Photo: Chiarofoto

“Everything is great and we have never been more ready for the season,” said Brian Boyd, Aspen Valley Polo Club president and La Karina patron. “The reality is that this has been a building block process and it’s gotten better every year.

“The momentum has been great. We had a great foundation with the fundamentals of good fields, good players, great horses and beautiful location. I have played at quite a few clubs in the world but I honestly think this is one of the best clubs in the world and has the potential to continue to be that.”

Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi took over the club in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly grass and arena tournaments and Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids Polo and The Polo School. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.

Sportsmanship is a big part of polo in Aspen. Nic Roldan and Billy Steta fist bump at the end of a game. Photo: Chiarofoto
Sportsmanship is a big part of polo in Aspen. Nic Roldan and Billy Steta fist bump at the end of a game. Photo: Chiarofoto

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 including last season’s Champagne, Caviar & Chukkers fundraiser that raised $366,000 for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.

The upcoming season features an expanded 13-tournament schedule with ten grass tournaments including the inaugural Aug. 31-Sept. 2 Triple Crown of Polo Trophy and three arena tournaments highlighted by the July 24-Aug. 7 USPA National Arena Handicap. It will be the first year the club will host a tournament on Labor Day Weekend.

The AVPC schedule is: July 3: Independence Cup; July 6-8: Craig Sakin Memorial; July 13-15: ChukkerTV Challenge Cup; July 20-22: Basalt Handicap; July 24-Aug. 7: USPA National Arena Handicap; July 27-29: Emma Challenge Cup; July 31: ChukkerTV Arena Challenge; Aug. 3-5: High Alpine Cup; Aug. 8-15: Arena World Cup; Aug. 10-12: Rocky Mountain Open; Aug. 17-19: Mount Sopris Cup; Aug. 24-26: Carbondale Classic; and Aug. 31-Sept. 2: Triple Crown of Polo Trophy.

Brian Boyd of La Karina. Photo: ChukkerTV.
Brian Boyd of La Karina. Photo: ChukkerTV

It is the second time Aspen Valley Polo Club will host the USPA National Arena Handicap Tournament and second time in several years that the tournament will be played as a stand-alone tournament.

It is the first season players will compete for the Triple Crown of Polo. The three legs will be held at Denver Polo Club, Aspen Valley Polo Club and finish in Wellington this fall. Designed by Tiffany & Co., the Triple Crown of Polo is comprised of three separate trophies that fit perfectly together to create an entire polo scene that is breathtaking in sterling silver.

Aspen Valley Polo Club, coming off its most successful season in club history, has a star-studded roster of players lined up for the summer to compete with and against patrons and amateur players including brothers Nacho and Alejandro Novillo Astrada, two of the world’s top players.

Also expected to compete is Nic Roldan, the highest rated American player and winner of the recent Cartier Queens Cup with La Indiana; Pablo Dorignac, Lucas Lalor, freshly-minted Team USPA member Grant Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Juancito Bollini, Carlitos Gracida, Alex Gooding, Marc Ganzi, Stewart Armstrong and Boyd.

The Polo School at Aspen Valley Polo Club, headed by director Juan Bollini, has been successful in attracting new players. Photo: Chiarofoto
The Polo School at Aspen Valley Polo Club, headed by director Juan Bollini, has been successful in attracting new players. Photo: Chiarofoto

Several horses left Wellington, Fla.-based Santa Rita Polo Farm earlier this week to acclimate to Aspen’s high altitude which benefits the horses.

High altitude training has been around for more than 40 years and came to prominence at the 1968 Mexico Olympics (Mexico City sits 7,400 feet above sea level) where a range of top performances were attributed to the high altitude conditions. Given the reduced oxygen environment, the horse’s cardiovascular system, much like the elite athlete, is forced to adapt, increasing its aerobic power and endurance which reflects the true genetic potential of the horse.

Boyd said another advantage of playing at Aspen Valley Polo Club is the off-the-field activities available for players, families and friends. Named after trees that quiver in the slightest breeze, Aspen offers hiking, mountain biking, rafting, fishing, golf, great restaurants and taverns.

“There is only one Aspen, it’s a one-of-a-kind location,” Boyd said. “It’s not only one of the great destinations in the world to play polo but there are plenty of family activities off the field that go on. We do a lot of things together as club members because we’re all friends. This is a special place.”

Last season Casablanca was the winningest team with three tournament wins. La Karina won two tournaments and is defending champion for the season-opening Independence Cup with Carlitos Gracida, Mariano Gracida, Brian Boyd, Marc Ganzi.

“We all want to win when we put on the white pants,” Boyd said. “The competition is high, but win or lose, off the field we are all friends. Unlike Santa Barbara and Florida, Marc and Melissa do a good job of mixing the teams up so we get to play with and against everybody. That’s what makes it fun.”