n a thrilling finish, Aspen Valley won the Tackeria Invitational Sunday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
By Sharon Robb
Aspen Valley (Govinda Quish, Jason Crowder, 5, Sugar Erskine, 6, Nic Roldan, 8) edged Casablanca (Santos Bollini, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Martin Jauregui, 6), 10-9.
With four seconds left, Roldan scored the game-winner on an incredible lofted angle shot from the sideboards to win the club’s oldest tournament.
“Basically, there was only one play left,” Roldan explained. “Casablanca hit the ball out inside the 60, so that took the ball back to the 60-yard line where the ball went out which was basically right by the boards. I had a much smaller angle to shoot from and put it right through the middle with a little bit of luck. I just closed my eyes and shot and it went straight through.
“I find those shots, the ones that are much harder angles, sometimes I find them a little bit easier. You don’t really think that much about it. Keep your head down, try to make good contact and hope that it goes in.”
The nation’s second highest ranked American player at 8 goals (behind 10-goaler Polito Pieres) was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Roldan is the most decorated MVP in the club’s 17-year history.
“It never gets old,” Roldan said. “You always want to win. No matter what game it is, no matter how important it is or how unimportant it is, I still always want to go out there and do my best to win.
“I am constantly trying to improve no matter what the level is in whatever area I can. There’s always room for improvement as an athlete. You’re always learning new things.”
At age 40, Roldan said he has set a goal to play another 10 years. His consistent training with well-respected trainer Jeremy Fedoruk, director of Wellington-based Athletic Enhancement Group, has helped prolong his career.
“I think I am in the best shape that I’ve ever been,” said Roldan, at 15 the youngest player to win the U.S. Open. “I think I am playing better than I did 10 years ago. I have better horses, I’m wiser, I have more experience and I am a little bit more relaxed on the field.
“Everyone goes through those different chapters in life, there are completely different stages in a career,” Roldan said. “All those workouts that I do is because I want to continue to prolong my career. I feel mentally and physically I am in a great place. I am still given the opportunities to compete at the top level and still want to compete at the top level given the right opportunity.”
Casablanca jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the opening chukker. Aspen Valley reeled them in by the end of the third chukker, tying 4-4 just before the half. After that, the clean, open control game was tied four more times and the lead changed hands twice.
Aspen Valley led 7-5 going into the fifth chukker before Casablanca bounced back to tie, 8-8. Quish converted a penalty with 5:07 left to give Aspen Valley back the lead at 9-8. With 1:37 Pieres scord on a broken play after the knock-in to tie the game 9-9 and set up Roldan’s heroics.
“The game could have gone either way,” Roldan said. “The other team played really well. We were back and forth, up chukkers, down some chukkers. It was a fun game for both teams and a great game for the fall season. It was a much faster-paced game than we usually play.”
Roldan led Aspen Valley scoring with four goals. Quish had three goals, Crowder two and Erskine one. Jauregui led Casablanca with five goals.
Aspen Valley outshot Casablanca, 20-13, and led in throw-ins, 12-6. Casablanca led in knock-ins, 10-4.
China Clay, a dark bay mare played by Erskine and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was Best Playing Pony.
The Tackeria Invitational has a special place in club history as the inaugural tournament when the club first opened in 2007. The Tackeria was founded in 1975 by Tony Coppola.
In last year’s Tackeria Invitational, NetJets (Larry Austin, 0, Leo Mandelbaum, 2, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5, Tommy Biddle, 5) held off Travieso (Teo Calle, 1, Santos Bollini, 2, Tony Calle, 3, Sugar Erskine, 6) in the final chukker for a thrilling 10-9 victory. Hall of Famer Tommy Biddle was MVP.
The nation’s largest and most innovative polo club celebrating its 17th anniversary, is hosting both medium and high goal tournaments this season.
Among the season highlights are the Nov. 7-15 USPA North American Cup and Nov. 11-21 USPA National 20-Goal Championship and Nov. 18 doubleheader featuring the Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial and International Cup featuring GCPC USA putting its undefeated 11-game win streak on the line against Spain.
The fall medium goal schedule features six tournaments. The remaining medium goal tournaments are the Oct. 17-22 Pedro Morrison Memorial, Oct. 24-29 Banyan Cup, Nov. 1-5 Fall Plates and inaugural Nov. 8-12 Casablanca Fall Cup.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 102-acre polo facility in Wellington with 212 stalls in nine self-contained barns, two exercise tracks, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and four polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation, short work arena and stick-and-ball fields.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater 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 at the turnkey facility.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its well-manicured 11 fields during the fall season. Admission is free and open to the public.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV (CTV Sports) is live streaming the entire fall season worldwide. Grand Champions is the only USPA club that is live streaming all its games.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and October through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.
Grand Champions Polo Club is located at 13444 Southfields Road in Wellington. For more information about the upcoming season visit www.gcpolo.com.