By Sharon Robb
CARBONDALE, Colo., August 30, 18---Aspen Valley Polo Club saved the best for last.
This 13-tournament season, featuring ten grass tournaments and three arena tournaments, comes to an end over Labor Day Weekend with the Triple Crown of Polo Tournament, Just For The Love Of It Subsidiary and Labor Of Love Challenge.
It is the first year the club is hosting tournaments over Labor Day Weekend during the three-day Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience featuring five-time Grammy winner Lionel Richie, Jack Johnson, Zac Brown Band, Gary Clark Jr., Michael Franti & Spearhead, The Record Company and Afie Jurvanen known as Bahamas.
It is the first season players are competing for the coveted Triple Crown of Polo. The final leg will be held at Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington in November.
Designed by Tiffany & Co., the magnificent trophy is comprised of three separate trophies that fit perfectly together to create an entire polo scene that is breathtaking in sterling silver.
The winning team's name will be inscribed on the trophy and added to an impressive list of teams that feature several top players including Sebastian Merlos, Mike Azzaro, Tommy Biddle, Adam Snow, Nic Roldan, Matias Magrini, Jeff Hall, Mariano Gonzalez, Michel Dorignac and Kris Kampsen, who along with Azzaro and Biddle, won with Team TresHijas.
The Triple Crown of Polo, a now-defunct ESPN2 television series, was created in 2005 by David McLane, known for Pro Beach Hockey, Women of Wrestling and Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, to help promote polo in the U.S. The spectacular trophy was created for the event that had stops in Sarasota, Dallas, Santa Barbara and Aiken during its heyday.
The tournament begins Friday with two qualifying games at Sopris Mountain Ranch. In the opening game at 11 a.m. MST, Mandarina will play Los Amigos followed by Woodrow Farm against La Karina at 12:15 p.m.
The winner advances to Sunday's championship final at 11 a.m. followed by the Just For The Love Of It subsidiary final at 1 p.m.
On Monday at 11 a.m., the Labor Of Love Challenge season-finale will be held on the club's newest polo field to wrap up the club's longest and most successful season.
Team rosters are:
La Karina (12): Alejandra de la Vega, Brian Boyd, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Carlitos Gracida.
Los Amigos (13): Paul Foster, Pablo Dorignac, Lucas Lalor, Stewart Armstrong.
Mandarina (13): Sarah Magness, Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini.
Woodrow Farm (15): Chris Finlay, Marc Ganzi, Tano Vial, Nic Roldan.
For the eighth and final weekend, local firefighters and first responders will be honored during AVPC's "Polo Cares" initiative. Every Sunday through Labor Day Weekend, firefighters and their families have been 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 is showing its appreciation and support of the hundreds of brave men and women who battled the third largest fire in Colorado history.
Last summer Casablanca was the club's winningest team with three tournament wins. La Karina and Los Amigos each have three tournament titles this season.
Other grass tournament winners were: 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; Los Amigos Red won the High Alpine Cup; Tonkawa won the Mount Sopris Cup; and Los Amigos won the Carbondale Classic.
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.
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 including the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation which raised a record $537,200 this summer.
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.