The stage is set for the championship final of the ninth annual St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship.
By Sharon Robb
After a full day of qualifying Friday at Aspen Valley Polo Club’s world-class indoor arena, St. Regis (Melissa Ganzi, 1, Nacho Figueras, 6, Nic Roldan, 9) and Richard Mille (Sarah Siegel Magness, 0, Jesse Bray, 7, Pablo MacDonough, 10) play Sunday for the coveted cup.
On Saturday and Sunday, action moves to Rio Grande Park, Aspen’s largest multi-functional park within the city’s limits and just minutes away from the St. Regis Aspen Resort.
On Saturday at 1:15 p.m. the High Alpine Cup will be held. The round robin between 2020 champion World Polo League (Riley Ganzi, 1, Hilario Figueras, 6, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8), Edmiston (Jason Crowder, 7, Sugar Erskine, 7, Cable Magness, 2) and Aspen Valley Polo Club (Alecia Seidler, 0, Juan Bollini, 4T, Juan Martin Nero, 10) will determine fifth, sixth and seventh places.
A Celebrity Polo Chukker will follow at 2:30 p.m. The celebrity teams feature bull rider Landon Miller, actor and director Miss Saye Yabandeh and Alejandro Novillo Astrada, playing for ChukkerTV and actor Sterling Jones, Riley Ganzi and Nacho Figueras playing for Aspen Valley Polo Club.
Action continues on Sunday with the St. Regis and Richard Mille championship final at 1 p.m. followed by the Aspen Cup at 3 p.m. featuring Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Juan Martin Zubia, 8) and ChukkerTV (Vinny Sangaline, 1, Martin Pepa, 4, Tommy Biddle, 9). The trophy presentation for all seven teams will follow at 4:15 p.m.
Richard Mille has won the title twice in 2018 and 2019 and St. Regis won in 2013, the tournament’s first year.
The final stop on the 2021 World Polo Tour has been one of the most competitive in the tournament’s nine-year history.
In front of a worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Friday’s action was fast and furious.
In the opening three-game chukker matchup, Richard Mille dominated the throw-ins and jumped out to a 4-1 lead over Aspen Valley Polo Club in the opening chukker and went on to a 10-7 win. Aspen Valley Polo Club came within one goal (6-5) on Seidler’s goal before Richard Mille scored four more goals.
MacDonough and Bray each had four goals and Magness converted two 15-yard penalties. For Aspen Valley Polo Club, Seidler, making her snow polo tournament debut, shared scoring honors with Bollini, each with three goals.
In the second three-chukker game, World Polo League defeated ChukkerTV, 9-7. After trailing by one goal (3-2) in the first chukker, World Polo League scored six unanswered goals to lead 8-3 after the second chukker and played well defensively in the final chukker. Figueras scored a game-high five goals.
In the first one-chukker playoff, ChukkerTV earned a trip to the Aspen Cup with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over Aspen Valley Polo CLub. With 2:42 left, Biddle scored the winning goal.
In the other one-chukker winners’ playoff, Richard Mille knocked off defending champion World Polo League for a 3-2 win and trip to the championship final. Bray scored all three goals for a 3-1 lead with 1:50 left.
In the three-team round robin, St. Regis tied Casablanca, 6-6, and defeated Edmiston, 9-4, to clinch a spot in the final. St. Regis had a plus-five goal advantage before Casablanca and Edmiston met in the final round robin game. With St. Regis players anxiously watching, Casablanca defeated Edmiston, 9-5, enabling St. Regis to clinch by one goal. Melissa Ganzi and Roldan shared high scorer honors each with six goals.
The event is following COVID-19 guidelines. Per local state and county guidelines, those attending the games must show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result (within 48 hours prior) before entering the event.
One of the world’s top snow polo tournaments is the only snow polo event in North America. It is one of Aspen’s major international sporting events and kickoff to the holiday social season in Aspen.
For the ninth consecutive year, Aspen Valley Polo Club owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi, is hosting the event along with Figueras and his wife Delfina Blaquier.
After Sunday’s games, a check will be presented to Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation and Calloway Young Cancer Center. The tournament is a fundraiser for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, the designated philanthropic charity. Donations are welcome.
In addition to 2020 champion World Polo League (Riley Ganzi, Hilario Figueras, Alejandro Novillo Astrada), other past winners include: Richard Mille (2019, Edouard Pan, Pablo MacDonough, Louis Jarrige); Richard Mille (2018, Marc Ganzi, Martin Pepa, Pablo MacDonough); U.S. Polo Assn (2017, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan); Flexjet (2016, Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini); U.S. Polo Assn. (2015, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini); Piaget (2014, Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Nic Roldan); and St. Regis (2013, Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips).
The sport was first played on a frozen lake in St. Moritz, Switzerland, created by Swiss hotelier and polo visionary Reto Gaudenzi in 1985 and has been growing in popularity ever since, attracting thousands of spectators and top players from around the world. In addition to St. Moritz, it’s played in winter sports communities Aspen, Cortina, Italy, Kitzbuhel, Austria, Courchevel, France and Tianjin, China.
Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi resurrected the Aspen Valley Polo Club and polo in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly grass and arena tournaments, Arena & Asado Nights, Kidz Polo, Kids Wheely Polo, The Polo School headed by former 8-goaler Juan Bollini, and Polo On Demand. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the club tournaments.