Article courtesy of Grand Champions Polo Club/Sharon Robb
A who’s who in polo will compete in the much-anticipated St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship on December 17-22. Argentine 10-goalers Pablo MacDonough and Gonzalito Pieres and 8-goalers Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Nic Roldan head a star-studded field for three days of exciting polo action at Aspen Valley Polo Club in Carbondale, Colorado, and Rio Grande Park.
MacDonough, currently competing in the Argentine Open with favorite La Dolfina, will make his Aspen snow polo debut with the Richard Mille Polo Team. Mille is the official timekeeper for the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship. Mille created the RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo MacDonough for its brand ambassador.
Gonzalito Pieres, also competing in the Argentine Open with Ellerstina and brothers Facundo and Nico Pieres and cousin Polito Pieres, has played every major tournament in the world several times including the Argentine Open, British Open and U.S. Open Polo Championship®. He was a member of the 2009 U.S. Open Polo Championship team with his brothers and Marc Ganzi.
Alejandro Novillo Astrada is a fourth generation player. He teamed with Melissa Ganzi and Juan Bollini to win back-to-back United States Arena Handicap tournament titles in 2017 and 2018 and was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player in 2017. He was MVP at the 2018 Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbuhel which his team won. He was also a member of the 2016 Flexjet team that won the St. Regis World Snow Polo title.
Roldan is coming off the fall season in Argentina where he played for La Albertina Abu Dhabi. He is the youngest player ever to win the U.S. Open Polo Championship at age 15 in 1998 with Escue. The third generation polo player is one of North America’s top players and has competed in most of the sport’s U.S. and international polo tournaments.
Last year’s champion U.S. Polo Assn., with Grant Ganzi*, Juancito Bollini and Nic Roldan, will return to defend their title. Grant Ganzi is a member of Team USPA and Bollini is a brand ambassador for U.S. Polo Assn. and a newly-minted U.S. citizen. In addition to being the title sponsor, St. Regis will return as a team sponsor with team captain Nacho Figueras, the sport’s ambassador and face of Ralph Lauren playing with his son Hilario and Julio Gracida, son of Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Memo Gracida.
Six team sponsors and rosters:
Richard Mille: Marc Ganzi, Martin Pepa, Pablo MacDonough.
Flexjet: Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada.
St. Regis: Hilario Figueras, Julio Gracida, Nacho Figueras.
U.S. Polo Assn.: Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan.
Aspen Valley Polo Club: Sarah Magness, Jason Crowder, Jesse Bray.
Blade & Bow: Brian Boyd, Carlitos Gracida, Gonzalito Pieres.
Polo action will take place Tuesday through Thursday at Aspen Valley Polo Club and Rio Grande Park. Two preliminary qualifying round robin games will be held Tuesday at 11:30am and 1:00pm MT at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
Action moves to Rio Grande Park in Aspen, Colorado, on Wednesday for Media Day and the game for fifth and sixth place at 1:15pm followed by a Celebrity Polo Chukker featuring St. Regis (Saye Yabandeh, Erica Posalini, Nacho Figueras) and Richard Mille: Official Time Keeper (Alexa Dell, Sterling Jones, Pablo MacDonough) at 2:30pm. The final and subsidiary games are Thursday at 1:00 and 3:00pm followed by a VIP tent party. Each night a dinner for players and sponsors will be held. Activities conclude Saturday with the inaugural Snow Ball.
Melissa Ganzi is the first woman to win the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship in 2016 with Flexjet and teammates Jason Crowder and Jesse Bray. In January 2016, she made history as the first woman to compete in the St. Moritz Snow Polo World Cup Tournament in Switzerland since its inception in 1985. In January 2018, Melissa Ganzi along with Bendura Bank teammates Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Tito Gaudenzi, won the 16th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbuhel, Austria.
In addition to U.S. Polo Assn. (2017) and Flexjet (2016), past St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship winners include: 2013, St. Regis (Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips); 2014, Piaget (Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Nic Roldan); and 2015, U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini).
*Grant Ganzi is a member of Team USPA. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.