Tonkawa Captures Mount Sopris Cup Sponsored By Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club; Sapo Caset Named MVP
Tonkawa, making its summer polo debut at Aspen Valley Polo Club, wasted no time winning its first tournament of the season.
By Sharon Robb
|Mount Sopris Cup champion Tonkawa and runner-up Mandarina with award presenters and siblings Cindy and Ricardo Santa Cruz.
The talented foursome of Jeff Hildebrand, Wesley Uys, Sapo Caset and Mason Wroe defeated Mandarina (Alejandra de la Vega, Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Nacho Novillo Astrada), 13-11, to capture the Mount Sopris Cup sponsored by Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club.
Argentine 10-goaler Guillermo “Sapo” Caset, 32, the team’s playmaker who scored three goals, was named Most Valuable Player in the tenth tournament of the summer polo season.
|Mandarina’s Alejandro Novillo Astrada leans into his near side shot.
Argentine 8-goaler Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 36, who led Mandarina with a team-high six goals, earned the Player of the Day award, sponsored by the Mexico Polo Federation.
Houston-based Jeff Hildebrand, who scored a team-high six goals, was awarded the Flexjet Play of the Day for the goal he scored in the sixth chukker.
|Jeff Hildebrand of Tonkawa on his way to scoring one of his six goals.
Paulina, a 14-year-old Chestnut mare, was selected Best Playing Pony. Paulina was played by Alejandro Novillo Astrada. The mare is owned by Wellington, Fla.-based Santa Rita Polo Farm and bred by Julio Novillo Astrada.
Also scoring for Tonkawa was Uys with three goals and Wroe with one goal. For Mandarina, Ganzi scored three goals and De La Vega and Nacho Novillo Astrada each had one goal.
|Alejandro Novillo Astrada of Mandarina and Jeff Hildebrand of Tonkawa play in front of the club’s new Jumbotron.
Mandarina took a quick 2-1 lead in the opening chukker with a 60-yard penalty conversion from Alejandro Novillo Astrada and goal from Ganzi.
The momentum quickly changed in the second chukker when Hildebrand scored the first of his six goals and Caset scored while the defense shut down Mandarina, 2-0.
|Ten-goaler Sapo Caset of Tonkawa showing his MVP form.
While the game was close, Tonkawa never trailed after that outscoring Mandarina, 3-1 in the third chukker for a 6-3 halftime lead. Mandarina came back for a 2-1 advantage in the fourth chukker to cut the lead to two, but Tonkawa bounced back with an offensive fifth chukker, 4-2, for an 11-7 lead. Mandarina tried to rally in the final chukker with four goals, all from Alejandro Novillo Astrada, for a 4-2 chukker, but fell short.
|Alejandro Novillo Astrada receiving his Player of the Day award sponsored by the Mexico Polo Federation from President Guillermo “Billy” Steta.
The weekend tournament sponsor, Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club is located along the Riviera Nayarit, nearly a 200-mile stretch of coastline in the Western Mexican state of Nayarit. The Mexican club and Aspen Valley Polo Club have partnered to benefit both clubs’ growing membership with VIP access.
The tournament awards presenters were siblings Cindy and Ricardo Santa Cruz, president and CEO of RSC and founding partner of Mandarina, the 640-acre ultra-luxury resort and residences.
|Best Playing Pony Paulina, a 14-year-old Chestnut mare.
The Mount Sopris Cup is the eighth outdoor tournament and tenth overall of the summer polo season at AVPC.
A season-record six teams competed in the two-day tournament.
|Mandarina teammates Nacho Novillo Astrada, Alejandra de la Vega, Melissa Ganzi and Alejandro Novillo Astrada.
The Mount Sopris Cup is named after after the most impressive part of the Elk Mountains that create an impressive backdrop for the town of Carbondale.
In the Just For The Fun Of It Cup, Mexico (Eloy Vallina/Billy Steta, Lucas Lalor, Carlitos Gracida, Juan Bollini) edged Los Amigos (Nacho Badiola, Kris Kampsen, Stewart Armstrong, Paul Foster) for a thrilling 12-11 victory.
|Sapo Caset of Tonkawa with his MVP award.
Juan Bollini was named Most Valuable Player. Matsu, a 5-year-old Bay mare, played by Lucas Lalor and owned and bred by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was named Best Playing Pony. Mexico’s Billy Steta and Eloy Vallina were presented sponsor awards from Cindy and Ricardo Santa Cruz.
With the game tied 10-10 going into the sixth chukker, Kampsen converted a 60-yard penalty to take the lead, 11-10. Bollini tied the game with a goal from the field and Gracida scored the winning goal on a 40-yard penalty shot.
|Tonkawa leading scorer Jeff Hildebrand receiving his Flexjet Play of the Day award from Cindy Santa Cruz.
Lalor scored a team-high five goals. Bollini had three goals and Vallina and Steta each scored two goals. For Los Amigos, Kampsen had a team-high five goals, Armstrong scored three goals, Foster had two goals and Badiola added one goal.
In the Just For The Love Of It Cup, Mandarina White (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) defeated La Karina (Brian Boyd, Alex Gooding, Pablo Dorignac, Toto Collardin), 9-7.
|Awards and gifts for the Mount Sopris Cup sponsored by Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club.
Grant Ganzi was named Most Valuable Player. Brian Boyd earned the Flexjet Play of the Day. Marc Ganzi was presented the Mexico Polo Federation Award by President Billy Steta.
After two tied chukkers (4-4 and 6-6) in the second half, Mandarina White scored three goals, two by Grant Ganzi and one by Marc Ganzi, in the sixth chukker to take a 9-6 lead. Dorignac scored a late goal for La Karina.
|Just For The Fun Of It Cup winners Mexico teammates Lucas Lalor, MVP Juan Bollini, Billy Steta, Eloy Vallini and Carlitos Gracida.
Grant Ganzi led scoring with a game-high four goals. Marc Ganzi had three goals and Juancito Bollini and Nic Roldan each added one goal. For La Karina, Pablo Dorignac led with three goals, Brian Boyd had two and Alex Gooding and Toto Collardin each had one.
For the sixth consecutive Sunday doubleheader local firefighters and first responders were honored during AVPC’s “Polo Cares” initiative. Each Sunday through Labor Day Weekend, firefighters and their families will be acknowledged on AVPC’s featured game day. The club has donation boxes for anyone wishing to contribute to local fire and rescue stations. AVPC is matching all funds collected 100 percent. AVPC wants to show its appreciation and support of the hundreds of brave men and women who have been battling the third largest fire in Colorado history for nearly three weeks.
|Just For The Fun Of It finalists Los Amigos and Mexico with awards presenters Cindy and Ricardo Santa Cruz.
Last year Casablanca was the club’s winningest team with three tournament wins during the summer season. La Karina has three tournament titles this season.
Other grass tournament winners are: Piocho Ranch won the Independence Cup and Craig Sakin Memorial; Los Amigos Blue won the ChukkerTV Challenge; La Karina won the Basalt Handicap, Emma Challenge Cup and Rocky Mountain Cup; and Los Amigos Red won the High Alpine Cup.
|Mexico teammates Eloy Vallini and Billy Steta with their Mandarina Polo & Equestrian club awards presented by Cindy and Ricardo Santa Cruz.
With the breathtaking 12,965-foot summit of Mount Sopris as a backdrop, Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the busiest and fastest growing USPA-sanctioned clubs in the nation with a membership increase of 75 percent over four seasons.
This summer’s 13-tournament schedule features ten grass tournaments including the inaugural Aug. 31-Sept. 2 Triple Crown of Polo Trophy and three arena tournaments. It is the first year the club will host a tournament on Labor Day Weekend during the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience.
|Lucas Lalor of Mexico and Nacho Badiola of Los Amigos battle for the ball.
This is also be the first season players will compete for the coveted Triple Crown of Polo which arrived in Aspen earlier this week. 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.
|Just For The Love Of It Cup champions Mandarina White with awards presenters Ricardo and Cindy Santa Cruz.
Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi founded 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, Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids Polo, The Polo School and Polo On Demand. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.
|Nic Roldan of Mandarina White chases down Brian Boyd of La Karina.
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 the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation which raised $537,200 at this season’s event.
|Grant Ganzi of Mandarina White receives his MVP trophy from Cindy Santa Cruz.
The Ganzis are avid players and patrons and “have created a polo paradise” according to Piocho player-sponsor Tom Barrack. Players, sponsors, community leaders and fans share Barrack’s sentiments.
All ages are welcome to enjoy polo at Aspen Valley Polo Club. Admission, food and refreshments are free for fans in a relaxed, laidback atmosphere. An added feature is the club’s Jumbotron which made its debut this summer for the fans enjoyment.
|Marc Ganzi of Mandarina White receives his Mexico Polo Federation Award from President Billy Steta. Photos by Chiarofoto
Aspen, named after trees that quiver in the slightest breeze, offers hiking, mountain biking, rafting, fishing, golf, horseback riding, mountain climbing, great restaurants and taverns in addition to a full summer of polo.