Brothers Nacho Novillo and Alejandro Novillo Astrada of Mandarina work together against Juan Bollini of Mexico.   

Brothers Nacho Novillo and Alejandro Novillo Astrada of Mandarina work together against Juan Bollini of Mexico.

By Sharon Robb

CARBONDALE, Colo., August 18, 2018---Two teams making their debut will play for the Mount Sopris Cup, sponsored by the Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club, Sunday at Aspen Valley Polo Club.

Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Wesley Uys, Sapo Caset, Mason Wroe), at 17 goals the highest ranked team in the six-team field, will play Mandarina Dark (Alejandra De La Vega, Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Nacho Novillo Astrada) at 16 goals.

The much-anticipated final will be the first of three games at 10 a.m. 

The tripleheader continues at 11:30 a.m. with the "Just For The Fun Of It" Cup featuring Los Amigos Red (Stewart Armstrong, Kris Kampsen, Nacho Badiola, Paul Foster) against Mexico (Lucas Lalor, Carlitos Gracida, Billy Steta/Eloy Vallina, Juan Bollini).

At 1 p.m., in the "Just For The Love Of It" Cup, La Karina (Brian Boyd, Alex Gooding, Pablo Dorignac, Toto Collardin) plays Mandarina White (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini).

On Saturday at 11 a.m. at Sopris Mountain Ranch, the Sopris Saturday Match will feature the Sopris Mountain Ranch Challenge Cup between Mandarina White (Michael Payne, Riley Ganzi/Santos Bollini, Lucas Lalor, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) against Mandarina Black (Eloy Vallina, Billy Steta, Juan Bollini, Carlitos Gracida).

In the opening round robin qualifier Friday morning at Sopris Mountain Ranch, Mandarina Dark defeated Mexico, 6-3, and tied La Karina, 2-2. In the third game, Mexico defeated La Karina, 4-2.

Alejandro Novillo Astrada led Mandarina Dark with four goals while his older brother Nacho Novillo Astrada had three and Melissa Ganzi added one goal in six chukkers.

After a 2-2 opening chukker, Mandarina Dark shut out Mexico, 2-0, in the second chukker to take a 4-2 lead and never trailed after that. With La Karina leading 2-1 after the second chukker, Nacho Novillo Astrada converted a penalty-three to end the game in a 2-2 tie. In the other game, Mexico led from start-to-finish behind Lalor's three goals and Gracida's penalty-three conversion.

For six chukkers, Lalor finished with three goals and Gracida and Bollini each had two goals for Mexico. For La Karina, Collardin had two goals. Gooding and Dorignac each had one.

In the second round robin qualifier later in the afternoon at High Mesa, Tonkawa defeated Los Amigos Red, 7-5 and tied Mandarina White, 4-4. In the other game, Los Amigos Red defeated Mandarina White, 5-2.

Caset, the first 10-goaler to compete this summer in Aspen, scored a tournament-high six goals for six chukkers. Hildebrand had three goals and Wroe added two goals. 

For Los Amigos Red, Armstrong and Kampsen each had three goals and Badiola and Foster each had two goals. Roldan led Mandarina White with four goals and Marc and Grant Ganzi each had one goal.

Tonkawa was dominant from the opening chukker taking a 3-1 lead in the first chukker and 6-2 after two chukkers. Tonkawa was leading Mandarina White, 4-2 going into the final chukker. Roldan and Marc Ganzi scored goals to finish the game at 4-4.

After a 1-1 opening chukker, Los Amigos Red shut out Mandarina White, 2-0, in the second chukker and never trailed after that.

The tournament  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, 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. Nacho 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.

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 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.

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.