By Sharon Robb
CARBONDALE, Colo., July 29, 2018---With Riley Ganzi, Nacho Figueras, Malcolm Borwick and Ashley Van Metre Busch playing, Aspen Valley and Grand Champions Polo Clubs were well-represented at the recent Sentebale ISPS Handa Polo Cup at Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club.
The Sentebale St. Regis team of Busch, Prince Harry, Figueras and Miguel Mendoza won 5-4 over Royal Salute that featured team captain Malcolm Borwick, Saad Audeh, Chet Lott and Ganzi, at 18, the youngest player on the field.
"I was unbelievably honored to have played in the Sentebale Polo Cup, which raises funds for Prince Harry's charity to support the mental and physical health of children affected by HIV in southern Africa," said Ganzi, headed to Georgetown in the fall.
"Polo is such a special sport due to the unique opportunities and global community it has led me to," Ganzi said.
Ganzi and Figueras are currently playing summer polo at Aspen Valley Polo Club. Figueras also plays annually in the Great Futures Celebrity Polo Match at Grand Champions. Borwick, a third generation polo player and polo ambassador for Royal Salute, and Busch have competed in league play at Grand Champions.
Busch's husband and family cheered her on and later tweeted watching her play with the Prince "was a top five moment in my life."
"I got teary-eyed just watching it," said former NASCAR champion auto racer Kurt Busch. "This is happening. This is Ashley playing with royalty."
Added Ashley Busch, "I feel so honored to have been a part of this match today and to give back to Sentebale for all of their great efforts. It is an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget."
In 2016, Ganzi's parents Melissa and Marc were honored to participate in Prince Harry's 2016 Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup at Valiente Farm in Wellington, Fla. Melissa Ganzi was a member of the winning team with Prince Harry, Borwick and Robert Jornayvaz.
Figueras and Prince Harry have been longtime friends on and off the polo field.
"It's always fun to help him and an honor to help raise money, which is what they use polo for, for charities, it's a wonderful thing," said Figueras, the Sentebale Ambassador and St. Regis team captain. More than $1 million was raised at the day-long event.
"Harry is the first to wake up, the first to fix a water leak, the first to lead the team," Figueras said. "He's been an inspiration for me in what it means to be a leader of our generation. I'm proud to play with him today."
The polo match, an annual event, raises funds and awareness for Sentebale, which works with children and teenagers in Lesotho and Botswana who have lost one or both parents to AIDs or contracted the disease themselves.
Prince Harry visited Lesotho during his gap year in 2004 and was inspired to start a charity two years later with the country's Prince Seeiso. Prince Harry's late mother Princess Diana spent much of her life helping to raise awareness in the fight against AIDs.
In the African language of Sesotho Sentebale means "Forget-Me-Not", a favorite flower of the late Princess Diana and promise that Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, made to the thousands of children infected with HIV in southern Africa.
In the last 12 months, Sentebale has significantly scaled up its program in Lesotho and expanded into Botswana, to deliver psychological and social support to 10-to-19-year-olds who are struggling to come to terms with living with HIV. The charity now reaches over 4,000 children and young people every month in Lesotho and Botswana.
"We launched Sentebale years ago in the Barbados," Prince Harry told the invitation-only crowd over lunch. "We've been to Abu Dhabi, Florida, Singapore, and I was hoping to avoid the stifling heat here in London. Sitting and watching polo is one thing. Riding a horse to chase a ball is quite another. But this virus is striking back as a result of complacency across the world. We are working hard to break down discrimination. We run clubs in Lesotho and Botswana to reach 4,000 children every month. We're giving kids the tools they need to lead long, happy, regular lives."
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, gave out the awards to the winning team after the match and then congratulated her husband with a kiss much to the delight of the crowd that echoed "Awww."
Along with event title sponsor ISPS Handa, other sponsors were St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Royal Salute, U.S. Polo Assn., Table Talk and Justerini & Brooks.
With the majestic 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.
Aspen Valley Polo Club, coming off its most successful season in club history, has a star-studded roster of players lined up for the summer to compete with and against patrons and amateur players including Figueras, Nic Roldan and brothers Nacho and Alejandro Novillo Astrada.
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 Barrack. Players, sponsors, community leaders and fans share Barrack's sentiments.
Aspen, named after trees that quiver in the slightest breeze, offers hiking, mountain biking, rafting, fishing, golf, horseback riding, great restaurants and taverns in addition to a full summer of polo.