Aspen Valley Polo Club will celebrate another milestone when it opens its tenth season this summer.
By Sharon Robb
With the majestic 12,965-foot summit of Mount Sopris as a backdrop, polo returns to the valley when the club hosts eleven tournaments in July and August. The season opens with the traditional Independence Cup on July 5th.
The world’s destination spot for summer polo has attracted top players including Gonzalito Pieres, Nic Roldan, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Tomacho Pieres and Jason Crowder among others, as well as world-class horses.
The highlight of the season is the August 27th Summer Polo Charity Classic, benefitting the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation. It is the club’s summer marquis event and one of the city’s most anticipated social summer events. The event has raised $3 million since it began in 2016.
Other summer tournaments are the ChukkerTV Cup, Craig Sakin Memorial, Basalt Handicap, Emma Challenge Cup, High Alpine Cup, Mount Sopris Cup, Rocky Mountain Open, Carbondale Classic, Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen and Silver Queen Invitational.
“It’s a great place to come during the summer, improve your polo and get a lot better,” Crowder said. “We played some really good players including Gonzalito Pieres. It definitely helps playing against the best. The more people that know about the club, the more will be coming. I’m sold on it.”
The horses are scheduled to arrive early to acclimate to playing 7,908 feet above sea level. Much like elite athletes, horses benefit from playing in high altitude, enhancing blood oxygen-delivering capacity and improving vitality that has consistently translated to improved performance, aerobic power and stamina.
Last summer Aspen Valley Polo Club finished its most successful and historic season in club and Rocky Mountain Circuit history with a record 13 tournaments.
“Everything was so much fun,” Crowder said. “Everybody was such a good vibe at the club. Everybody got along so well. All the sponsors and players are friends, on and off the field. Even if you’re playing against somebody you are cracking jokes with them at halftime.”
Los Amigos won three tournaments and Brookshire and NetJets each 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). Roldan earned his third MVP title of the season.
In the Maroon Bells Cup, Victory (Kevin Schmeits, Vinny Sangaline, Torito Ruiz, Nacho Novillo Astrada) defeated Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, Alejandra Foster, Gonzalito Pieres, Alejandro Novillo Astrada), 20-19.
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.
Victory (Vinny Sangaline, Kevin Schmeits, Torito Ruiz, Pancho Bensadon) defeated Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Nic Roldan, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres), 11-9, to capture the second annual Silver Queen Invitational. Ruiz was MVP.
Wellington, Fla.-based ChukkerTV will live stream the entire 2023 polo season Mountain Standard Time with announcer Dale Schwetz calling the action.
The family-friendly club welcomes spectators. All matches, food and refreshments are free and open to the public.
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. 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.
When not playing or watching polo, there’s all kinds of outdoor activities in a true adventurer’s playground including hiking, mountain biking, water rafting, swimming, fly fishing and golf.