With the breathtaking Hotel del Coronado as a backdrop, Aspen Valley Polo Club made history by winning the inaugural Polo America Beach Polo Cup in front of a packed house.
The team of Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini and Argentine 9-goaler Agustin (Tincho) Merlos defeated Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Julio Novillo Astrada), 10-7.
In the subsidiary game, Hoffman International Properties (Riley Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Carlitos Gracida) defeated Porsche San Diego (Bash Kazi, Tito Gaudenzi, Jason Crowder), 4-2.
Merlos, a 9-goaler from Argentina who dazzled the crowd, was named Most Valuable Player.
Quarzo, an 8-year-old Bay stallion, ridden by Melissa Ganzi and owned by Santa Rita Farm, was named Best Playing Pony.
It was the first time in beach polo history a major beach polo tournament was held on the west coast at the iconic Hotel del Coronado, the second largest wooden structure in the United States with 128 years of storied history.
|Polo players enjoying the iconic Hotel del Coronado as a backdrop.|
“The whole setting was just incredible,” said event organizer Randy Russell of the marketing firm Polo America. “It couldn’t have gone off and looked better than it did. People were having the best time. I can’t wait to see what it looks like on the NBC broadcast.”
The event was taped and will be broadcast by NBC Sports on Dec.10 at 3 p.m., helping to increase worldwide exposure for the sport.
Russell said the event’s popularity was a combination of top polo players who were gracious to fans, the iconic Hotel del Coronado as a backdrop and unique 10,000 square foot VIP tent that featured a Millionaire’s Row with lavish food and drink, and two other terraces including the Polo Village for event sponsors.
|Former San Diego Chargers running back Terrell Fletcher and his daughter enjoying the VIP tent.|
Among VIPs was former San Diego Chargers running back Terrell Fletcher, now a senior pastor at City of Hope International Church in San Diego.
It also turned into a media event with photographers from around the world and camera crews from CBS, FOX, CW and local affiliates in addition to NBC.
|Flexjet winning its’ game against Porsche, 7-4, on opening day.|
“It’s things like this that helps polo more than anything else,” Russell said. “When you have a unique event like this with an iconic hotel or bring Prince William out, it’s going to draw the big press. As prestigious an event as the Pacific Coast Open is, I think that event got 1/15th the media coverage we did. Events like this with that little extra panache really puts polo in the spotlight.”
The California Polo Club offered polo lessons for hotel guests. In addition to scheduling three lessons, there were nine additional people watching the beach event that took lessons. “These were people that had never sat on a horse before but saw the sport and wanted to try it,” Russell said.
“This was definitely a shot in the arm for polo.”
|Flexjet players Julio Novillo Astrada, Lucas Lalor, Melissa Ganzi and their Rady Children’s Hospital team captain.|
The biggest winner, however, was the Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, the event’s charity partner. The hospital is ranked among the nation’s Top 10 pediatric hospitals and region’s only designated pediatric trauma center.
One of the biggest highlights of the tournament were former pediatric patients designated as honorary captains for each team and dressed in mini-versions of the team jerseys. Players talked game strategy with them before each chukker.
The Hospital Foundation’s 1600-member auxiliary that helps to raise money for its endowment fund sent volunteers each day to help with the event.
|Sponsors and guests mingle with players before the action.|
“It was a great opportunity for us and to raise awareness for the hospital,” said Rady’s Children Hospital Auxiliary past president Angela Wachtman. “We were happy to help. Our volunteers are incredible people. They know how to work hard. They are so reliable and trustworthy and believe in what we are doing.”
Coronado has a long history with polo dating back to the early 1900s when John D. Spreckels first introduced polo to Coronado in 1909 with the Spreckels Cup Polo Challenge that is now played at San Diego Polo Club.
|The equine athletes are loving the sand, surf and sun. Photos courtesy of Polo America|
Sponsors for the event were U.S. Polo Assn., Aspen Valley Polo Club, Polo America, Hotel del Coronado, Ermenegildo Zegna, Grayse, Porsche of San Diego, Coronado Tourism Improvement District,Hoffman International Properties, Joseph Goott & Co., Modern Luxury and Silver Seas Yachts.
Team sponsor Flexjet, a valued sponsor of polo, has been a member of the Directional Aviation family of companies since 2013. They are committed to creating premium travel experiences and providing access to the most modern, technologically-advanced aircraft in the industry on a daily basis, going above and beyond world-class private travel experiences.
|Fans line the beach to watch polo history in the making. Photo by Missy Bartenstein|
ASPEN VALLEY POLO CLUB
CLUB ADDRESS: 3275 County Road 100, Carbondale, Colo. 81623