By Sharon Robb
CARBONDALE, Colo., July 22, 2018---Los Amigos Red won the inaugural Sopris Saturday on a picture-perfect day at Sopris Mountain Ranch.
In a close game, Los Amigos Red (Alejandra de la Vega, Gabriel Gracida, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Paul Foster) edged Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne/Mauro Amavet, Carlitos Gracida, Marc Ganzi, Juan Bollini), 9-8.
With 1:30 remaining and the game tied, 8-8, Astrada hit a long ball to Paul Foster who scored the game-winner. Foster, enjoying one of his finest seasons, was named Most Valuable Player.
Foster and his wife Alejandra de la Vega shared scoring honors with a game-high three goals each. Gracida had two goals and Astrada added one goal.
For Mountain Chevrolet, Payne, Gracida and Ganzi each had two goals. Bollini and Amavet, who played the second half, each had one goal.
The evenly-matched game was a see-saw battle for six chukkers. In one of the closest games of the summer season, the teams were tied 2-2 after the opening chukker. Mountain Chevrolet took a 3-2 lead on Carlitos Gracida's 150-yarder after the second chukker. Both teams were tied 5-5, 7-7 and 8-8 in the next three chukkers.
Both teams had their share of opportunities to break the tie in the final chukker but it was Los Amigos Red's Astrada to Paul Foster one-two punch that clinched the victory for the El Paso, Tex.-based team.
After Sopris Saturday, a large group of children of all ages from The Polo School, competed in the Kidz Challenge Cup and Polo Kidz Fiesta Cup. The young players got to put to good use what they are learning in The Polo School with instructors Melissa Ganzi and Juan Bollini.
By the looks of it they had fun and so did their parents. In the opening Kidz Challenge Cup, Polo School Green and Polo School Purple tied 2-2 in a spirited game on a shortened field. Santos Novillo Astrada scored both goals for Green while Ubi Colombo and Martina Novillo Astrada scored for Purple.
In the second game, Polo Kidz Fiesta Cup, Silvestre Novillo Astrada and Izzy Novillo Astrada led Polo School Yellow to a 2-1 win over Polo School Blue. Emmett Tamplin scored Blue's goal.
On Sunday at 11 a.m. MST at Aspen Valley Polo Club, American Polo Horse will play Los Amigos Blue in the Just For The Love Of It subsidiary game followed by the Basalt Handicap featuring Piocho Ranch and La Karina at 1 p.m.
Also on Sunday, firefighters will again be honored during AVPC's "Polo Cares" initiative. Each Sunday through Labor Day Weekend, firefighters, first responders and their families will be acknowledged on AVPC's featured game day. The club will also have donation boxes for anyone wishing to contribute to local fire and rescue stations. AVPC will match all funds collected 100 percent.
AVPC wants to show its appreciation and support of the hundreds of brave men and women who have been battling the third largest fire in Colorado history for nearly three weeks.
In last year's Basalt Handicap, Casablanca (Mariano Gracida, Grant Ganzi, Pablo Dorignac, Juancito Bollini) defeated Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Carlitos Gracida, Lucas Lalor, Jimmy Seward), 8-6, in the championship final. The Casablanca foursome shared Most Valuable Player honors.
The Basalt Handicap is named after the town that began as a railroad town and was named for the basaltic rock formation on Basalt Mountain. Basalt is a town in Eagle and Pitkin Counties.
Last year Casablanca was the club's winningest team with three tournament wins during the summer season. La Karina won two tournaments.
With the breathtaking 12,965-foot summit of Mount Sopris as a backdrop, Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the busiest and fastest growing USPA-sanctioned clubs in the nation with a membership increase of 75 percent over four seasons.
The Basalt Handicap is the fourth of 13 tournaments. The schedule features ten grass tournaments including the inaugural Aug. 31-Sept. 2 Triple Crown of Polo Trophy and three arena tournaments highlighted by the July 24-Aug. 7 USPA National Arena Handicap. It will be the first year the club will host a tournament on Labor Day Weekend during the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience.
Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi founded the club in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly grass and arena tournaments, Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids Polo and The Polo School. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.
In the last four years, Aspen Valley Polo Club has had a positive impact in the area hosting kids polo camps, teaching lessons and hosting several charitable events at the club that have benefitted local charities including last season's Champagne, Caviar & Chukkers fundraiser that raised $366,000 for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.
The Ganzis are avid players and patrons and "have created a polo paradise" according to Piocho player-sponsor Tom Barrack. Players, sponsors, community leaders and fans share Barrack's sentiments.
Everyone is welcome at Aspen Valley Polo Club. Admission, food and refreshments are free for fans in a relaxed, laidback atmosphere.
Aspen, named after trees that quiver in the slightest breeze, offers hiking, mountain biking, rafting, fishing, golf, horseback riding, mountain climbing, great restaurants and taverns in addition to a full summer of polo.