By Sharon Robb
CARBONDALE, Colo., August 12, 2018---La Karina won its third tournament of the summer polo season on Sunday at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
In front of a soldout VIP tent, La Karina (Brian Boyd, Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Stewart Armstrong) took the lead in the third chukker and never trailed for a thrilling 8-5 victory over Aspen Valley Polo Club (Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Eloy Vallina/David Vallina, Juan Bollini) to capture the Rocky Mountain Open.
La Karina, last year's Rocky Mountain Open runner-up, is now the club's winningest team after capturing the Basalt Handicap, Emma Challenge and Rocky Mountain Open. Last season La Karina won two tournaments.
Roldan, one of the nation's top-rated players, earned Most Valuable Player honors.
"It was a great, tough match," Roldan said. "Aspen Valley Polo Club was obviously a good team. We had a good solid offense with Brian up there and Marc scoring goals. It was fun."
Rebecca, a 15-year-old chestnut mare, played by Melissa Ganzi and owned by Wellington-based Santa Rita Polo Farm, was selected Best Playing Pony. Rebecca was bred by the Novillo Astrada breeding farm in Argentina.
Stewart Armstrong was named the Flexjet Defensive Player of the Game for his outstanding play in the back including turning away three potential goals.
For La Karina, Roldan scored a game-high four goals. Ganzi had two goals and Boyd added one goal. Melissa Ganzi and Novillo Astrada led AVPC with two goals each. Bollini scored one.
Behind Novillo Astrada and Bollini goals, Aspen Valley Polo Club took a 2-1 lead after a fast-paced first chukker. La Karina turned on its stingy defense, shutting out AVPC in the second and third chukkers to take a 4-2 halftime lead. La Karina never trailed after that.
The teams tied 1-1 in the fourth and fifth chukkers and La Karina outscored AVPC, 2-1, in the final chukker to ice the victory. AVPC had its share of scoring opportunities in the final chukker but could not take advantage.
The big winner, however, was the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, benefitting from the club's marquis event, Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar fundraiser featuring great food, great polo and great fun, several local vendors and silent auction which included a trip to the Fiji Islands and Rolex watches. Last year's event raised $366,000.
"We are just delighted that everybody is here for a wonderful day of polo," said Foundation President Deborah Breen. "We are so excited to be dedicating all these proceeds to the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation and terrific work going on there.
The Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, now entering its sixth year, is a non-profit solely focused on encouraging philanthropic support for the current and future needs of Aspen Valley Hospital.
In a spirited polo players auction, Juan Bollini and Marc Ganzi earned the highest bids with Bollini going at $25,001 and Marc Ganzi at $25,000. The highest bidders were invited to present the winning trophy to La Karina. Final totals raised will be announced by organizers this week.
La Karina, known for its colorful white and lime green jerseys unveiled during the 2016 season, is named after Boyd's wife, Karin, who is called Karina by family and close friends.
In the Just For The Love If It subsidiary game, Casablanca (Alejandra de la Vega, Grant Ganzi, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Juancito Bollini) dominated Los Amigos Red (Pablo Dorignac, Alex Gooding, Kris Kampsen/Carlitos Gracida, Paul Foster) for a 13-8 victory.
Juancito Bollini, with his big, booming hits, led Casablanca with five goals. Novillo Astrada had four goals and Ganzi and De La Vega each had two goals. Alex Gooding had a game-high six goals, including three in the final chukker, for Los Amigos Red. Dorignac and Kampsen each had one goal.
Casablanca jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the opening chukker and never trailed after that. Casablanca led 8-5 at the half and shut out Los Amigos Red in the fourth and fifth chukkers.
For the fifth consecutive Sunday doubleheader local firefighters and first responders were honored during AVPC's "Polo Cares" initiative. Each Sunday through Labor Day Weekend, firefighters and their families are acknowledged during AVPC's featured Sunday games. The club has donation boxes for anyone wishing to contribute to local fire and rescue stations. AVPC is matching all funds collected 100 percent. AVPC is showing 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.
The Rocky Mountain Open, the seventh outdoor tournament and ninth overall of the summer polo season, is named after the major mountain range in western North America that stretches more than 3,000 miles from British Columbia south to the Rio Grande in New Mexico. The eastern edge of the Rockies rise dramatically in the Interior Plains of central North America including Colorado's highest peak Mount Elbert with the highest peak of 14,440 feet above sea level.
Last year Casablanca was the club's winningest team with three tournament wins during the summer season.
In addition to La Karina's three wins this season, other title winners have been: Piocho Ranch in the Independence Cup and Craig Sakin Memorial; Los Amigos Blue in the ChukkerTV Challenge; and Los Amigos Red in the High Alpine Cup.
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.
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 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.