Aspen Valley Polo Club Captures $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament; Mark Tomlinson Named MVP

WELLINGTON, Fl., March 10, 2015---In an emotionally-charged game, Aspen Valley Polo Club took control early to dominate Newport for an 8-7 victory in the $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament Monday at Grand Champions Polo Club.

In front of a packed crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Audi (Grant Ganzi, 1, Juancito Bollini, 2, Mark Tomlinson, 6, Wes Finlayson, 3) turned in one of its best games of the season to win the much-anticipated winner-take-all final.

Newport (Gene Goldstein, 1, Joaquin Panelo, 4, Michel Dorignac, 6, Agustin Arellano, 1) mounted a late rally but Audi, which led from start to finish, never lost its composure.

Tomlinson, 32, one of England's top polo players and rated seven goals in his homeland, was named Most Valuable Player.

With his wife, British Olympic dressage champion Laura Bechtolsheimer proudly watching from the sidelines, Tomlinson had one of his finest games during his debut season at Grand Champions Polo Club.

Tomlinson was the most dominant player on the field. The field general was a steadying influence on his three teenaged teammates. He led his team with four goals including three on penalty shots and played well defensively.

Tomlinson's 12-year-old Chestnut mare, Chaja, was named Best Playing Pony. Tomlinson played her in his explosive fifth chukker.

Chaja, one of six ponies he brought over from England, was homebred from one of his mother, legendary player Claire Tomlinson's favorite mares, which she played during the height of her illustrious career.

"It's great to win a prize with a homebred," Tomlinson said.

It was Tomlinson's final appearance at Grand Champions for the season. He plans to return home to play in England.

"It's the end of the season here for me," Tomlinson said. "It's a really good way to finish. It was a team victory today and that was the key. We are four players and we play. There isn't really a passenger on our team which you do have on some other teams.

"I've never played in a money tournament like this. It's a great concept and hopefully they can carry it on and make it bigger and bigger and get more support."

The victory was sweet redemption for Ganzi and Bollini, members of Casablanca that lost last year's inaugural tournament to Palm Beach Equine, 11-9, after giving up three unanswered goals in the final four minutes of the game.

"It's a really, really big win," Ganzi said. "This is the last 12-goal we hadn't won that we wanted to win. This is so much better than last year.

"Last year was a heartbreaker and this year is a triumph. That feeling we had last year was that extra push to get revenge. We were motivated."

With Ganzi ball-hawking and riding defenders wide of the plays for most of the game, Finlayson and Bollini each scored two goals.

"I thought we were in control of the whole game," Bollini said. "Wes and I were working 100 percent for Mark. We were a team out there."

Michel Dorignac led Newport with four goals. Panelo had two goals and Arellano added one.

The game featured four talented teenagers: Finlayson, 19, Bollini, 18, Arellano, 17, and Ganzi, 16. Playing alongside Tomlinson was a thrill for the trio.

"It's kind of sad this is our last game together," Finlayson said. "I enjoy playing with Grant and Juan especially. Mark is an amazing player and it's awesome to play with him, too. He is very smart and dedicates himself 100 percent to the game and never gives up. He's a fighter and that's why he is perfect for this team because we are all fighters. Hopefully, we get to play again in the future."

Said Ganzi: "Mark is really a smart player. He helped us a lot and showed us a lot of new tactics we hadn't done in the past that gave us more discipline. It made a difference."

Tomlinson also enjoyed playing with his three young teammates.

"The more I get out of them, the less I have to do," Tomlinson said. "That's the idea of a team game. Obviously, I am the main player on the team but I am trying to get the others to play off me and each do their bit. They all played well to their handicap if not above."

Aspen Valley Polo Club jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first chukker catching Newport off-guard. The team showed no signs of letting up in the second chukker keeping its lead to a two-goal margin, 5-3, one goal advantage (5-4) at the half and after the fourth (6-5).

Aspen Valley Polo Club regained its scoring momentum to lead 8-5 at the end of the fifth chukker. One of the plays of the game was Bollini taking out two defenders to clear the way for Tomlinson, forcing Newport into a right of way penalty. Tomlinson converted the 40-yard undefended goal for an 8-5 lead to end the chukker.

Newport had its opportunities in the last chukker but Aspen Valley Polo Club's swarming man defense was relentless. Aspen Valley Polo Club had an 8-6 lead for most of the chukker. It wasn't until the final 46 seconds when Dorignac scored on a neck shot to end the game.

"We played well, we played our best game," Finlayson said. "We can always play better but I think we played pretty well today. I'm happy."

When Dorignac started to get his team back within contention, there was no sign of panic from Aspen Valley Polo Club.

"We just needed to play our game and keep playing smart polo," Finlayson said. "The fouls are the worse thing that you can do at that point. Keep fouling and let them gain momentum is the worse thing you can do. We tried not to foul, have patience and make the right plays."

Added Ganzi, "We played our game and had it under control. Even in the end we knew if they scored one in the last three minutes we would be okay. We all played really calm. At the end we were saying no foul, no foul."

To make it to the final of the eight-team tournament, Newport defeated 5 Star Builders (Nico Escobar, Pedro Falabella, Tommy Biddle, Cody Offen), 11-9, and Aspen Valley Polo Club held on for a thrilling 14-13 victory over Pony Express (Bob Daniels, Justin Daniels, Tomas Goti, Julian de Lusarreta) in the semifinals.

One of the nation's most important and competitive tournaments to offer prize money, the National 12-Goal was live streamed by ChukkerTV.com and also utilized instant replay and team challenges in the final. Chukker TV.com offers re-broadcasts, Video On Demand and player interviews.

Chukker TV and PoloLine: The online leaders of the sport team up

Chukker.TV and PoloLine, the leaders in polo coverage, are teaming up to create PoloLine North America. The new channel will reach a larger audience across the nation and help the sport grow. Chukker.TV will be the exclusive video provider for PoloLine North America's newly created media division, providing exclusive content and interviews.

Chukker.TV, an independent media company, has already gained national attention and built a reputation as the leader in polo broadcasting and live streaming. This year Chukker.TV introduced Video On Demand, allowing players, patrons and fans to go to Chukker.TV online and purchase games in high definition.

PoloLine, founded in 2000, has the top-rated site for worldwide polo coverage  featuring game stories, features, interviews, tournaments, player rankings, photo galleries, reviews and lifestyle stories and now hopes to expand its coverage in North America.

Wellington-based Mike Ferreira will serve as CEO of the newly-formed company and will continue his day-to-day duties as president and executive producer of Chukker.TV.

"This will impact the sport," Ferreira said. "They are the leader in the news format and we are the leader in video coverage. Combine the two together and you have an ultimate source of news."

"The plan behind this is to mix both worlds, unite both companies to form a more powerful platform forpolo coverage," Ferreira said. "Our mission all along has been to promote polo in America and this just made sense."  

Javier Herrera, owner of Argentina-based PoloLine, is president of the PoloLine brand. Herrera hopes to promote low, medium and high goal polo in North America.

"This will not only have a huge impact in the U.S. but will change forever the way we see polo in North America," Herrera said. "Bringing polo into the mainstream, you will have all of polo in your hands. That will attract a lot of new players and more interest in the sport."

"This is the first time we found a company with great professionalism," Herrera said. "Chukker TV has a great understanding of the polo world and also shares our same point of view and passion for the sport of polo."

Many are calling Chukker.TV's new Video On Demand "the Netflix of polo."

Jeff Hall, one of America's top players rated at seven goals, was the first person to purchase a "season pass" to watch all the games from his home on-demand Internet streaming.

"I think it's a great service," Hall said. "The convenience of it with the technology today is great. I love to watch game reviews and check out the opponents and our own games. It seems Chukker TV is on the forefront with the technology."

Recently, Chukker.TV made history in the sport by becoming the first to broadcast a major stadium game live worldwide in the 12-year history of International Polo Club Palm Beach.

Since Chukker.TV made its debutin January 2014 and started gaining attention with its live-streaming broadcasts and state-of-the-art instant replay, Ferreira and his staff have been adding a new element each month.

Chukker.TV produced a Summer Tour this past summer. The two-month tour across 21 states and 13,000 miles across the U.S. kicked off at Aspen Valley Polo Club. Among other polo events live streamed were the U.S. Open Arena Polo Championship, East Coast Open and Eduardo Moore Invitational.

Chukker TV has worked with NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network at the CV Whitney Cup, U.S. Open, Central Park Polo Challenge and USPA Piaget World Snow Polo Championship.

The teaming of PoloLine and Chukker.TV is considered another huge step for the growth of polo and its exposure to mainstream audiences.

"This opens up the door for both companies to be really successful and cater to a larger audience and larger demand from sponsors and people who want to advertise on our networks," Ferreira said.

Games at International Polo Club Palm Beach and Grand Champions Polo Club, both in Wellington, Fla., the winter polo capital of the world, in addition to other U.S. clubs, will be live-streamed.

"This is going to be good for Chukker.TV and PoloLine," Ferreira said. "We are very focused on building U.S. polo which will be better for the sport."

Courtesy of PoloLine.com