Piocho Ranch Wins Basalt Handicap at Aspen Valley Polo Club

Carbondale, Colo. – July 22, 2019 – Piocho Ranch won its second tournament of the summer season Sunday at Aspen Valley Polo Club’s McClure River Ranch.
Piocho Ranch (Gussie Busch, Nacho Figueras, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Tom Barrack) defeated Los Amigos Blue (Alejandra Foster, Carlitos Gracida, Salvador Ulloa, Juan Bollini), 10-8. Alejandro Novillo Astrada was named Most Valuable Player after scoring a game-high eight goals. He joins Kris Kampsen and Salvador Ulloa for most goals in a single game this season. Chevy, an 8-year-old bay mare owned and played by Barrack in the fourth chukker, and bred by Figueras’ Cria Yatay breeding operation in Argentina, was Best Playing Pony.

Basalt Handicap champion Piocho Ranch players Gussie Busch, Nacho Figueras, Tom Barrack and Alejandro Novillo Astrada.
Basalt Handicap champion Piocho Ranch players Gussie Busch, Nacho Figueras, Tom Barrack and Alejandro Novillo Astrada.

Heroica , a 5-year-old chestnut mare owned by 10-goaler Hilario Ulloa and played by his brother Salvador Ulloa, was American Horse Polo Association Best Playing Pony.
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.

After finishing runner-up to La Karina (Brian Boyd, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Lucas Lalor), 8-5, in last year’s tournament, Piocho Ranch bounced back. Earlier this season Piocho Ranch also won the season-opening Independence Cup. The game was held in honor of Jesus “Chuy” Baez. The well-liked polo player and groom at Grand Champions and Aspen Valley Polo Clubs died last season at age 60 in Aspen. Images from his life were played on the club’s Jumbotron throughout the game and a moment of silence was held before the game.

Alejandro Novillo Astrada of Piocho Ranch stretches to work near side shot.
Alejandro Novillo Astrada of Piocho Ranch stretches to work near side shot.

The lead changed hands seven times in the first half before Piocho Ranch took a 7-6 halftime lead with back-to-back goals from Alejandro Novillo Astrada. The fast-paced game continued to be close in the second half. The lead changed hands five more times before Piocho Ranch took control. Busch scored in the closing minute of the fifth chukker for a 9-8 lead and after a defensive sixth chukker Astrada scored an insurance goal with 47 seconds left. Los Amigos Red had several opportunities in the final chukker to score but could not convert.

In addition to Novillo Astrada’s eight goals, Busch and Figueras each had one goal. Ulloa led Los Amigos Red with five goals. Foster, Gracida and Bollini each added one goal. Los Amigos Red (Marc Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Paul Foster) won the Just For The Love Of It subsidiary game with a 12-8 victory over Mountain Chevrolet (Lauren Sherry, Michael Payne, Lucas Lalor, Pablo Spinacci). Lauren Sherry was named Most Valuable Player after scoring a team-high four goals. Payne added three goals and Spinacci added one.

Alejandra Foster of Los Amigos Blue works the ball downfield with Tom Barrack defending.
Alejandra Foster of Los Amigos Blue works the ball downfield with Tom Barrack defending.

Los Amigos Red got balanced scoring from its players. Nacho Novillo Astrada led with four goals. Ganzi and Bollini each had three goals and Paul Foster added two. Los Amigos Red led from start to finish taking a 7-4 halftime lead and pulling away in the second half. The Basalt Handicap was the fifth of eleven grass tournaments and three arena tournaments being staged at AVPC in what is expected to be its best season.

Coming off its most successful summer season, Aspen Valley Polo Club has lined up a star-studded roster of players including Hilario Ulloa, Sapo Caset, Alejandro and Nacho Novillo Astrada, Tincho and Sebastian Merlos and Nic Roldan for the summer to compete with and against patrons and amateur players.

Gussie Busch of Piocho Ranch on the defense to save a goal.
Gussie Busch of Piocho Ranch on the defense to save a goal.

The Basalt Handicap honors the former railroad town which was named for the basaltic rock formation on Basalt Mountain. Basalt is known as a vacation mecca for families and sports enthusiasts. Located between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, world-class skiing and cultural opportunities are only minutes away. Among the variety of activities, Basalt still preserves it original, quaint charm. The fishing paradise sits at the junction of two Gold Medal rivers, the Frying Pan River and Roaring Fork River.

Best Playing Pony Chevy, 8-year-old bay owned and played by Tom Barrack.
Best Playing Pony Chevy, 8-year-old bay owned and played by Tom Barrack.

The first four tournament winners of the 2019 summer season were: La Karina (Brian Boyd, Carlitos Gracida, Sebastian Merlos, Kris Kampsen), USPA North American Cup; Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nacho Novillo Astrada), ChukkerTV Challenge; Los Amigos Red (Hilario Figueras, Paul Foster, Lucas Lalor, Nacho Novillo Astrada), Craig Sakin Memorial; and Piocho Ranch (Tom Barrack, Gabriel Gracida, Nacho Figueras, Salvador Ulloa), the season-opening Independence Cup winners.

Michael Payne of Mountain Chevrolet chases down Juancito Bollini.
Michael Payne of Mountain Chevrolet chases down Juancito Bollini.

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 at McClure River Ranch, will be paired with the annual Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar fundraiser. Other top tournaments are the July 23-August 6 USPA National Arena Handicap, Aug. 7-14 Arena World Cup and Sept. 1-8 Triple Crown of Polo.

Alejandro Novillo Astrada receives his MVP plaque from awards presenter Rachelle Barrack.
Alejandro Novillo Astrada receives his MVP plaque from awards presenter Rachelle Barrack.

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.

Photos by Nick Tininenko/Aspen Valley Polo Club

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