By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Aspen Valley Polo Club
Aspen Valley Polo Club will kick off its much-anticipated summer polo season on Sunday.
The Independence Cup celebrates the upcoming Fourth of July, the nation’s oldest festivities dating back to 1776 on the day that America claimed its independence from Great Britain on July Fourth.
The game, featuring pro and amateur players, begins 11 a.m. MST and will be live streamed worldwide by Wellington-based ChukkerTV.
Aspen Valley Polo Club, the nation’s fastest growing polo club, is coming off its most successful summer season in club history.
In addition to featuring the top polo of the summer, the club continues to grow and introduce polo throughout the valley.
After four years of operation, the club has had a positive impact in the area hosting kids polo camps, teaching lessons and hosting several charitable events at the club that have benefitted local charities including the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.
“Aspen Valley Polo Club is a beautiful place to play and the community has been wonderful supporting polo and the club,” player-coach and Polo School Director Juan Bollini said. “The club and sport is growing every day, every year.”
Aspen Valley Polo Club is coming off its most competitive summer season in club history attracting some of the world’s top pro and amateur players.
This season is expected to be even more exciting at one of the busiest USPA-sanctioned clubs that has increased in membership every season since 2014.
Among players expected to compete are former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro, one of the all-time greatest American players. The Hall of Famer held the sport’s highest handicap of ten goals for 10 years and won seven U.S. Open titles.
Joining Azzaro will be brothers Nacho and Alejandro Novillo Astrada, father and son Juan and Juancito Bollini, brothers Carlitos and Mariano Gracida, Lucas Lalor and Grant Ganzi.
The Independence Cup is the first of a record 12 tournaments scheduled, eight grass and four arena tournaments including the July 25-Aug. 6USPA National Arena Handicap.
Flexjet captured last year’s season-opening Independence Cup with Melissa Ganzi/Secundo Merlos, Sebastian Merlos and Carlitos Gracida in a round-robin arena tournament against Casablanca and La Karina. The tournament was moved to the arena because of heavy rains the
week of the tournament.
Gracida was named Most Valuable Player after scoring the only two-goal shot of the game. He finished with five goals in two games.
Last summer’s other tournament winners were: Los Amigos Red, Rocky Mountain Open; Steta Polo Team, Mount Sopris Cup; ChukkerTV, ChukkerTV Arena Challenge; Travieso and Los Amigos, High Alpine Cup; Tonkawa, Emma Challenge; La Karina, Basalt Handicap; Travieso, Craig Sakin Memorial; Travieso, ChukkerTV Challenge Cup; and Flexjet, Carbondale Classic.
Polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding areas with the club’s offerings of various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Tuesdays, Kids Polo, indoor and outdoor arena polo, charitable events and The Polo School. Practice sessions are also held at nearby Sopris Mountain Ranch for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.
In August 2014, polo players and patrons Marc and Melissa Ganzi opened the Aspen Valley Polo Club to rave reviews by the community and players. Both co-own the club and its sister polo club Grand Champions in Wellington, Fla. and have played key roles in the sport’s growth and popularity.
ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting since 2014, will live stream the entire 2017 summer season.