CARBONDALE, Colo., July 3, 2019---Piocho Ranch defended its title Wednesday in the final of the Independence Cup.

In front of a good local crowd at Aspen Valley Polo Club's new Field One at McClure Ranch, Piocho Ranch (Gabriel Gracida, 4, Salvador Ulloa, 6, Nacho Figueras, 6, Tom Barrack, 0) won the nine-chukker round-robin against Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Brian Boyd, 0, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) and Los Amigos Red (Paul Foster, 0, Grant Ganzi, 3, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8, Stewart Armstrong, 3).

In the opening three chukkers, Piocho Ranch and Flexjet tied, 5-5. In the second match, Flexjet edged Los Amigos Red, 4-3. In the third and decisive game, Piocho Ranch defeated Los Amigos Red, 4-2, to clinch the win for Piocho Ranch on net goals.

Figueras, known as the sport's ambassador, was selected Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive year. He finished with four goals in six chukkers including a 130-yarder. "I got lucky," Figueras said.

Macumba, a 13-year-old gray mare, played and owned by Brian Boyd, was chosen the American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony. Playing her in the third chukker against Los Amigos Red, Boyd scored his coast-to-coast goal for a 4-2 lead at the 4:23 mark which turned out to be the winning goal.

Alejandro Novilla Astrada and Ulloa, making his Aspen debut, shared leading scoring honors with Figueras, each with four goals. Melissa Ganzi had three goals.

In the third and decisive game, Piocho Ranch led from start-to-finish jumping out to a 2-0 lead early in the opening chukker with goals from Gracida and Figueras. Piocho Ranch pulled away for a 3-1 lead after the second chukker and led 4-1 early in the third chukker.

It was the second consecutive year Piocho Ranch won the season-opener. Last year Piocho Ranch (Riley Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Nacho Figueras, Tom Barrack) won with an 8-6 victory over Aspen Valley Polo Club (Melissa Ganzi, Marc Ganzi, Pablo Dorignac, Juan Bollini).

"I am feeling amazing," Barrack said. "What Paul Foster and the Ganzis have done out here is just stunning. 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."

The victory snapped Carlitos Gracida's three-year win streak in the Independence Cup. The son of legendary Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida, won the Independence Cup with Piocho Ranch in 2018, La Karina in 2017 and Flexjet in 2016.

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.

Coming off its most successful summer season, Aspen Valley Polo Club has lined up a star-studded roster of players for the summer to compete with and against patrons and amateur players.

The club, with an additional two new polo fields this season, is hosting eleven grass tournaments and three arena tournaments in what is expected to be its most successful season.

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, will be coupled with the annual Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar fundraiser.

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.

Ticket packages range from $250 (Early Bird general admission single ticket if purchased before July 11) to $25,000 Luxury VIP Gold (table for 12) and $100,000 Luxury VIP Diamond package (30 guests). The $50,000 Luxury VIP Platinum (20 guests) has already sold out. For more information call 970-544-1302.

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 Barrack. 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.