Aug 06, 2019 7:13 PM


Story Courtesy of Aspen Valley Polo Club/Sharon Robb.

Tonkawa's Sapo Caset on the ball.
Tonkawa's Sapo Caset on the ball. ©Candace Ferreira/Aspen Valley Polo Club

On Wednesday, August 7, Tonkawa (3-0), the only undefeated team remaining in the six-team tournament, will play Flexjet (1-2) at 12:00pm ET and Audi (2-1) will take on Casablanca (2-1) at 6:30pm ET at McClure River Ranch for the Silver Cup® Semifinals. The winners will advance to the 119th Silver Cup® Championship Final on Sunday, August 11 at 1:00pm ET at Aspen Valley Polo Club in Carbondale, Colorado.

In front of local crowds and the USPA Polo Network worldwide audience on Saturday, August 3, Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Juan Martin Obregon, Sapo Caset, Mason Wroe*) advanced with an 11-6 victory over McClure River Ranch (Salvador Lockey, Stewart Armstrong, Alfredo Bigatti, Kris Kampsen).

Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Gussie Busch, Hilario Ulloa, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) came from behind to knock off reigning North American Cup® champion La Karina (Brian Boyd, Tincho Merlos, Sebastian Merlos, Carlitos Gracida), with a hard-fought 15-14 win and claimed the Mandarina Cup at McClure River Ranch.

Flexjet Alejandro Novillo Astrada, La Karina Carlitos Gracida (2K8A1040) ©Candace Ferreira-AVPC
La Karina's Carlitos Gracida carries the ball with Flexjet's Alejandro Novillo Astrada in pursuit. ©Candace Ferreira/Aspen Valley Polo Club

On Sunday, August 4, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Hilario Figueras, Nic Roldan, Jared Zenni*) upset previously undefeated Casablanca (Grant Ganzi*, Juancito Bollini, Lucas Lalor, Nacho Novillo Astrada/sub. Salvador Ulloa) 11-6 at McClure River Ranch. After a close first half, Tonkawa had no problem outscoring McClure River Ranch in the second half with a balanced offensive attack.

Tonkawa shut out McClure River Ranch in the opening chukker and pulled away for a 4-1 lead after two chukkers. McClure River Ranch bounced back to shut out Tonkawa, 3-0, in the third chukker for 4-all at halftime. Tonkawa came out strong in the second half, outscoring McClure River Ranch 7-2 including a 3-0 fourth chukker. Tonkawa secured their place in the semifinal with an 11-6 victory.

"It's super fun playing with this team," Obregon said. "It's been competitive and tough. The good thing is we are doing well. I am really happy to be in the semifinal and looking forward to our next game."

"We really don't have any dynamic, we just play polo and play as the game develops,” Wroe added. “The game dictates how we play."

La Karina dominated the first half, but the momentum shifted in the second half. The physical game took an interesting twist late in the fourth chukker when officials decided to move up penalties because there were so many being committed and slowing the game down.

Flexjet, in a must-win situation with an 0-2 record, rallied in the second half, outscoring La Karina 10-6 in the final three chukkers. Flexjet came out in the fourth chukker with a 4-1 advantage to tie at 9-all. The lead changed hands four times before Flexjet scored three unanswered goals. Astrada converted a 40-yard penalty and Ulloa made 40- and 60-yard penalty conversions for a 15-13 lead. Tincho Merlos' 40-yard goal with 1:18 left on the clock cut the lead to one. Merlos then won the throw-in, but Astrada picked up the loose ball and along with Ulloa ran out the clock.

Flexjet's Gussie Busch. ©Candace Ferreira-AVPC
Flexjet's Gussie Busch. ©Candace Ferreira/Aspen Valley Polo Club

"It was a tough game, back and forth," Busch said. "Our first two games before that were also super tough. All the teams in the Silver Cup® are amazing, but we had to pull off a win to stay in the hunt and we made it happen. Our team played great today. Our guys made all the penalty shots we needed to convert and we pulled off the win."

Busch, one of the youngest players in the tournament, is trying to follow in his father's footsteps. Billy Busch won six Silver Cup® trophies during his career. "My dad got me into polo," Busch said. "He won the Silver Cup® all over the country. If I can win this tournament one time I'll be happy."

Audi's Nic Roldan. ©Nick Tininenko
Audi's Nic Roldan. ©Nick Tininenko

In the third and final game, Audi came out on the attack in the first half and never relented. Audi shut out Casablanca, 3-0, in the second chukker for a 5-1 advantage and extended their lead 7-3 at halftime. Casablanca lost their 8-goaler Nacho Novillo Astrada to an injury in the second half, but Salvador Ulloa filled in as his substitute. Missing several scoring opportunities throughout the game, Casablanca could not close the gap on Audi. Roldan scored a 150-yard goal in the final minute of the fifth chukker to give Audi a 10-5 lead.

The Mandarina Cup, presented to Flexjet for winning Saturday's Silver Cup® game, was sponsored by the Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club, located along the Riviera Nayarit, nearly a 200-mile stretch of coastline in the Western Mexican state of Nayarit.

U.S. Polo Assn., the official brand of the USPA, is the prestigious tournament's official apparel sponsor. The tournament is being livestreamed by the USPA Polo Network on, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter with Dale Schwetz announcing.

*Jared Zenni and Grant Ganzi are members of Team USPA. Mason Wroe is a Team USPA alumnus. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.