Aspen Valley Polo Club Summer Season Ends Saturday With Ute Challenge

The summer polo season comes to a close Saturday at McClure River Ranch.

By Sharon Robb
The 13th and final tournament of the summer will feature the Ute Challenge at 1 p.m. with NetJets (Marc Ganzi, Brian Boyd, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan) playing Victory (Kevin Schmeits, Sugar Erskine, Pancho Bensadon, Grant Ganzi).

In the opening game at 11 a.m., Victory (Becky Schmeits, Lauren Sherry, Melissa Ganzi, Nic Roldan) will play Mountain Chevrolet (Vinny Sangaline, Michael Payne, Fran Spinacci, Pablo Spinacci) in the Birthday Bash. The game will be a birthday celebration for Becky Schmeits.

Last year Catamount (Scott Devon, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini) won the Ute Challenge with a 9-6 victory over Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Jimmy Seward, Gonzalito Pieres, Stewart Armstrong). Roldan was MVP. Nothing Hidden, played by Hildebrand, was Best Playing Pony.

The Ute Challenge is named after the famous Ute Trail Hike, one of Aspen’s many challenging trails that trace a steep, 6.2-mile path once used by indigenous peoples for hunting.

Aspen Valley Polo Club kicked off its ninth season ten weeks ago. Los Amigos finished the season as the winningest team with three major wins. Brookshire won two tournament titles.

In the season-opener Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Marc Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Tomacho Pieres) won the Independence Cup with a round robin victory over Casablanca (Alejandra Foster, Grant Ganzi, Torito Ruiz, Nic Roldan) and NetJets (Melissa Ganzi, Nacho Figueras, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini). Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Marc Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Nacho Figueras) won its second tournament of the season with a 6-4 victory over Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Brian Boyd, Nacho Novillo Astrada/Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Jason Crowder). Pieres was MVP.

In its biggest win of the season, Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Jason Crowder, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan) won the coveted Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen with a 5-4 win over Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Juan Martin Nero). Grant Ganzi was MVP.

Brookshire (Scott Wood, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini) won its club debut in the ChukkerTV Cup with an 11-7 win over Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Vinny Sangaline, Gonzalito Pieres, Nacho Figueras). Brookshire (Scott Wood, Ale Poma, Nacho Figueras, Torito Ruiz) won its second tournament of the season in the Basalt Handicap with a 12-7 win over Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Stewart Armstrong, Nic Roldan, Alex Gooding).

McClure River Ranch (Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Pancho Bensadon, Stewart Armstrong) won the Craig Sakin Memorial with a 9-8 victory over Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, Vinny Sangaline, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini).

Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Nic Roldan, Grant Ganzi, Blas Bensadon) won the Emma Challenge with an 11-8 victory over defending champion Los Amigos(Paul Foster, Vinny Sangaline, Nacho Figueras, Tomacho Pieres).

La Karina (Lauren Sherry, Brian Boyd, Torito Ruiz, Tomacho Pieres) won the Mount Sopris Cup with a 9-8 win over NetJets (Melissa Ganzi, Vinny Sangaline, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini).

NetJets (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini) won the NetJets Rocky Mountain Open with a 7-6 overtime win over Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres). Roldan earned his third MVP title of the season. Brookshire/Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Fran Spinacci, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Nacho Novillo Astrada) won the Carbondale Classic with a 6-5 win over La Karina (Brian Boyd, Pablo Spinacci, Pancho Bensadon, Stewart Armstrong) for third place. Nacho Novillo Astrada was MVP.

In the Maroon Bells Cup, Victory (Kevin Schmeits, Vinny Sangaline, Torito Ruiz, Nacho Novillo Astrada) defeated Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, Alejandra Foster, Gonzalito Pieres, Alejandro Novillo Astrada), 20-19. Ruiz was MVP.

Last weekend in the Silver Queen Invitational Victory (Vinny Sangaline, Kevin Schmeits, Torito Ruiz, Pancho Bensadon) defeated Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Nic Roldan, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres), 11-9. Ruiz earned MVP honors for the second time this season.

The world’s destination spot for summer polo has attracted some of the world’s top players, sponsors and world-class horses.

With the majestic 12,965-foot summit of Mount Sopris as a backdrop under a bright summer sky, polo wraps up in the valley on Saturday after successful tournaments July through September. Polo returns to Aspen Valley Polo Club in December for the annual St. Regis Snow Polo World Championship.

Wellington, Fla.-based ChukkerTV has been live streaming entire 2022 polo season Mountain Standard Time with announcer Dale Schwetz calling the action.

Last summer Aspen Valley Polo Club finished a successful and historic season in club and Rocky Mountain Circuit history and has topped that this season with a record 13 tournaments.

Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi resurrected the club and polo in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities and is the epicenter for polo in the valley. The club’s offerings include various weekly grass and arena tournaments, Arena & Asado Nights, Kidz Polo, Gymkhana, Kidz 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 on more than six world-class fields. There are also indoor and outdoor polo arenas.

Aspen was founded as a silver mining town in the 1800s and was named for the abundance of aspen trees growing in the area and famous for their tall, thin trunks and golden leaves. Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards recognized Aspen as the No. 1 Small City in the U.S.

The Polo School for all ages and ability levels operates in Carbondale July through September. For more information on tournaments or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or club manager Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.

Aspen Valley Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program.

When not playing or watching polo, there’s all kinds of outdoor activities in a true adventurer’s playground including hiking, mountaineering, camping, mountain biking, paddle boarding, water rafting, swimming, fly fishing and golf.


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