NetJets won the NetJets Rocky Mountain Open in an overtime thriller Monday at McClure River Ranch Stadium.
By Sharon Robb
NetJets (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini) knocked off Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres), 7-6, in overtime.
Nic Roldan scored the winning goal with 5:51 remaining in overtime and was named Most Valuable Player for the third time during the summer polo season. He was also MVP for the Emma Challenge and ChukkerTV Cup.
“That was a lot of fun,” Roldan said. “I’m happy we won it. It was a really tough game. This was one of the toughest tournaments. All the teams were evenly balanced and very competitive.
“Today was tough. I don’t think we played our best game. I think we got a little lucky in the end.”
Florencia, played by Gonzalito Pieres, was selected Best Playing Pony.
The game was mostly a defensive battle with the lead changing hands five times. Tonkawa took the lead in the third chukker and led by one or two goals until Crowder tied the game at 6-6. With 2:30 left, Crowder took a long pass from Roldan and scored on an incredible nearside neck shot.
Both teams had scoring opportunities in the final 1:07 minutes of regulation play but could not take advantage.
In overtime, Melissa Ganzi came up with the throw-in and drew the foul against Tonkawa setting up Roldan’s 60-yard penalty conversion heroics, lofting it through the goal posts at 5:51.
“I hit one 60 before in the game and hit it badly,” Roldan said. “I had been practicing them in the Thursday practices at Rose Spur. I just focused. I have been in that position before. It was just going through the same motions and not trying to kill it and trying to hit it in the middle of the goal.”
Roldan and Crowder shared leading scorer honors, each with three goals. Ganzi added one. For Tonkawa, Gonzalito Pieres led with three goals, Tomacho Pieres had two and Marc Ganzi had one.
For the sixth consecutive week, fans were treated to 18 chukkers after rain and wet fields moved Sunday action to Monday.
In the Carbondale Classic, Brookshire/Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Fran Spinacci, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Nacho Novillo Astrada) defeated La Karina (Brian Boyd, Pablo Spinacci, Pancho Bensadon, Stewart Armstrong), 6-5, for third place.
Nacho Novillo Astrada was named Most Valuable Player. Ensenada Raptor, played by Pablo Spinacci and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was Best Playing Pony.
In a defensive battle, the lead changed hands nine times before Brookshire/Mountain Chevolet took a two-goal lead, 6-4 with 1:13 left in the sixth chukker after Fran Spinacci, playing in his summer final debut, converted a 40-yard penalty. Bensadon scored the final goal with four seconds left.
Nacho Novillo Astrada led Brookshire/Mountain Chevrolet scoring with three goals and Payne added two. Bensadon led La Karina with two goals.
In the Just For The Thrill Of It Cup at the Aspen Valley Polo Club barn field, Los Amigos (Inda Pieres/Lorenzo Nero, Alejandra Foster, Sugar Erskine, Juan Martin Nero) defeated Victory (Kevin Schmeits, Grant Ganzi, Torito Ruiz, Nacho Figueras/Artemio Figueras), 10-9, in blustery weather conditions in the final game of the day. With the game tied 9-9 on Lorenzo Nero’s goal at the 2:45 mark, Alejandra Foster scored the winning goal with 1:20 left in the final chukker. Foster finished the game with three goals.
In Friday’s opening day qualifying round robin action, NetJets advanced with a 3-3 tie with Brookshire and 7-2 victory over Los Amigos. Tonkawa advanced with a 4-3 win over La Karina and 4-1 win over Victory.
Six teams competed over two days in the eighth and ninth tournaments of the season.
Aspen Valley Polo Club kicked off its ninth season on July 3. Los Amigos and Brookshire have each won two tournaments.
“It’s been a very successful summer for the polo club,” Roldan said. “It had a great turnout and lot of great sponsors and players. Everyone is having a great time. We have had some really competitive weekends and the fields are playing great. It’s always fun to be in Aspen, it’s a great place to be.”
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) also won the High Alpine Cup with a 6-4 win over Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Brian Boyd, Nacho Novillo Astrada/Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Jason Crowder). Pieres 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 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). Roldan earned his second MVP award of the season.
Last weekend La Karina (Lauren Sherry, Brian Boyd, Torito Ruiz, Tomacho Pieres) won the Mount Sopris Cup with a 9-8 victory over NetJets (Melissa Ganzi, Vinny Sangaline, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini). Ruiz was MVP.
Other summer tournaments are Sunday’s Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen and Maroon Bells Cup, Silver Queen Invitational and Ute Challenge.
The highlight of the season is Sunday’s Summer Polo Charity Classic for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation. It is the club’s summer marquis event and one of the city’s most anticipated social summer events. Last year’s event raised more than $500,000 after a year’s hiatus because of the pandemic.
Wellington, Fla.-based ChukkerTV is live streaming the entire 2022 polo season Mountain Standard Time with announcer Dale Schwetz calling the action.
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, Kidz Wheely Polo, Gymkhana, 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. 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.