• United States Arena Handicap

    Audi, Flexjet Will Play For United States Arena Handicap Title Saturday At Aspen Valley Polo Club

    Argentine brothers Alejandro and Nacho Novillo Astrada will be pitted against each other when Flexjet  and Audi play Saturday in the final of the United States Arena Handicap at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
     
    By Sharon Robb

    In Thursday's semifinals, Audi (Daren Tamplin, 2, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8, Stewart Armstrong, 4) advanced with a thrilling 13-12 victory over Aspen Valley Polo Club (Pablo Dorignac, 7, Grant Ganzi, 2, Juancito Bollini, 3). It was Audi's second one-goal victory of the tournament.

    Lucas Lalor of La Karina Green tries to hit past Juan Bollini.
    In the opening game, Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 1, Juan Bollini, 7, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) showed its dominance once again with a 17-12 win over La Karina Green (Harrison Azzaro, 1, Lucas Lalor, 6, Ramiro Cordero, 5).

    Audi and Flexjet are undefeated at 2-0. Game time is 11 a.m. MST and will be live streamed by ChukkerTV and USPA Polo Network. 

    In the quarterfinals, Flexjet defeated Sopris Mountain Ranch (Santos Bollini, 2, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Gabriel Gracida, 4), 14-8, and Audi edged La Karina White (Ailsa "Ace" Currier, Carlitos Gracida, Mike Azzaro), 15-14.

    Alejandro Novillo Astrada of Flexjet on his way to scoring.

    On Thursday, it was another wild finish for Audi's "Cardiac Kids" with Nacho Novillo Astrada scoring a game-high eight goals including what turned out to be the game-winner in the final minute after Bollini scored with 40 seconds left to cut the lead to one.

    Aspen Valley Polo Club, given a 1-0 lead on handicap, started off strong behind Dorignac's three goals including a 2-pointer, and Ganzi's penalty- two conversion for a 5-1 lead.

    Audi, led by Astrada, bounced back in the second chukker scoring three of the next four goals. Tamplin, filling in for starter Marc Ganzi, drew a right-of-way penalty to set Astrada up with a penalty-two but Astrada's shot sailed over the goal.

    Ramiro Cordero of La Karina Green trying to work the ball past defenders.

    Aspen Valley Polo Club saw its 6-4 lead dwindle in the third chukker as Audi continued to control the momentum. Armstrong's goal tied the game 9-9 after three chukkers.

    Armstrong opened the fourth chukker with a goal and Astrada added another goal for an 11-9 advantage. Ganzi converted another penalty-two and Bollini scored to tie the game, 11-11.

    With 1:20 left, Astrada played the wall and scored back-to-back goals for a 13-11 advantage in the final minute. Bollini scored again to cut the lead to one but ran out of time.

    Grant Ganzi of Aspen Valley Polo Club works the ball past defenders.

    In addition to Astrada's game-high eight goals, including a 2-pointer, Armstrong added three and Tamplin had one. Dorignac led Aspen Valley Polo Club with six goals, Ganzi had three and Bollini added two. 

    In the early game, Flexjet was the more-experienced team. For the second consecutive game, Flexjet had to give up four goals to La Karina Green on handicap.

    Despite a close first half with Flexjet leading by only one, 8-7, the talented trio kept its composure in the second half to run away with the win.
     
    A young fan all smiles enjoying the game.
     
    With so much chemistry, Flexjet looked unbeatable in the second half, outscoring La Karina Green, 9-5. Azzaro filled in for starter Brian Boyd and was playing for the first time with Lalor and Cordero.

    "We are excited about playing in the final," Bollini said. "That was a tough team, a strong team with young talented players. We have been playing together and know each other.

    "It's a pleasure having Alejandro and Nacho Novillo Astrada playing here and to be in the final," Bollini said. "We are excited about the final."

    Nacho Novillo Astrada of Audi pursues Pablo Dorignac.

    In addition to Astrada's game-high eight goals, Ganzi scored six, including four in the fourth chukker, bringing her two-game total to 14 goals. Bollini added one goal. Cordero, making his Aspen debut this summer, led his team with six goals including a 2-pointer. Lalor and Azzaro each had one.

    It is the first time in several years that the tournament is being played as a stand-alone tournament.

    Also for the first time, USPA Polo Network and Wellington-based ChukkerTV are simultaneously live streaming the three-day tournament.

    Grant Ganzi of Aspen Valley Polo Club tries to avoid the hook of Daren Tamplin.

    The annual event dates back to 1980 and is a national USPA tournament played at medium goal level. In the past, the tournament has been played as a subsidiary to the U.S. Open Arena Polo Championship at Country Farms Polo Club in Medford, N.Y.

    Aspen Valley Polo Club, the nation's fastest growing USPA polo club, is enjoying its busiest summer polo season hosting 12 tournaments--eight grass and four arena.

    The club has increased its membership and continues to grow and introduce polo throughout the valley.

    Stewart Armstrong of Audi tries to gain control of the ball.
     Photos by ChukkerTV

    In the last four years Aspen Valley Polo Club has had a positive impact in the area hosting kids polo camps, teaching lessons and hosting several charitable events at the club that have benefitted local charities including the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.

    The club offers various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids Polo, indoor and outdoor arena polo, charitable events and The Polo School. Practice sessions are also held for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.