CARBONDALE, Colo., August 10, 2016—In a fast-paced, hardfought round-robin tournament, ChukkerTV defeated La Karina, 9-6, to win the ChukkerTV Arena Challenge Cup Tuesday at windswept Aspen Valley Polo Club.
The unique format of continuous play, win-or-go home and two-point goals from outside the 25-yard mark, produced one of the most competitive polo tournaments of the summer season.
“This was great,” said Gabriel Gracida, a member of the Aspen Valley team that dropped a 7-5 decision to La Karina (Brian Boyd, Julio Novillo Astrada, Tincho Merlos) in the opening two-chukker game.
In the second game, ChukkerTV (Lucas Lalor, Carlitos Gracida, Juan Bollini) edged Casablanca (Tomas Pieres, Sebastian Merlos, Grant Ganzi), 6-4, to advance to the final against La Karina (Brian Boyd, Tincho Merlos, Julio Novillo Astrada).
“The most important thing in polo is to keep the game moving,” Gracida said. “For the people, the fans who watch the game, that’s really important. Sometimes when the players touch the ball too much it gets boring for people so this is great. It’s good for the horses, for the players and everyone.”
In the final, La Karina pulled ahead for a 4-2 lead on Tincho Merlos’ 2-pointer. Lalor, playing one of his best games, came right back with another 2-pointer to tie the game. Boyd’s goal put La Karina back in the lead (5-4) briefly.
ChukkerTV took the lead for good with goals from Lalor and Gracida to end the chukker at 6-5. Lalor converted another penalty to extend the lead to 7-5 to open the second chukker. Boyd’s open back shot cut the lead to 7-6 but two missed Merlos scoring opportunities and two more Lalor goals clinched the win.
Lalor, an Argentine 5-goaler, scored a tournament-high nine goals, including five in the final, and was named Most Valuable Player.
Lujan, a 5-year-old grey mare, owned by Halo Polo and played by Lalor, was named Best Playing Pony. Bento Da Silva, who works with Lujan, was named Top Trainer.
Action continues on Friday with the Mount Sopris Cup and two qualifying games at Sopris Mountain Ranch and High Mesa Ranch.
The past six summer polo tournament winners include: ChukkerTV (Lucas Lalor, Carlitos Gracida, Juan Bollini), ChukkerTV Arena Challenge; Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Teo Calle, Tincho Merlos, Jimmy Seward), Emma Challenge; La Karina (Brian Boyd, Tony Calle, Julio Novillo Astrada, Stewart Armstrong), Basalt Handicap; Travieso (Teo Calle, Tony Calle, Lucas Lalor, Carlitos Gracida), Craig Sakin Memorial; Travieso (Alex Gooding, Teo Calle, Sebastian Merlos, Brian Boyd), ChukkerTV Challenge Cup; and Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi/Secundo Merlos, Sebastian Merlos, Carlitos Gracida), Independence Cup arena polo final.
Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the nation’s fastest growing USPA-sanctioned clubs with a membership increase of 75 percent since last season.
Polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Arena Polo, Kids Polo and The Polo School at the club owned by Marc and Melissa Ganzi since 2014, in addition to practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.
ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting, is live streaming the 2016 schedule including the prestigious and longstanding Rocky Mountain Cup.
ASPEN VALLEY 2016 SUMMER SCHEDULE
Mount Sopris Cup: Friday, two games, Sopris Mountain Ranch, 11 a.m. and High Mesa Ranch, 3 p.m.; Saturday, The Family Traditions at St. Regis Polo Cup, 3 p.m.; Sunday, Charity Day at Aspen Valley Polo Club benefitting Aspen Valley Hospital, Subsidiary game, 11 a.m., Groom’s Halftime Race, Final, 1 p.m.
Aug. 10-21, Rocky Mountain Open
Aug. 24-28, The Carbondale Classic
CLUB ADDRESS: 3275 County Road 100, Carbondale, Colo. 81623
POLO HOTLINE: 970-710-1663
ASPEN VALLEY POLO CLUB
The exclusive Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the nation’s fastest-growing polo clubs. It offers polo in the summer for players and spectators. The Polo School is available to adults and juniors. It offers individual and group lessons for all levels and ages. For spectators there are great field side views for tournament action and also the Aspen Valley Polo Club Boutique. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere with complimentary food and refreshments. Admission and parking are free. For Polo On Demand price rates of group and private lessons, arena chukkers, grass chukkers and individualized “Polo Experience” packages email firstname.lastname@example.org or log onto www.aspenvalleypoloclub.com.