WELLINGTON, Fl., February 3, 2018---It was anyone's game until the sixth chukker when Patagones broke open an evenly-balanced contest to capture the Aspen Valley Cup 8-Goal final Friday at Patagones Polo Club.
Patagones (Santiago Avendano, 1, Lorenzo Merlotti, 1, Benjamin Avendano, 2, Robi Bilbao, 4) avenged its early season loss to Altair (Ashley Busch, 0, Kristos Magrini, 1, Henry Porter, 2, Brandon Phillips, 5) with a 10-8 victory.
Last year Patagones won the Aspen Valley Cup 8-goal handicap title with a 15-11 victory over Odosan and Seacap won the 8-goal final with a 13-11 win over Hawk Hill.
Patagones finished with a 3-1 record and Altair finished 2-2. Both teams will compete in the February League Top Pony 8-Goal when the eight-team leaue play begins Thursday with Altair playing Horseware at 3 p.m.
Patagones will try to win its second consecutive January League title Saturday afternoon at Grand Champions Polo Club when it meets Palm Beach Equine in the final of the Limited Edition 12-Goal Series at 3 p.m.
Benjamin Avendano, 19, a sophomore at Lynn University, was selected Most Valuable Player. JM Lisa, ridden by Bailbao in the second chukker, was Best Playing Pony.
Patagones was coming off an impressive 14-10 win over Dutta Corp (Nico Diaz Alberdi, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Timmy Dutta, Tim Dutta) on Wednesday when Avendano scored a game-high eight goals.
"They played really well, we got lucky when they missed a few goals in the last chukker," said Avendano, who started playing polo at age 8 with his brothers and played well above his 2-goal handicap during the tournament.
"It's nice to open the season with a win," Avendano said. "We just came up with the clutch goals, started hitting our penalties and played a different style than we were playing before. We were missing penalties in our other games. This helps the team confidence. We're going to keep the same team for the whole season."
The lead changed hands eight times in the first half with Altair leading 6-4 at the half. The close battle continued in the second half with the lead changing twice and score tied twice. Altair had scoring opportunities in the sixth chukker but could not take advantage.
With the game tied 8-8 entering the sixth chukker, Bilbao scored the go-ahead goal early in the chukker and added a penalty-two conversion with 1:18 left to put the game away.
"We lost to this team before," Avendano said. "I don't think this was our best game. I could have played better. We played well on Wednesday. I'm happy we started out with the win."
Bilbao scored a game-high eight goals including two penalty conversions. Benjamin Avendano and Merlotti each had one goal. Phillips led Altair with four goals, Porter had three goals and Magrini added one.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation's largest club with 11 well-manicured fields, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events.
The club features monthly 6, 8 and 12-goal tournaments and women's weekly league play during the winter season in addition to two 16-20 tournaments, $50,000 National 12 Goal, $100,000 World Cup winner-take-all 0-40-goal tournament, WCT Tournament and USPA National President's Cup.
During the 2017 winter season Grand Champions attracted a record 72 teams and another 18 teams during the spring season.
Grand Champions caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its' Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
The Club Hotline is 561-644-5050. It will be updated every day at 8 a.m. for both players and fans.