CARBONDALE, CO, July 29, 2020—Defending champion Casablanca downed McClure River Ranch by a score of 12 to 10 in the final of the United States Arena Handicap Polo Championship at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
By: Rebecca Baldridge
Photos by: Candace Ferreira for ChukkerTV
Casablanca (Juancito Bollini, Grant Ganzi, and Nic Roldan) defeated McClure River Ranch (Tom Barrack substituting for Marc Ganzi, Jared Zenni and Nacho Novillo Astrada) in the final of the United States Arena Polo Championship after establishing an early lead in the first chukker. Casablanca started the match with one goal on the board due to a handicap advantage by McClure River Ranch.
In the first chukker, McClure River put Casablanca’s second goal on the board with a penalty, and Nic Roldan followed up quickly to score a third. Jared Zenni knocked one in on a penalty 3 and Juancito Bollini took Casablanca up to 4. At the start of the second chukker, Roldan scored with a little help from his horse, who kicked the ball in. McClure River’s Nacho Novillo Astrada took the ball out of the air and made a slick shot from the near side, bringing the score up to 5-2. A two-pointer by Roldan and a foul shot by Ganzi put Casablaca up by 8-2, with Zenni and Novillo Astrada adding another two goals. Roldan scored once more to leave Casablanca leading by 9 to 4 at the half.
Casablanca’s Roldan started the third chukker with a two-point shot, aided by a great assist from Bollini. Novillo Astrada found the goal twice, including once on a penalty 2, and McClure River’s Tom Barrack scored his only goal of the match. However, another shot from Ganzi put the score up to 12, with McClure River Ranch trailing by 5 goals, with a score of 12-7 at the buzzer. The team in red put up a hard fight in the final chukker and succeeded in keeping Casablanca away from the goal. McClure River was looking for a couple of two-pointers to move back into striking distance but couldn’t make it happen. Despite two penalty shots by Novillo Astrada and a goal from Zenni, Casablanca defended their title, winning by 12 to 10.
Nic Roldan was the MVP, scoring a total of 7 goals, and also saw his own pony, a gray mare named Molly, take the BPP title.
In the subsidiary of the final, Seminole Casino got off to quick start, with a penalty goal on the board and a follow up by Melissa Ganzi. Juan Bollini scored a two-point field goal, while Anthony Devriente of Sopris Mountain managed to get one on the board. The chukker ended with Seminole Casino in the lead at 5-1. The second chukker saw both teams battle back and forth, with each team scoring once for 6 to 2 at the buzzer with Seminole Casino still in the lead.
After the half, Sopris Mountain began to mount a comeback, with Pablo Spinacci scoring two goals and Merlos one. Alejandro Novillo Astrada just missed on scoring a two-pointer, with the ball bouncing off another player before rolling in for a goal. The chukker ended at 7 to 5, with Seminole Casino still in the lead. In the fourth chukker, Sopris Mountain launched an offensive while fighting to stop Seminole Casino in its tracks. Devriente scored, then Merlos tied the game up at 7 all. One more goal and Merlos secured the lead. Despite a last-ditch attempt at a two-pointer by Novillo Astrada, Sopris Mountain won by a score of 8-7. Anthony Devriente and Tincho Merlos were the high scorers of the match, with three goals each.
First played in 1980, the United States Arena Handicap is a national tournament played at the 12-goal level and above. The tournament was formerly played as a subsidiary to the U.S. Open Arena Polo Championship and became a stand-alone tournament in 2017.
Part of the challenge of arena polo is the arena itself, a confined area of 150 feet by 300 feet. The fast-paced, spectator-friendly four-chukker game features teams of three playing on a dirt/sand surface with a larger leather ball resembling a small soccer ball.
The USPA National Arena
Handicap 2020 Rosters
Grant Ganzi 3
Juancito Bollini 4
Nic Roldan 8
McClure River Ranch (16)
Marc Ganzi/Tom Barrack 2
Nacho Novillo Astrada 8
Jared Zenni 6
Sopris Mountain Ranch (15)
Pablo Spinacci 6
Tincho Merlos 9
Seminole Casino (15)
Melissa Ganzi 1
Alejandro Novillo Astrada 8
Juan Bollini 6