Melody Polo captured the season-opening Independence Cup with a thrilling 9-7 victory over La Karina Sunday at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
The much-anticipated summer polo opening tournament was moved to the club’s arena because of a rain-soaked field after heavy rains, but the game was just as exciting and physical.
Former 8-goaler Juan Bollini, competing in his first U.S. tournament since being sidelined with a rib injury late in the season in Wellington, was named Most Valuable Player.
Bollini and Melissa Ganzi each scored four goals for Melody Polo. Cesar Gueikian added one.
For La Karina, Lucas Lalor led scoring with four goals, Carlitos Gracida had two and Marc Ganzi added one. Brian Boyd played well defensively.
Carbonera, a 10-year-old dark bay mare owned by Halo Polo and ridden by Melissa Ganzi, was named Best Playing Pony.
Melody Polo broke open a close game in the fifth chukker after the teams were tied at the half (4-4). Carlitos Gracida scored the only goal in the fourth chukker to give La Karina a 5-4 lead.
Melody Polo stormed back with four goals (two by Bollini and one each by Ganzi and Gueikian) in the fifth chukker while shutting down La Karina’s offense.
The championship final was a family affair. The game pitted brothers and up-coming players Mariano Gracida of Melody Polo and Carlitos Gracida of La Karina, sons of legendary polo great Carlos Gracida, and husband and wife and Aspen Valley Polo Club co-owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi.
In the subsidiary game on Sunday morning on the club’s main field, Sopris Mountain Ranch (Remy Trafelet, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Francisco Lanusse) defeated FlexJet (Anthony Devrient, Daren Tamplin, Santos Bollini, Dale Schwetz), 12-6.
Ganzi, 17, scored a game-high six goals and Bollini added three. Bollini’s younger brother Santos led FlexJet scoring with three goals.
A busy week of polo is scheduled this week at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
On Tuesday, lessons will be conducted at 10:30 a.m.; on Wednesday, Arena Polo is set for 5 p.m.; the ChukkerTV Challenge at Sopris Mountain Ranch begins Thursday at 11 a.m. with the final on Friday at 11 a.m.
On Sunday, the club’s feature match, the Aspen Valley Polo Club Cup, will be held at 3 p.m. at the club’s main field.
The Independence Cup was the first of nine summer tournaments at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
Six tournaments held last year return along with three new events for the 2015 season. The July 12 Aspen Valley Polo Club Cup, July 21-26 Basalt Handicap and July 28-Aug 2 Emma Challenge have been added to this year’s schedule.
The full schedule is July 9-10, ChukkerTV Challenge; July 12 Aspen Valley Polo Club Cup; July 14-19, Craig Sakin Memorial; July 21-26, Basalt Handicap; July 28-Aug. 2 Emma Challenge; Aug. 5-9, Louis Vuitton Cup; Aug. 14-16 Mount Sopris Cup; and Aug. 12-23 Rocky Mountain Cup.
Several of Grand Champions patrons and players are expected to play at Aspen Valley Polo Club this summer. Gueikian’s Melody Capital polo team competed at Grand Champions during the spring season.