The season-opening Independence Cup lived up to expectations Sunday at McClure River Ranch.
After three competitive round robin games, Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Marc Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Tomacho Pieres) won the coveted trophy for the first time in team history.
Los Amigos defeated Casablanca (Alejandra Foster, Grant Ganzi, Torito Ruiz, Nic Roldan), 6-2, to clinch the victory on goal differential in the third and final round robin game.
In earlier games, Los Amigos rallied to tie NetJets (Melissa Ganzi, Nacho Figueras, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini), 5-5, in the opening three chukkers. NetJets defeated Casablanca, 6-3, in the second game.
Marc Ganzi, who scored four goals in three chukkers including two full field runs and two in the final chukker, was named Most Valuable Player.
„The match that was really interesting was the first one for us,“ Foster said. „We were down three goals (5-2) and we ended up coming back and we tied it. That was the one that was really tough. If we hadn‘t done that we wouldn‘t have been able to win.“
In the third and decisive game, Los Amigos jumped out to a 2-0 lead with back-to-back goals from Foster in the opening chukker and never trailed. With great passing team work from Gonzalito and Tomacho Pieres, Foster and Ganzi took turns scoring in the second and third chukkers for 2-1 leads in each chukker.
Foster, who has been tuning up in practice games during the spring in El Paso, Tex., has played with all three of his teammates in past summer tournaments.
„I think we all felt pretty good,“ Foster said. „We played a little bit this spring trying to get ready so I think we are probably a little more ready than we usually are. It was fun. My wife was on the other side so I couldn‘t celebrate too much. We always have good-natured fun with each other out there.
„I have played with both Gonzalito and Tomacho before and they are both amazing,“ Foster said. „They played well as expected. The one that I think really excelled today was Marc. I think it‘s the best I have ever seen him play. I was actually hitting shots which is a little unusual for me. The four of us were just able to put it together today.“
In the opening game, NetJets led 3-1 after the first chukker and 5-2 with 1:18 left in the second chukker. Los Amigos rallied and outscored NetJets, 4-2, scoring three consecutive goals in the final two chukkers to finish in a 5-5 tie.
In the second game, NetJets dominated Casablanca, 6-3, behind three goals by Melissa Ganzi. With 3:28 left in the second chukker, Astrada connected with Ganzi on a 140-yard pass for Ganzi‘s second goal of the chukker. Two minutes later, Ganzi passed to Bollini who scored from 90 yards out to take a 4-1 lead.
Figueras escaped serious injury in the third chukker when he slipped off his horse while reaching out of his saddle to hook Grant Ganzi.
With the majestic 12,965-foot summit of Mount Sopris as a backdrop under a bright summer sky, polo returned to the valley for its ninth season with the first of a record thirteen tournaments.
„It looks like it‘s going to be a great summer,“ Foster said. „We have a full compliment of pros and players. It‘s nice to get started with a win at the beginning of July.“
Other summer tournaments are this week‘s ChukkerTV Cup, Craig Sakin Memorial, 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.
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.
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.
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.
By Sharon Robb
Photos by Nick Tininenko
2022 Aspen Valley Polo Club Schedule
ChukkerTV Cup 7/6 – 7/10
Craig Sakin Memorial 7/13 – 7/17
Basalt Handicap 7/20 – 7/24
Emma Challenge Cup 7/27 – 7/31
High Alpine Cup 8/3 – 8/7
Mount Sopris Cup 8/10 – 8/14
Rocky Mountain Open 8/12 – 8/21
The Carbondale Classic 8/19-8/21
Triple Crown of Polo – Aspen 8/24-8/28
Silver Queen Invitational 8/31 – 9/4
Maroon Bells Cup TBD
Ute Challenge TBD
Arena Tournaments & Asado – Tuesday Evenings
Kids Wheely Polo games during select tournament halftimes
Summer Polo Benefit for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation
Sunday August 28, 2022