With the summer polo season winding down, Aspen Valley Polo Club will host its biggest weekend at McClure River Ranch.
By Sharon Robb
A tournament doubleheader is scheduled for Friday and Sunday with the Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen and Maroon Bells Cup.
The highlight of the weekend is Sunday’s Summer Polo Charity Classic 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.
Six teams will compete Friday in the two-day tournament. Preliminary round robin action for the ninth and tenth tournaments of the summer will be held at McClure River Ranch Fields 1 and 2.
At 10 a.m. on Field 1, Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, Alejandra Foster, Gonzalito Pieres, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) will play Victory (Kevin Schmeits, Vinny Sangaline, Torito Ruiz, Nacho Novillo Astrada) in the Maroon Bells Cup. It will be a continuous game with Friday’s score carrying into Sunday.
Also on Friday, four teams will compete in the Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen on Field 2. Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Jason Crowder, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan) plays McClure River Ranch (Lauren Sherry, Pablo Spinacci, Pancho Bensadon, Stewart Armstrong) at 11:30 a.m. followed by La Karina (Brian Boyd, Michael Payne, Gonzalito Pieres, Sugar Erskine) playing Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Juan Martin Nero) at 1 p.m.
Action continues on Sunday Funday with the Just For The Thrill Of It at 10 a.m., Maroon Bells Cup at 11:30 a.m., Kidz Wheely Polo at 1 p.m. and Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen.
Last year Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Juan Bollini) defeated NetJets (Alejandra Foster, Gussie Busch, Nic Roldan, Nacho Figueras), 9-8, in overtime to win the Aspen leg of the Triple Crown of Polo. Pieres was MVP.
In the Maroon Bells Cup, White Birch (Chris Brant, Grant Ganzi, Torito Ruiz, Mariano Aguerre) defeated Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Jimmy Seward, Nic Roldan, Nacho Novillo Astrada), 8-7, in the final. Aguerre was MVP.
The Triple Crown of Polo, an ESPN2 television series, was created in 2005 by David McLane, known for Pro Beach Hockey, Women of Wrestling and Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, to help promote polo in the U.S. The show was seen in 129 countries.
Designed by Tiffany & Co., the Triple Crown of Polo trophy is comprised of three separate trophies that fit perfectly together to create an entire polo scene that is breathtaking in sterling silver.
The spectacular trophy was created for the ESPN2 event that had stops at Sarasota Polo Club, Las Colinas Polo Club in Dallas and Santa Barbara Polo Club the first year in 2006 and Sarasota and New Bridge Polo and Country Club in Aiken, S.C. in 2007 during its heyday before it went on hiatus.
Tournament winners will be inscribed on the trophy and added to an impressive list of teams that feature several top players including Sebastian Merlos, Mike Azzaro, Tommy Biddle, Adam Snow, Nic Roldan, Matias Magrini, Jeff Hall, Mariano Gonzalez, Michel Dorignac and Kris Kampsen.
The Maroon Bells Cup is named after North America’s most photographed mountain peaks. Nestled in the Elk Mountains near Aspen and featuring great hiking trails and fishing holes, the iron-rich Maroon Bells are so beautiful that more than 300,000 people typically visit them in the summer months alone.
Aspen Valley Polo Club kicked off its ninth season eight 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).
Last weekend, NetJets (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini) won the NetJets Rocky Mountain Open with a 7-6 overtime win over Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres). Roldan earned his third MVP title of the season. Brookshire/Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Fran Spinacci, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Nacho Novillo Astrada) won the Carbondale Classic with a 6-5 win over La Karina (Brian Boyd, Pablo Spinacci, Pancho Bensadon, Stewart Armstrong) for third place. Nacho Novillo Astrada was MVP.
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 remaining are the Silver Queen Invitational and Ute Challenge.
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 are free and open to the public. Free food and refreshments are available on Sundays.
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.