Tonkawa Joins Field For Emma Challenge That Begins Friday

Tonkawa will make its Aspen Valley Polo Club summer polo debut in the Emma Challenge that begins Friday.

By Sharon Robb

Tonkawa heads a seven-team field for the fifth tournament of the season.

Preliminary action gets under way at McClure River Ranch and Tonkawa.

In two games on Friday at 10 a.m. at McClure River Ranch, La Karina plays two-time tournament winner Brookshire on Field One and El Tiburon plays Los Amigos on Field Two.

Also on Friday at Tonkawa’s home field at 2 p.m., Tonkawa, Victory and McClure River Ranch will play a round robin. Tonkawa and Victory will play first and McClure River Ranch last.

For the four-team Bracket One, winners of each game will play off one chukker immediately following the games on Field 2. The winner of the one-chukker playoff advances to the final against the three-team Bracket Two round robin winner.

On another bustling Sunday, 18 chukkers will take place with the Just For The Thrill Of It Cup, Emma Challenge final and Just For The Fun Of It Cup at start times to be determined.

Sponsors and team rosters are:
La Karina (10): Melissa Ganzi, Brian Boyd, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini.

Brookshire (12): Alejandra Foster, Scott Wood, Jason Crowder, Pancho Bensadon.

El Tiburon (12): Collen Clark, Santos Bollini, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Alex Gooding.

Los Amigos (11): Paul Foster, Vinny Sangaline, Tomacho Pieres, Nacho Figueras.

Tonkawa (13): Jeff Hildebrand, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Jimmy Seward.

Victory (13): Kevin Schmeits, Michael Payne, Sugar Erskine, Torito Ruiz.

McClure River Ranch (13): Marc Ganzi, Alejandro Poma, Gonzalito Pieres, Stewart Armstrong.

The winner of last year’s Emma Challenge was Ranchos Los Amigos (Gussie Busch, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini, Paul Foster), 8-7 winners over NetJets (Alejandra Foster, Vinny Sangaline, Nacho Figueras, Pablo Spinacci). Busch was MVP.

The Emma Challenge is named after the town of Emma, Colo., located on Highway 82 between Carbondale and Aspen.

Emma was once a sizable town in the past. The three buildings on the north side of the road are on the state historical register and preserved site. There is a church directly across the highway on the north side. There is a small trail on the north side of the road taking visitors up to the site.

Aspen Valley Polo Club kicked off its ninth season four 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).

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). 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).

Brookshire (Scott Wood, Ale Poma, Nacho Figueras, Torito Ruiz) won its second tournament of the season in last weekend’s Basalt Handicap (Michael Payne, Stewart Armstrong, Nic Roldan, Alex Gooding) with a 12-7 win over Mountain Chevrolet.

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 thirteen tournaments.

Other summer tournaments are the 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.

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, 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, mountain biking, paddle boarding, water rafting, swimming, fly fishing and golf.

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