By Sharon Robb
In a rematch of last weekend’s Basalt Handicap final, Tonkawa will get another shot at Casablanca in the final of the Craig Sakin Memorial Sunday at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
In Friday’s qualifier, Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Jimmy Seward, Pablo Dorignac, Alex Gooding), leading 7-3 at the half, held on for a hardfought 11-9 win over Los Amigos Red (Alejandra Foster, Harrison Azzaro/Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Mariano Gracida) at High Mesa Field.
Seward had the hot mallet scoring a game-high seven goals to tie the club’s single-game season record that Gooding set last season.
Harrison Azzaro filled in for Ganzi in the first half while Ganzi was on his way to the field after getting off a plane.
Playing the second half, Ganzi brought his team back to life going four-for-four in goals with his big full swing neck shots. He brought his team within two goals (9-7) late in the fifth chukker.
Los Amigos Red missed two early scoring opportunities while Seward continued his scoring attack for an 11-7 lead late in the game. Mariano Gracida cut the lead to 11-9 but ran out of time.
In one of the most exciting nine-chukker round robins of the season earlier in the day, Casablanca (Santos Bollini, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Lucas Lalor) and La Karina (Melissa Ganzi, Brian Boyd, Juan Bollini, Mike Azzaro) battled to the wire with Casablanca scoring the winning goal in the final two minutes to advance into Sunday’s final with a 3-2 victory at Sopris Field.
The evenly-matched teams battled back and forth in the first two chukkers that ended 1-1 and 2-2. In the third quarter, Azzaro won the throw-in and just missed a scoring attempt.
With Azzaro defending, Bollini scored the winning goal with a big swing cut shot off a bouncing ball with 1:31 remaining in the game. “I saw an opportunity and I took it,” Bollini said. “There wasn’t much time left.”
La Karina, looking for a tie to advance into the final, had its scoring opportunity with Azzaro on a fresh horse, but before he could score was hooked by Lalor to save the goal.
Ganzi, Lalor and Bollini each had one goal in the final three chukkers. Ganzi scored from 70 yards out despite Azzaro charging to defend him. Melissa Ganzi and Azzaro each had one for La Karina.
In the opening round robin game, Casablanca edged Los Amigos Blue (Paul Foster, Gabriel Gracida, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Stewart Armstrong), 3-2. Los Amigos Blue outscored Casablanca, 2-1, in the final chukker but fell short of its rally. Bollini converted a penalty-three to take the lead and Ganzi stopped Armstrong’s scoring attempt. Bollini had two goals and Lalor added one. Armstrong and Astrada each scored one goal.
In the second round robin, La Karina defeated Los Amigos Blue, 4-2. Boyd led La Karina with two goals, Ganzi converted a penalty-two and Azzaro converted a penalty-four. Foster and Astrada each had one goal for Los Amigos Blue.
The doubleheader begins Sunday at 11 a.m. MST with the subsidiary followed by the final at 1 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. The games will also be streamed worldwide by ChukkerTV.