Tonkawa Rallies To Win Emma Challenge At Aspen Valley Polo Club; Tincho Merlos Named Most Valuable Player

CARBONDALE, Colo., August 1, 2016-–Tonkawa came from behind in the sixth chukker with two clutch penalty goals to capture the Emma Challenge Sunday at Aspen Valley Polo Club.

Argentine 9-goaler Agustin (Tincho) Merlos, the youngest of three Merlos brothers, converted two penalty-four, 60-yard goals including the game-winner to give Tonkawa a thrilling 7-6 victory over Flexjet.

It was Tonkawa’s first tournament win of the summer polo season.

Winning Tonkawa teammates Jimmy Seward, Jeff Hildebrand, MVP Tincho Merlos and Teo Calle.

Merlos led Tonkawa scoring with three goals and was named Most Valuable Player.

Fendi, a 10-year-old black mare owned by Halo Polo, LLC and ridden by Merlos, was selected Best Playing Pony.

Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Teo Calle, Tincho Merlos, Jimmy Seward) and Flexjet (Marc Ganzi, Alex Golding, Tony Calle, Nic Roldan) took turns in the lead.

Father and son Teo and Tony Calle race for the ball.

Tonkawa jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the first chukker with balanced scoring from Merlos, Seward and Teo Calle. Ganzi scored his second goal of the chukker to trail by only one, 3-2.

Tonkawa grabbed another two-goal advantage in the second chukker when Hildebrand converted a penalty-two for a 4-2 lead. Tony Calle scored again after a long run to cut the lead to 4-3.

Hildebrand took a nice pass from Seward to open the third chukker for a 5-3 lead. Gooding’s nearside neck shot cut the lead to 5-4 at the half.

Nic Roldan of Flexjet follows up his shot with Jimmy Seward defending.

After several missed scoring opportunities by both teams, Flexjet tied the game at 5-5 on the only goal of the fourth chukker by Nic Roldan.

In another one-goal chukker, Flexjet took the lead for the first time on Ganzi’s penalty-three conversion for a 6-5 advantage in the fifth chukker. After two missed scoring opportunities in the sixth chukker, Merlos took advantage of Flexjet mental mistakes and converted two penalty-fours to win the game.

Tony Calle of Flexjet stretches for the ball with Teo Calle and Jimmy Seward in pursuit.

“It was good polo. The last chukker it could have gone either way,” said Gooding, leading scorer of the summer season with eight goals. “You hate it when you have to leave it to the 9-goaler to win.”

Added Ganzi, “It was a good game, it was highly contested and low scoring. Both teams couldn’t find the goal that much today. It was really good defense and it was tough to score goals.”

In the Subsidiary Round Robin, Aspen Valley (Ale Poma, Grant Ganzi, Julio Novillo Astrada, Juancito Bollini) won with 4-3 wins over La Karina (Paul Foster, Brian Boyd, Sebastian Merlos, Gabriel Gracida) and Los Amigos (Alejandra Foster, Carlitos Gracida, Lucas Lalor, Stewart Armstrong).

Subsidiary winners Aspen Valley with awards presenter Landon Clements.

Lynn University freshman Grant Ganzi of Aspen Valley scored the game-winner in each game, one from the field and one on a penalty conversion. Alejandra Foster of Los Amigos scored five goals and was named Most Valuable Player.

The past four tournament winners include: La Karina (Brian Boyd, Tony Calle, Julio Novillo Astrada, Stewart Armstrong), Basalt Handicap; Travieso (Teo Calle, Tony Calle, Lucas Lalor, Carlitos Gracida), Craig Sakin Memorial; Travieso (Alex Gooding, Teo Calle, Sebastian Merlos, Brian Boyd), ChukkerTV Challenge Cup; and Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi/Secundo Merlos, Sebastian Merlos, Carlitos Gracida), Independence Cup arena polo final.

Grooms’  race, led by Juan Barreto, was a special treat for fans.

Aspen has become the “Hamptons of the West,” with a rich history in polo for nearly forty years. A town, mountain and ski resort all rolled into one in the Rocky Mountains, Aspen is fast becoming a polo destination and one of summer’s hottest tickets.

Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the nation’s fastest growing USPA-sanctioned clubs with a membership increase of 75 percent since last season.

Best Playing Pony Fendi and Tincho Merlos.

Polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Arena Polo, Kids Polo and The Polo School at the club owned by Marc and Melissa Ganzi since 2014, in addition to practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.

Both Marc and Melissa Ganzi are avid players and patrons and “have put new life into polo” in the area according to  Gooding.

ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting, is live streaming the 2016 schedule including the prestigious and longstanding Rocky Mountain Cup.

A good crowd enjoys polo at the Emma Challenge. Photos by ChukkerTV


Aug. 5-7, High Alpine Cup

Aug. 9, ChukkerTV Arena Challenge

Aug. 12-14, Mount Sopris Cup

Aug. 10-21, Rocky Mountain Open

Aug. 24-28, The Carbondale Classic