Victory knocked off Los Amigos to win its first major tournament of the summer polo season Sunday at McClure River Ranch.
By Sharon Robb
Victory (Vinny Sangaline, Kevin Schmeits, Torito Ruiz, Pancho Bensadon) led from start to finish to defeat Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Nic Roldan, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres), 11-9, to capture the second annual Silver Queen Invitational.
Los Amigos, the winningest team of the season, was going after its fourth tournament win. Victory, however, had other ideas.
Argentine 7-goaler Torito Ruiz, 24, making his final appearance in his third season in Aspen, was named Most Valuable Player for the second time this season. He was also MVP playing for La Karina in the Mount Sopris Cup. He left Monday to compete in Argentina.
“Torito played amazing,” Sangaline said. “He definitely deserved MVP for this game. He turned on the jet engine and let it rip. That’s what we told him to do and we would back him up just in case, but he really got the job done. He’s been playing really well. We’re excited for him to get out to Argentina and show those guys what he can do. It’s always an honor playing with him.”
Jabalina, played by Marc Ganzi and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was Best Playing Pony.
“We played a good game and were well-positioned, we played as a team on the field,” Ruiz said. “It was one of those days where I got lucky and didn’t miss. I think it went really, really well. Kevin and Vinny played amazing. With Pancho it’s so easy to play, he knows the game.”
Victory took control of the game early behind Ruiz’ offensive attack, Bensadon’s defense and father-son duo Schmeits and Sangaline playing well up front, defending and opening holes for Ruiz. “They made it easy for me,” Ruiz said.
Victory jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the first chukker and extended its lead to 4-2 after two chukkers and 6-3 at the half. Los Amigos tried digging itself out of a hole in the second half, but still trailed 8-5 after four and 10-6 after five chukkers.
Victory led by as many as five goals, 10-5, in the fifth and 11-6 early in the sixth before Los Amigos started reeling them in closing the gap to 11-9 in the final minute of the game.
“We have super great chemistry as a team,” Sangaline said. “We won every game up to the final. We had great fun polo. Los Amigos is a great group of guys. We all had a great time. It was great having Torito and Pancho rotating as quarterbacks and being the pushing force to get the job done.”
Victory finished with 21 goals for the tournament.
“It feels really great to win,” Sangaline said. “It’s been an amazing season in Aspen with a ton of fun players. I’ve made it to the finals three or four times, but never got to take the cake away. It feels really good to win our last tournament of the season with my favorite team.”
Ruiz scored a game-high eight goals, including five in the first half. Bensadon added two and Sangaline had one. Ganzi scored a team-high six goals. Roldan had two and Pieres added one.
Sangaline and his father have played together for eight years.
“We just know each other so well on the field, how to communicate and how to play and what each other is capable of,” Sangaline said. “Playing with my dad is a ton of fun, it’s always super positive and it’s just a great way to end the season winning with him.”
In the Just For The Love Of It Cup, Mountain Chevrolet (Fran Spinacci, Michael Payne, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Nacho Novillo Astrada) defeated La Karina (Brian Boyd, Sugar Erskine, Juan Bollini, Jason Crowder), 8-3, in the final match to clinch the win and earn a beautifully-designed team award from Brazilian artist Romero Britto of Miami.
In earlier round robin games, Mountain Chevrolet shut out Casablanca (Alejandra Foster, Santos Bollini, Grant Ganzi, Juan Martin Nero), 2-0, and La Karina edged Casablanca, 4-3. Alejandro Novillo Astrada, who scored three goals in the final game, was MVP.
In Friday’s opening day, Victory advanced into the final with a 7-3 win over La Karina and 3-3 tie with Casablanca in round robin play. Los Amigos edged Mountain Chevrolet, 7-6, with Tomacho Pieres scoring the winning goal with 1:15 left in the game.
Five teams competed over two days in the 12th tournament of the season. The tournament is named after the Silver Queen Gondola. The popular gondola takes about 15 minutes to get to the top of the 11,212-foot Aspen Mountain and offers spectacular views of the Maroon Bells Mountain.
Aspen Valley Polo Club kicked off its ninth season on July 3. Los Amigos has won three tournaments and Brookshire won two tournaments. Los Amigos won the season-opening Independence Cup, High Alpine Cup and Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen making the Texas-based team the winningest team this season.
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. Its biggest victory was the Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen where Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Jason Crowder, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan) defeated defending champion Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Juan Martin Nero), 5-4.
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.
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.
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).
Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Jason Crowder, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan) defeated defending champion Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Juan Martin Nero), 5-4, to win the coveted Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen. Grant Ganzi was MVP.
The Sept. 10 Ute Challenge will wind up the summer polo season.
Wellington, Fla.-based ChukkerTV has been live streaming the 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.