By Sharon Robb
CARBONDALE, Colo., August 2, 2018---The sixth tournament and midway point of the summer polo season gets under way Friday at Sopris Mountain Ranch.
The High Alpine Cup, featuring four teams and AVPC summer season debut of Kris Kampsen and Nic Roldan, begins Friday with two games at Sopris Mountain Ranch.
The opening game at 10 a.m. features Los Amigos with husband and wife Paul Foster and Alejandra de la Vega, Kampsen and Roldan playing Aspen Valley Polo Club with Melissa Ganzi, Riley Ganzi, Nacho Novillo Astrada and Juan Bollini. Both teams are rated at 14 goals.
In the second game at 11 a.m., Casablanca with Alex Gooding, Grant Ganzi, Lucas Lalor and Juancito Bollini will play La Karina with Brian Boyd, Carlitos Gracida, Pablo Dorignac and Stewart Armstrong.
The winner advances into Sunday's final at 1 p.m. after the Just For The Love Of It subsidiary final at 11 a.m. Both games are at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
On Saturday at 11 a.m., also at Sopris Mountain Ranch, the Sopris Saturday Match will pit Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Hilario Figueras, Santos Bollini, Juan Bollini) against Sopris Mountain Ranch (Santos Novillo Astrada, Riley Ganzi, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Gabriel Gracida).
In last year's High Alpine Cup, Aspen Valley Polo Club (Ale Poma, Grant Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Juancito Bollini) ran away with the title with a stunning 14-9 victory over defending champion Travieso (Teo Calle, Marc Ganzi, Tony Calle, Mike Azzaro). The foursome led by as many as nine goals (14-5) in the fourth chukker. It was AVPC's first tournament win of the season and the fourth tournament win for Bollini and Ganzi as teammates.
For the fourth 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 are 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 won two tournaments and on track to better that total this season.
So far this season, Piocho Ranch won the Independence Cup and Craig Sakin Memorial; Los Amigos Blue won the ChukkerTV Challenge; La Karina won the Basalt Handicap and Emma Challenge 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.
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 brothers Nacho and Alejandro Novillo Astrada, two of the world's top players from Argentina and top American player Nic Roldan, coming off the Westchester Cup and British season.
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.
"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 the flip flops over the 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 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 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 making 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.