho Ranch.

The lead changed hands 11 times in the second half before Astrada’s long goal off the throw-in gave Los Amigos Red a 14-13 lead to open the sixth chukker. After a missed penalty shot by Piocho Ranch, Astrada’s 100-yarder extended Los Amigos lead by two, 15-13. Figueras gave his team a 16-13 lead after outracing his father to goal with two minutes remaining. Five seconds later, Nacho Figueras scored. Lalor came up with a clutch defensive stop on a goal attempt. Piocho Ranch had two more scoring opportunities as time ran out.

In addition to Astrada’s six goals, Hilario Figueras, playing above his 3-goal rating, finished with four goals. Lalor and Foster each had three goals. Ulloa and Nacho Figueras each had six goals for Piocho Ranch. Ganzi added two.

Grant Ganzi of Piocho Ranch hits downfield with Hilario Figueras defending.

In the Just For The Fun Of It subsidiary game, Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Alejandra Foster, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini) and La Karina (Lauren Sherry, Carlitos Gracida, Brian Boyd, Sebastian Merlos), tied 7-7, in the final and decisive game of the round robin. Both teams decided to end the game after regulation.

In other round robin games, La Karina defeated Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Gussie Busch, Pablo Spinacci, Kris Kampsen), 6-3, and Flexjet topped Mountain Chevrolet, 7-5.

Gracida led scoring with six goals. Alejandra Foster had five goals. Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Lauren Sherry, Melissa Ganzi and Kris Kampsen each had four goals.

The American Polo Horse Association was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.

The tournament is named in honor of Craig Sakin, who passed away on Feb. 11, 2014 at age 52. The former president of the Homeowners’ Association of Sopris Mountain Ranch, was instrumental in helping Marc and Melissa Ganzi secure their first polo field. In 2015, some of Sakin’s ashes were released over the polo field.

Los Amigos Red joins Piocho Ranch, the season-opening Independence Cup winners, on the 2019 tournament champions list for the summer that features 11 grass tournaments and three arena tournaments.

Among the 2019 summer highlights is the 119th USPA Silver Cup. The Aug. 11 final, set for one of the club’s two newest fields at McClure Ranch, will be coupled with the annual Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar fundraiser. Other top tournaments are the July 14-20 USPA North American Cup, July 23-August 6 USPA National Arena Handicap, Aug. 7-14 Arena World Cup and Sept. 1-8 Triple Crown of Polo.

The club’s summer marquis charity event, hosted by club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi and Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, has raised $1 million dollars in the last two years to benefit Aspen Valley Hospital.

Michael Payne of Mountain Chevrolet hooks Carlitos Gracida of La Karina.

Coming off its most successful summer season, Aspen Valley Polo Club has lined up a star-studded roster of players including Hilario Ulloa, Sapo Caset, Alejandro and Nacho Novillo Astrada and Nic Roldan for the summer to compete with and against patrons and amateur players.

With the majestic 12,965-foot summit of Mount Sopris as a backdrop, Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the busiest and fastest growing USPA-sanctioned clubs in the nation with a membership increase of 75 percent over four seasons.

Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi founded the club in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly grass and arena tournaments, Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids Polo, The Polo School headed by former 8-goaler Juan Bollini, and Polo On Demand. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.

The Ganzis are avid players and patrons and “have created a polo paradise” according to Piocho Ranch padron Tom Barrack. “You can go all over the world but you can’t have these kind of people, players and horses in this setting. It’s really a gift.” Players, sponsors, community leaders and fans share Barrack’s sentiments.

All ages are welcome to enjoy polo at Aspen Valley Polo Club. Admission, food and refreshments are free for fans in a relaxed, laidback atmosphere. An added feature is the club’s Jumbotron which made its debut last summer for the fans’ enjoyment and Aspen Valley Polo Club Boutique.FacebookTwittergoogle_plusShare

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