By Sharon Robb
CARBONDALE, Colo., August 5, 2018---It took only one chukker for Los Amigos Red to get the chemistry going in the final of the High Alpine Cup.
After falling behind 3-1 in the opening chukker, Los Amigos Red (Alejandra de la Vega, Kris Kampsen, Nic Roldan, Paul Foster) shut out Casablanca (Alex Gooding, Grant Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Juancito Bollini) in the next two chukkers and controlled most of the game for an impressive 9-7 victory in front of a good crowd Sunday at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
The tournament victory marked the summer polo debut of Kris Kampsen, coming off the Greenwich, Conn. season, and Roldan, coming off the British season and Westchester Cup. It was also the second tournament victory for the El Paso, Tex.-based Los Amigos organization.
"It's always good to be here, Aspen is a special place," Roldan said. "That was a tough game. We were lucky to come out on top and pull through. We started off a little shaky but Paul scored some great goals and Alejandra played some great defense."
Husband and wife Paul Foster and Alejandra de la Vega played well together and had instant chemistry with two of the sport's top players.
Paul Foster, who scored three goals playing the back position, was named Most Valuable Player.
Matsu, a 6-year-old bay mare, bred and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, and ridden by Lalor in the sixth chukker, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Foster shared leading scoring honors with Roldan, who also had three goals. Kampsen added two and De La Vega had one.
Lalor scored a game-high four goals for Casablanca. Gooding, Ganzi and Bollini each had one goal.
It was all Casablanca in the first chukker with Ganzi picking up a loose ball and scoring with Roldan defending; Lalor finding Gooding open on a pass with 3:40 left for a 2-0 lead and Lalor scoring on a 100-yarder through the air for a 3-1 advantage. Roldan scored his team's only goal late in the chukker.
The momentum quickly shifted in the second chukker with Foster scooping up Roldan's missed shot and scoring a quick goal early to cut the lead to one. De La Vega converted a 30-yard penalty to tie the game at 3-3.
Los Amigos Red went on to shut out Casablanca in back-to-back chukkers to take a 4-3 halftime lead. Los Amigos Red continued to play with confidence in the second half while Casablanca struggled to find its passing game and offensive attack.
Casablanca showed life early in the fifth chukker with a long goal from Bollini and coast-to-coast goal run by Lalor to tie the game at 6-6. However, Los Amigos Red never lost its composure with Roldan scoring back-to-back goals to regain the lead, 8-6.
Kampsen's goal with 3:44 left in the sixth chukker gave Los Amigos Red a 9-6 advantage with 3:44 and Casablanca, which had its share of scoring opportunities from the field and penalty line, was unable to rally.
"We have been playing well, today we did not play well," Bollini said. "Yesterday I was hitting the ball fine and today I couldn't hit the ball more than 60 yards."
To warm up for the game and acclimate to the altitude, Roldan and Kampsen, who arrived in the last few days, went hiking in the morning.
"I don't know if Kris is acclimated yet," Roldan said with a smile. "In the middle of the game he said he was going to kill me. He was so dead after going hiking. I don't think he is quite ready yet."
Added Kampsen, "It's great to be back in Aspen. The polo was really fun today. The fields were great. I feel good. It's better to be down here than up at the Ute with Nic this morning. Never again on game morning."
In the Just For The Love If It subsidiary game, La Karina (Brian Boyd, Pablo Dorignac, Carlitos Gracida, Stewart Armstrong) bounced back from its opening round loss, defeating Aspen Valley Polo Club (Riley Ganzi/Santos Bollini, Melissa Ganzi, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini), 10-9.
Boyd scored a team-high five goals to lead La Karina, winners of two tournaments. Dorignac and Gracida each had two goals and Armstrong added one.
Melissa Ganzi and Novillo Astrada shared high scoring honors with four each for Aspen Valley Polo Club. Riley Ganzi scored one goal.
The lead changed hands nine times and Aspen Valley Polo Club led by as many as three goals (6-3 in the third chukker) before La Karina, trailing 9-8 after five chukkers, took control despite a brief rain shower, and the lead for good with goals from Boyd and Dorignac while shutting down Aspen Valley Polo Club.
For the fourth 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 will be 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.
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.
The High Alpine Cup was the sixth tournament of the 13-tournament schedule that features ten grass tournaments including the inaugural Aug. 31-Sept. 2 Triple Crown of Polo Trophy and three arena tournaments.
Piocho Ranch won the Independence Cup and Craig Sakin Memorial; Los Amigos Blue won the ChukkerTV Challenge; and La Karina won the Basalt Handicap and Emma Challenge.
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 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 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.