Casablanca Wins Basalt Handicap; All Four Players Share MVP Honors

On a perfect day for polo at Aspen Valley Polo Club, Casablanca played textbook team polo to dominate the first five chukkers and capture the Basalt Handicap with an 8-6 victory over Tonkawa in front of a large crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience.

A large crowd enjoys Sunday’s doubleheader at Aspen Valley Polo Club.

In last weekend’s ChukkerTV Challenge final, Casablanca lost to Tiburon, 10-9, in the final seconds after leading for most of the game.

“I knew last week we were up by four and went down,” Casablanca’s Grant Ganzi said. “That was always in the back of my mind. I wasn’t worried this time around because I knew we had control of the lead and playing well as a team. We got a couple of goals in the end that closed it out and put the nail in the coffin.”

Subsidiary winners Los Amigos with La Karina and Audi teams.

Casablanca’s foursome of Mariano Gracida, Grant Ganzi, Pablo Dorignac and Juancito Bollini were so well-balanced and performed equally well that they shared the Most Valuable Player award.

“It was a great idea for MVP,” Ganzi said. “We all played well and we all contributed. It pretty much was a team effort and the goals were spread out among all four of us. I totally agree with it.”

Subsidiary Tournament MVP Paul Foster of Los Amigos.

Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Carlitos Gracida, Lucas Lalor, Jimmy Seward), after being held scoreless for four chukkers, rallied for five goals in the final chukker but fell short.

Zig Zag, a 10-year-old Argentine bay mare owned and played by Hildebrand in the sixth chukker, was named Best Playing Pony.

Subsidiary tournament BPP Honey Bee owned and ridden by Stewart Armstrong.

Both teams started out slowly in the scoreless opening chukker. Casablanca picked up steam in the second quarter for a 3-0 lead with goals from Ganzi, Dorignac and Bollini. After a scoreless third chukker, Casablanca started building on its lead with four goals in the next two chukkers for 5-1 and 7-1 advantages.

Tonkawa ended up scoring some of the goals it missed for most of the game, outscoring Casablanca, 5-1, in the final chukker.

Grant Ganzi of Casablanca controls the ball despite being double teamed.

A combination of forced and unforced errors had Tonkawa missing five goals in the first half and seven more in the second half. Tonkawa was attacking on offense but was unable to finish its goals.

“I was really happy and content with the win,” Ganzi said. “I was pleased with the way we played. We started off slow but I thought we had strong fourth and fifth chukkers.”

Ganzi scored a team-high three goals. Gracida and Dorignac each had two and Bollini added one goal and was outstanding on defense.

Casablanca’s Grant Ganzi defends Lucas Lalor of Tonkawa.

Hildebrand led his team with three goals. Lalor, last week’s MVP, was held to two goals. Carlitos Gracida added one.

In the subsidiary round robin game, Los Amigos (Alejandra Foster, Gabriel Gracida, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Paul Foster) defeated La Karina (Ailsa Currier, Brian Boyd, Mike Azzaro, Stewart Armstrong), 4-2, in the final game to win.

Mariano Gracida of Casablanca goes for the neck shot past Jimmy Seward.

In the other two three-chukker games, Los Amigos edged Audi (Marc Ganzi, Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Bill Kirton/Johnny Kirton), 4-3, and La Karina defeated Audi, 5-3.

Paul Foster was named Most Valuable Player after scoring a team-high four goals. Honey Bee, ridden by Stewart Armstrong and bred by his brother Charlie Armstrong in Florida, was named Best Playing Pony.

Lucas Lalor of Tonkawa surrounded by Casablanca players.

Melissa Ganzi of Audi scored a team-high four goals to lead Audi. Alejandra Foster, Brian Boyd and Ailsa Currier each scored three goals.

Everybody gets into the act during the kids foot mallet game.

The polo doubleheader benefitted the WindWalkers Equine Assisted Learning and Therapy Center. Founded in 2005, the non-profit’s mission is to provide a variety of equine-assisted therapies to aid in the development and growth of those with challenges including physical, neurological, emotional, behavioral or psychological.

Awards table for the Basalt Handicap.

The Basalt Handicap was the third of 12 tournaments scheduled, eight grass and four arena tournaments including the July 25-Aug. 6 USPA National Arena Handicap.

Best Playing Pony Zig Zag owned and played by Jeff Hildebrand of Tonkawa.

Polo is increasing in popularity in Aspen and surrounding areas with the club’s offering of various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Tuesdays, Kids Polo, indoor and outdoor arena polo, charitable events and The Polo School. Practice sessions are also held for players competing in weekend tournaments.

Basalt Handicap champion Casablanca and MVPs Mariano Gracida, Grant Ganzi, Pablo Dorignac and Juancito Bollini.

ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting since 2014, is live streaming the club’s entire summer season. All past tournaments can be found on its website.

2017 SUMMER POLO SCHEDULE

July 21-23, Craig Sakin Memorial

July 25-Aug. 6, USPA National Arena Handicap

July 28-30, Emma Challenge

Aug. 4-6, High Alpine Cup

Aug. 8-15, Arena World Cup

Aug. 9, ChukkerTV Arena Challenge

Aug. 11-13, Mount Sopris Cup

Aug. 18-20, Rocky Mountain Open

Aug. 25-27, Carbondale Classic

ASPEN VALLEY POLO CLUB

CLUB ADDRESS: 3275 County Road 100, Carbondale, Colo. 81623

POLO HOTLINE970-710-1663

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