Craig Sakin Memorial Begins Friday At McClure River Ranch

CARBONDALE, Colo., July 15, 2022—-Six teams will compete in the Craig Sakin Memorial that begins Friday at McClure River Ranch.

By Sharon Robb

Preliminary action begins with two round robins at 10:30 a.m. and noon.

In the opening round robin, Santa Rita, Los Amigos Red and Mountain Chevrolet will play at McClure River Ranch Field 2. In the second round robin, La Karina, Victory and McClure River Ranch will play on Field One.

On Saturday the Just For The Love It Cup is 10 a.m. followed by Kidz Polo at 11 a.m.

The Craig Sakin Memorial continues Sunday at McClure River Ranch with the Just For The Thrill Of It Cup, the championship final and Just For The Fun Of It Cup. Game times will be determined after opening day.

Team lineups are:
Santa Rita: Melissa Ganzi, Vinny Sangaline, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini.

Mountain Chevrolet: Michael Payne, Alejandra Foster, Torito Ruiz, Sugar Erskine.

La Karina: Brian Boyd, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Alex Gooding.

Victory: Kevin Schmeits, Alejandro Poma, Tomacho Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres.

Los Amigos Red: Paul Foster, Martin Munos, Nacho Figueras, Nacho Novillo Astrada.

McClure River Ranch: Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Pancho Bensadon, Stewart Armstrong.

The winner of last year’s Craig Sakin Memorial was Casablanca (Lauren Sherry, Alex Gooding, Torito Ruiz, Grant Ganzi), 9-8 overtime winners over Victory (Kevin Schmeits, Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Stewart Armstrong). Ruiz was MVP and his horse, Pili, was Best Playing Pony.

The tournament is named in honor of Craig Sakin, who passed away on Feb. 11, 2014 at age 52. The former president of the Homeowners’ Association of Sopris Mountain Ranch, was instrumental in helping Marc and Melissa Ganzi secure their first polo field. In 2015, some of Sakin’s ashes were released over the polo field.

Sakin was a private equity investor and turnaround specialist. His personal interests included horses and the outdoors. Sakin owned Sugar Frosted Cat, a mare ranked by the National Reined Cow Horse Association, and Idocus, a Dutch Warm Blood stallion that competed in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympic Games for dressage and represented the U.S. in the World Cup. He was an avid and skilled hunter and skier, pursuing his passions around the world.

Aspen Valley Polo Club kicked off its ninth season two weeks ago. 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). Last weekend 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).

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

With the majestic 12,965-foot summit of Mount Sopris as a backdrop under a bright summer sky, polo has returned to the valley July through September with a record thirteen tournaments.

Other summer tournaments are Basalt Handicap, Emma Challenge Cup, High Alpine Cup, Mount Sopris Cup, Rocky Mountain Open, Carbondale Classic, Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen, Silver Queen Invitational, Maroon Bells Cup and Ute Challenge.

The highlight of the season is the Aug. 28th Summer Polo Benefit for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation. Last year’s event raised more than $500,000 after a year’s hiatus because of the pandemic. It is the club’s summer marquis event and one of the city’s most anticipated social summer events.

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

The family-friendly club welcomes spectators. All matches, food and refreshments are free and open to the public.

Last summer Aspen Valley Polo Club finished a successful and historic season in club and Rocky Mountain Circuit history and hopes to top that this season.

The 2021 tournament champions were: Independence Cup, La Karina (Sugar Erskine, Brian Boyd, Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan); ChukkerTV Challenge, NetJets (Michael Payne, Alex Gooding, Sugar Erskine, Nacho Figueras); Craig Sakin Memorial, Casablanca (Lauren Sherry, Alex Gooding, Torito Ruiz, Grant Ganzi); Basalt Handicap Cup, Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Grant Ganzi, Torito Ruiz, Jimmy Seward); Emma Challenge, Rancho Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Gussie Busch); High Alpine Cup, Santa Rita (Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Alejandra Foster, Lauren Sherry, Tomacho Pieres); Mount Sopris Cup, NetJets (Juan Bollini, Gussie Busch, Govinda Quish, Pablo Spinacci); Rocky Mountain Open, Casablanca (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Torito Ruiz); Carbondale Classic, White Claw (Waqaas Al-Siddiq, Vinny Sangaline, Gonzalito Pieres, Nacho Badiola); WPL Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen, Tonkawa (Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hildebrand, Gonzalito Pieres, Juan Bollini); and Silver Queen Invitational, NetJets (Brian Boyd, Juan Bollini, Nacho Figueras, Pablo Spinacci).

Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi resurrected the 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 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. The first lesson is free and polo scholarships are offered. For more information on tournaments or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or General 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, mountain biking, water rafting, swimming, fly fishing and golf.

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