Argentine great Juan Martin Nero makes his summer polo debut as the NetJets Rocky Mountain Open begins Friday at McClure River Ranch.
By Sharon Robb
Six teams will compete Friday in the two-day tournament. Preliminary round robin action for the eighth tournament of the summer will be held at McClure River Ranch Fields 1 and 2 at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The winners advance into the NetJets Rocky Mountain Open and runners-up play for third place and the Carbondale Classic trophy.
On Sunday Funday, the Just For The Thrill Of It Cup at 10 a.m., Carbondale Classic at 11:45 a.m. and NetJets Rocky Mountain Open at 1:15 p.m. will keep polo fans entertained for 18 chukkers.
Argentine great Juan Martin Nero, 41, rated at 10 goals in the U.S. and Argentina and 9 goals in Great Britain, joins the star-studded field of pros competing this summer in Aspen. Nero is coming off the British season where he played the Prince of Wales Trophy final and British Open semifinal.
Ranked tenth in the world, Nero has won 11 Argentine Opens, nine Tortugas Opens, eight Hurlingham Opens, two U.S. Opens and two British Opens. His victory while playing for La Dolfina in 2015 made them the only team ever to win the Triple Crown for three years.
NetJets, new title sponsor of the Rocky Mountain Open, is the worldwide leader in private aviation, not only meeting the high flight demand, but seamless, reliable travel, a coveted luxury in today’s world. NetJets fleet operates at an optimum level at all times.
Team sponsors and rosters entered in the NetJets Rocky Mountain Open are:
Brookshire (15): Michael Payne, Scott Wood, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Nacho Novillo Astrada.
NetJets (16): Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini.
Tonkawa (17): Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres.
Los Amigos (16): Paul Foster, Alejandra Foster, Sugar Erskine, Juan Martin Nero.
Victory Polo (16): Kevin Schmeits, Grant Ganzi, Torito Ruiz, Nacho Figueras.
La Karina (15): Brian Boyd, Pancho Bensadon, Pablo Spinacci, Stewart Armstrong.
Last year’s Rocky Mountain Open winner was Casablanca (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Torito Ruiz) 10-6 winners over Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Jimmy Seward, Nic Roldan, Nacho Novillo Astrada). Pieres was MVP.
White Claw (Waqaas Al-Siddiq, Vinny Sangaline, Gonzalito Pieres, Nacho Badiola) won last year’s Carbondale Classic with an 8-7 win over Dundas (Sarah Siegel Magness, Gussie Busch, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini). Pieres earned his second MVP award of the day.
The Rocky Mountain Open is named after the Rocky Mountains, also known as the Rockies, formed 80 million years ago. They are a major mountain range and the largest mountain system in North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch 3,000 miles in straight-line distance from the northernmost part of western Canada to New Mexico in the southwestern United States. Of the 100 highest major peaks of the Rocky Mountains, 78 (including the 30 highest) are located in Colorado.
The Carbondale Classic is named after the picturesque town of Carbondale, where is Aspen Valley Polo Club is located in the heart of Colorado’s central Rocky Mountains located 170 miles west of Denver and 30 miles from Aspen. Carbondale takes its name from Carbondale, Pennsylvania, hometown of some of Carbondale’s early settlers. Carbondale’s economy was agriculturally-based. Farmers and ranchers capitalized on open lands around Carbondale to supply food for miners in nearby Aspen, then a booming center of silver mining activity.
Aspen Valley Polo Club kicked off its ninth season seven weeks ago. So far, Los Amigos and Brookshire have each 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.
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).
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 has returned to the valley July through September with a record number thirteen tournaments.
Other summer tournaments are the 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.
Last summer Aspen Valley Polo Club finished a successful and historic season in club and Rocky Mountain Circuit history and is on its way of topping that this season.
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.
The family-friendly club welcomes spectators. All matches, food and refreshments are free and open to the public.
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.