M.A.G. Polo held off NetJets to capture the Craig Sakin Memorial Sunday at McClure River Ranch.
By Sharon Robb
M.A.G. Polo (Govinda Quish, Dominic State, 2, Nic Roldan 8, Jason Crowder, 5) defeated NetJets (Santos Bollini, 2, Marc Ganzi, 1, Nacho Figueras 5, Hilario Figueras, 5), 8-7, to win the two-day, five-team tournament.
American 8-goaler Nic Roldan scored a game-high four goals and came up with key defensive plays in the final minutes to earn Most Valuable Player.
“Honestly, it was one of the best games I’ve played at the club,” Roldan said. “MVP is nice but for me you want to win games. You want to play well and you want the horses to go well. And today was one of those days.”
Chancho Va., owned and played in the sixth chukker by Hilario Figueras, was Best Playing Pony.
NetJets, after trailing 7-3 in the fourth chukker, started digging itself out of a hole in the fifth chukker. Nacho Figueras’ goal with four minutes left in the sixth chukker cut M.A.G.’s lead to one, 8-7.
NetJets had its share of scoring opportunities in the final minutes including a safety attempt with 47 seconds left that went short. Roldan and Crowder came up with some outstanding defensive plays to preserve the win.
“For sure 100 percent if they had made that safety it was a different game,” Roldan said. “We kind of let them back in the game a little bit.
“The game was fast-paced and open,” Roldan said. “It was a good, even game. I’m very happy to win, it’s always fun to win. It was a good game. NetJets played a good game. Our lead at the beginning was a tough one to come back after.”
In Friday’s qualifiers, M.A.G. advanced with 5-1 and 6-3 wins over Mountain Chevrolet in the round robin. NetJets defeated Santa Rita 14-8 in a regulation game.
It was Crowder’s second consecutive Craig Sakin Memorial tournament win. Last season in a wild finish, McClure River Ranch(Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Pancho Bensadon, Stewart Armstrong) held off Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, Vinny Sangaline, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini) in the final two minutes for a thrilling 9-8 victory.
“I thought Jason had a great game and probably should have been MVP,” Roldan said. “It was Govinda’s first time out there in a while and he played well and Dominic did well, too. The team went well. It was a fun day, great day for polo, great day for the club and a good win.”
Quish, an avid polo player, made a successful return to Aspen Valley Polo Club with his first tournament win of the summer season and celebrated his 50th birthday with family and friends.
The tournament is named in honor of Craig Sakin, who passed away on Feb. 11, 2014 at age 52. The former president of the Homeowners’ Association of Sopris Mountain Ranch, was instrumental in helping Marc and Melissa Ganzi secure their first polo field. In 2015, some of Sakin’s ashes were released over the polo field.
Los Amigos (Alejandra Foster/Fran Spinacci, Vinny Sangaline, Martin Jauregui, Nacho Novillo Astrada) clinched the Just For The Thrill Of It with a 5-2 win over Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Sugar Erskine/Pablo Spinacci, Tomacho Pieres, Stewart Armstrong) in the final three-chukker match of the round robin. Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, Tito Gaudenzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini) finished second and Mountain Chevrolet was third.
Reto Gaudenzi, the godfather of snow polo and polo visionary, made his Aspen Valley Polo Club debut on Saturday winning the Just For The Love It Cup. Reto’s Dream Team of Artemio Figueras, Fran Spinacci and Pablo Spinacci defeated Silver Astrada, Melissa Ganzi, Sugar Erskine and Juan Bollini, 6-5 with Fran Spinacci scoring the winning goal with eight seconds left.
Also on Sunday, after 15 chukkers of exciting polo, the One Arm Bandit John Payne & Company returned to AVPC to perform for fans.
The 2023 season has attracted some of the world’s top pro players including Martin Jauregui, making his Aspen debut; Gonzalito Pieres, Juan Martin Nero, Nic Roldan, Alejandro and Nacho Novillo Astrada, Tomacho Pieres, Nacho Figueras, Hilario Figueras, Sugar Erskine, Pablo Spinacci, Jason Crowder and Grant Ganzi, 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 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.
Two other 2023 champions have already been crowned. Victory Polo (Becky Schmeits, Grant Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini) won the Independence Cup with a 4-3 win over Mountain Chevrolet (Riley Ganzi/Santos Bollini, Michael Payne, Nic Roldan, Jimmy Seward). In the ChukkerTV Cup final, Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, Tito Gaudenzi, 2, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7, Juan Bollini, 3) defeated Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Jimmy Seward, 3, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Martin Jauregui, 6), 9-7.
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.
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.
Wellington, Fla.-based ChukkerTV (CTV sports) will live stream the entire 2023 polo season Mountain Standard Time with announcer Dale Schwetz calling the action. Aspen Valley Polo Club is the only USPA club live streaming its entire summer schedule.
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, Kids Polo, Kids 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 is for all ages and ability levels amd 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, paddle boarding, water rafting, swimming, fly fishing and golf.