Aspen Valley Polo Club made history winning its third consecutive title at the recent seventh Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships at WestWorld’s Wells Fargo Private Bank Field. No team has won the coveted Molina Cup three times until the team of Melissa Ganzi, Mike Azzaro and Ashley Busch defeated Bentley Scottsdale Monte Carlo Polo Team (Rommy Gianni, Tito Gaudenzi, Juancito Bollini), 11-8. Monte Carlo was making its Scottsdale debut.
Florida Circuit Governor Melissa Ganzi was named MVP. Ganzi scored four goals from the field and converted three penalty shots. Azzaro, a Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler, and Busch, brand ambassador for U.S. Polo Assn. and wife of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, each had two goals.
Among this year’s attractions was Sunday’s Battle of the Sexes: The Sunny Hale Memorial that honored the all-time greatest woman’s polo player, pioneer, author and first woman to win the U.S. Open in a male-dominated sport. Hale died at age 48 in February and will be inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame on Feb. 16, 2018. The ladies representing Talking Stick Resort & Casino edged the Scottsdale Maserati men’s team, 6-5.
The world’s greatest polo party event, which was expanded to two days since there was no Arizona Cardinals game scheduled on Sunday, broke several records including all-time attendance marks and remains the most attended polo event in North America. Among records were:
* Record attendance of 13,129 over two days.
* Sold out tents and tickets including the Molina Fine Jewelers VIP Tent, Barrett Jackson Champagne & Jazz Lounge, Sideline Parking, Premier Sideline Parking and Elite Sideline Parking.
* Seventy percent increase in ticketing and food and beverage revenue.
* Record number of vendors.
The popular event brought polo to the masses while providing a social backdrop for equestrian enthusiasts. The sport of polo was the centerpiece of extravaganza.
Several debut events were successful including the “Fried & Fizzy,” pop-up restaurant featuring the culinary combination of fried chicken and champagne; performances by the Southwest Shakespeare Company, Phoenix Opera, hip-hop artist Ali Tomineek and Red Bull skydivers. The popular returning events included the Canine Couture Dog Fashion Show, world’s longest Catwalk Fashion Show, and previews of the 2018 Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show and Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction.
On Saturday, seven DJ’s and bands were playing at the same time throughout the venue and various tents. World Arm Wrestling champion Travis Bagent was a fan favorite taking on all challengers including Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch. Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson and Busch threw in the first ball for each of the featured matches.
Event founder and Scottsdale public relations executive Jason Rose continues to raise the event’s bar every year since he started it in 2011.
“It could not have happened without the blue-chip roster of sponsors, partners and guests that make it all possible,” Rose said. “We are grateful and appreciative. And, we are very fortunate to be in their very good company.”
The event will return on the same weekend in 2018, according to Rose. His goal “is to become the biggest polo event in the world, one day surpassing the crowds even in Buenos Aires.”
The biggest polo event in the United States is one of the most extravagant outdoor sports spectacles in not only Arizona but the United States and has helped increase polo’s exposure and popularity.
Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the nation’s fastest growing polo clubs and annually hosts the Dec. 14-17 World Snow Polo Championship in addition to a full summer polo schedule featuring some of the world’s top players. The club is coming off its most successful 10-week summer polo season.