By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Aspen Valley Polo Club
Defending champion Aspen Valley Polo Club heads the six-team field for the sixth annual Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses & Horsepower Saturday at WestWorld of Scottsdale.
In last year’s event, Nic Roldan, Melissa Ganzi and Juan Bollini of Aspen Valley Polo Club knocked off two-time reigning champion Clogau Wales, with an impressive 9-5 victory in the featured 3-on-3 polo match.
Aspen Valley Polo Club returns with Ganzi, Roldan and Juancito Bollini, the 20-year-old son of Argentine great Juan Bollini.
Palm Beach Polo will make its’ debut with American 6-goaler Jason Crowder; Wales polo ambassador Ricky Cooper; and Ganzi’s husband, Marc, one of the world’s top amateur players.
In the featured match for the coveted Molina Cup, Aspen Valley Polo Club will play Palm Beach Polo at 2:30 p.m.
In addition to Palm Beach Polo making its debut, two other new teams will compete, La Jolla Polo Team and Palm Springs Polo Team
The remaining team rosters are:
La Jolla Polo Team: Reuben Katz, Roberto Estudillo, Coky Molina.
Palm Springs Polo Team: Zinta Brauki, Jeffrey Rewald, Sterling Giannico.
Polo Azteca: Theo Wakefield, George Estrada Sr., George Estrada, Jr., Dan Faherty.
Scottsdale All-Stars: Andres Camacho, Scott Vargas, Danny Urness.
Other matches are La Jolla playing Polo Azteca at 10:30 a.m. and Palm Springs meeting Scottsdale All-Stars, featuring the state’s top player Andres Camacho, at 12:30 p.m.
Last year was the first time Aspen Valley Polo Club competed in the nation’s largest polo event of its kind attracting a record crowd of nearly 12,000.
Last year’s event attracted 11,969 attendees, making it the most attended polo event in North America.
The popular event brings polo to the masses while providing a social backdrop for equestrian enthusiasts. While polo is the centerpiece of the event, there are several all-day events at The Polo Party.
New attractions this year feature the first Sunset Polo Women’s Match and a Cultural Concert featuring a variety of music from opera to hip-hop. There is also a Canine Couture Show, ArtPolo Auction Pavilion, Phoenix Fashion Week showcasing the world’s longest catwalk fashion show, previews of the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction and Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, post-match after party and fireworks display.
Event founder and Scottsdale public relations executive Jason Rose continues to raise the event’s bar every year.
“The feedback we have gotten from people over the years, it’s just been outstanding,” Rose said.
“It’s unique in the world of polo. It’s unique in Arizona and it’s the best possible time to come outdoors.
“We tried to be mad scientists with this event from Day One. We have always aspired to try to be different, to try and not be a typical polo event.”
Roldan, the top-ranked American player rated at eight goals, will compete in the tournament for the third time. Last year he finished with a game-high six goals including the first four of the game.
“This is a great way to showcase polo to the masses,” Roldan said. “We want to show people our passion for the sport and horses. We want to share the game with people who may have never seen polo before and we want them to have fun with it.
“It’s big-time exposure for the sport and really puts polo on the map,” Roldan said.
The biggest polo event in the United States is one of the most extravagant outdoor sports spectacles in Arizona.
Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the nation’s fastest growing polo clubs and annually hosts the Dec. 16-18World 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 competitive summer polo season in its history attracting some of the world’s top pro and amateur players including brothers Sebastian and Tincho Merlos, Nic Roldan, Julio Novillo Astrada, Brian Boyd, Teo Calle and Jeff Hildebrand during the 10-week season.
Aspen Valley Polo Club hosted the USPA National Arena Chairman’s Cup Championship won by Aspen Valley Polo Club (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Lucas Lalor); USPA-NTYS qualifier won by The Polo School (Nikko Ramirez/Rufino Merlos, Riley Ganzi, Santos Bollini, Grant Ganzi), Charity Day to benefit the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation and inaugural Pony Club Day.
Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the busiest and nation’s fastest growing USPA-sanctioned clubs
with a membership increase of 75 percent since the 2015 season.
With the Ganzi family spearheading the resurrection of polo, the sport 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.