By Sharon Robb
CARBONDALE, Colo., August 16, 2018---The summer polo season is winding down with the eighth grass tournament this weekend at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
A season-record six teams will compete in the Mount Sopris Cup, sponsored by the Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club, Friday and Sunday.
Argentine 10-goaler Sapo Caset will make his summer debut at Aspen Valley Polo Club along with his 17-goal team Tonkawa that also features Jeff Hildebrand, Mason Wroe, Jimmy Seward and alternate Whistle Uys.
Also making their first Aspen summer appearance are Guillermo (Billy) Steta, president of Mexico's Polo Federation; Nacho Badiola and Toto Colladrin.
Steta, an avid player throughout the world and ambassador for polo, is spearheading a move to get polo into the Pan American Games which could pave the way for the sport's return to the Olympic Games.
Two round robins are scheduled for Friday. The first round robin featuring Mexico, La Karina and Mandarina will play 11 a.m. MST at Sopris Mountain Ranch. La Karina, coming off last Sunday's Rocky Mountain Open win, has won three titles this season.
The second round robin with Tonkawa, Mandarina White and Los Amigos will play at 3:30 p.m. at High Mesa Field.
The team rosters are:
La Karina: (14) Brian Boyd, Toto Colladrin, Pablo Dorignac, Alex Gooding.
Los Amigos: (15) Paul Foster, Kris Kampsen, Nacho Badiola, Stewart Armstrong.
Mandarina Black: (16) Melissa Ganzi, Alejandra Foster, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Nacho Novillo Astrada.
Mandarina White: (16) Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini.
Mexico: (14) Billy Steta/Eloy Vallinna, Lucas Lalor, Juan Bollini, Carlitos Gracida.
Tonkawa: (17) Jeff Hildebrand/Whistle Uys, Mason Wroe, Sapo Caset, Jimmy Seward.
On Sunday, the Mount Sopris Cup final will be played at 10 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. depending on which teams advance. The "Just For The Love Of It" subsidiary game is 1 p.m.
The weekend tournaments' sponsor, Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club is located along the Riviera Nayarit, nearly a 200-mile stretch of coastline in the Western Mexican state of Nayarit. The Mexican club and Aspen Valley Polo Club have partnered to benefit both clubs' growing membership with VIP access.
In last season's Mount Sopris Cup final, Travieso (Teo Calle, Tony Calle, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Marc Ganzi) defeated Mexico (Billy Steta, Grant Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Juancito Bollini), 10-6, to win the five-team, three-day tournament. Novillo Astrada was named Most Valuable Player.
The Mount Sopris Cup is the eighth outdoor tournament and tenth overall of the summer polo season at AVPC.
The Mount Sopris Cup is named after after the most impressive part of the Elk Mountains that create an impressive backdrop for the town of Carbondale.
On Saturday at 11 a.m. at Sopris Mountain Ranch, the Sopris Saturday Match will feature the 4-Chukker Challenge Cup between Mandarina White (Michael Payne, Riley Ganzi/Santos Bollini, Lucas Lalor, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) against Mandarina Black (Eloy Vallinna, Billy Steta, Juan Bollini, Carlitos Gracida).
For the sixth consecutive Sunday doubleheader local firefighters and first responders will be honored during AVPC's "Polo Cares" initiative. Each Sunday through Labor Day Weekend, firefighters and their families will be acknowledged on AVPC's featured game day. 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 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.
Last year Casablanca was the club's winningest team with three tournament wins during the summer season. La Karina already has three tournament titles this season.
Other grass tournament winners are: Piocho Ranch won the Independence Cup and Craig Sakin Memorial; Los Amigos Blue won the ChukkerTV Challenge; La Karina won the Basalt Handicap, Emma Challenge Cup and Rocky Mountain Cup; and Los Amigos Red won the High Alpine Cup.
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.
This summer's 13-tournament schedule features ten grass tournaments including the inaugural Aug. 31-Sept. 2 Triple Crown of Polo Trophy and three arena tournaments. It will be the first year the club will host a tournament on Labor Day Weekend during the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience.
This will also be the first season players will compete for the coveted Triple Crown of Polo. The three legs will be held at Denver Polo Club, Aspen Valley Polo Club and finish in Wellington this fall. Designed by Tiffany & Co., the Triple Crown of Polo is comprised of three separate trophies that fit perfectly together to create an entire polo scene that is breathtaking in sterling silver.
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, The Polo School and Polo On Demand. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.
"We want to make Aspen Valley Polo Club the place for this Valley," said co-owner Marc Ganzi, who grew up in Aspen. "The gates are open, the food is free, the drinks are free and your first polo lesson is free if you want to come take one and try the game. Our approach is come as you are. We prefer flip flops over high heels. We just want to get people to appreciate the horses and the Valley."
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 such as 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.
All ages are welcome to enjoy polo at Aspen Valley Polo Club. Admission, food and refreshments are free for fans in a relaxed, laidback atmosphere. An added feature is the club's Jumbotron which made its debut this summer for the fans' enjoyment.
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.