Mount Sopris Cup; Champagne, Caviar & Chukkers Fundraiser Highlight Week At Aspen Valley Polo Club
Aspen Valley Polo Club will enjoy one of its busiest weeks of the summer polo season this week.
By Sharon Robb
In addition to hosting the five-team Mount Sopris Cup and two-team Aloha Cup, the highlight of the week will be the Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar Aspen Valley Hospital Fundraiser on Sunday.
The renowned hospital is the first Colorado hospital to be selected as a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network after passing a rigorous review process based on quality, service and operational criteria. The Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, now entering its fifth year, is a non-profit solely focused on encouraging philanthropic support for the current and future needs of Aspen Valley Hospital.
During the fundraiser, there will be live and silent auctions, pony rides, kids activities, various vendor tents and live aerial silks performance by Allie Azzaro.
Aspen Valley Polo Club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi are members of the host committee that also includes Lexie and Robert Potamkin, Alex Halperin, Dr. Eric and Bari Stahl, Dale Hower, Dana and Michael Werner, Dawn Arnall, Regina Yunami and Dr. Les Fraser, Jan and John Sarpa, Jody Cooper, Julie and Dave Ressler, Kimberly Higgins, Lacy Frywald, Marilyn and Chuck Frias, Pam Alexander and Sally Sakin.
A familiar face, Guillermo “Billy” Steta, president of the Mexican Polo Federation, returns to Aspen Valley Polo Club to compete this week. He was a member of last year’s Steta Polo Team that won the Mount Sopris Cup with Brian Boyd, Nic Roldan and Carlitos Gracida.
Steta, a frequent visitor to Aspen Valley Polo Club and its sister club Grand Champions in Wellington, Fla., is spearheading the drive to get polo into the Pan American Games, the first step expected to pave the way for the sport’s return to the Olympic Games. He also played a role in getting polo showcased in the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games, Oct. 6-18 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Five teams will compete in the three-day Mount Sopris Cup that gets under way on Thursday with La Karina playing Travieso at 11 a.m. MST at Rose Spur Field.
The tournament continues on Friday with a round robin at 11 a.m. between Flexjet, Los Amigos Blue and Mexico. The winners ofThursday and Friday’s games advance intoSunday’s final at 1 p.m. after the subsidiary round-robin game at 11 a.m. and live auction at 12:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the Aloha Cup featuring La Karina (Ailsa “Ace” Currier, Carlitos Gracida, Harrison Azzaro, TBA) and Travieso (Michael Calle, Will Jacobs, Juan Bollini, Melissa Ganzi), will showcase young up-and-coming players including Jacobs, a product of The Polo School at Grand Champions and Aspen Valley Polo Clubs.
Team rosters are:
Flexjet: Lauren Sherry, Alejandra Foster, Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada.
La Karina: Brian Boyd, Alex Gooding, Mike Azzaro, Stewart Armstrong.
Los Amigos Blue: Paul Foster, Gabriel Gracida, Pablo Dorignac, Lucas Lalor.
Mexico: Billy Steta, Grant Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Juancito Bollini.
Travieso: Teo Calle, Tony Calle, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Marc Ganzi.
In last year’s Mount Sopris Cup final, Steta, Boyd, Roldan and Gracida built a 9-3 halftime lead and then held off a second- half rally to defeat Flexjet (Alejandra Foster, Marc Ganzi, Alex Gooding, Julio Novillo Astrada), 12-11, to enable Steta Polo Team to win its debut. Gracida scored a team-high five goals and was named MVP.
Mount Sopris Cup is named after the most impressive part of the Elk Mountains. Although Mount Sopris doesn’t even top out at 13,000 feet, its mile of vertical exposure creates an impressive backdrop for the town of Carbondale.
Mount Sopris is located just south of Carbondale where the Crystal River meets the Roaring Fork River. Mount Sopris actually consists of two peaks (East and West Sopris) of the same elevation separated by a saddle about one-half mile in length.
Mount Sopris is named in honor of Captain Richard Sopris, who in July, 1860 led a prospecting expedition up the Roaring Fork Valley. He was the first man of European descent to soak in the hot springs of Glenwood Springs. He later went on to gain prominence as Denver’s Mayor (1878-1881) and commissioned the creation of Denver’s City Park.
The Mount Sopris Cup is the eighth of 12 tournaments scheduled, eight grass and four arena tournaments.
This season’s first seven summer tournament winners were La Karina (Carlitos Gracida, Mariano Gracida, MVP Brian Boyd, Marc Ganzi), Independence Cup; Tiburon (Collen Clark, Lauren Sherry, Pablo Dorignac, MVP Lucas Lalor), ChukkerTV Challenge Cup; Casablanca (MVPs Mariano Gracida, Grant Ganzi, Pablo Dorignac, Juancito Bollini), Basalt Handicap; Casablanca (Santos Bollini, Grant Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Juancito Bollini), Craig Sakin Memorial; La Karina (Brian Boyd, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Mike Azzaro), Emma Challenge; Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada), United States Arena Handicap; and Aspen Valley Polo Club (Alejandro Poma, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Lucas Lalor).
Aspen Valley Polo Club, the nation’s fastest growing USPA polo club, is enjoying its most successful summer season in club history. The club, which recently broke ground for two more fields, is enjoying increased membership, continues to grow and introduce polo throughout the valley. Owners Marc and Melissa “have put new life into polo,” according to Alex Gooding.
“This is the place to be in the summer,” added Brian Boyd.
The club attracts some of the world’s top pro and amateur players. In the last four years Aspen Valley Polo 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.
Polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding areas with the club’s offerings of various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids Polo, indoor and outdoor arena polo, charitable events and The Polo School. Practice sessions are also held for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.
Chukker TV is live streaming the entire summer polo schedule.