By Sharon Robb
SAN DIEGO, Calif., September 6, 2018---For the third consecutive year in beach polo history, a major beach polo tournament will be staged on the west coast at the iconic Hotel Del Coronado.
This weekend’s Polo America Beach Polo Cup will feature several top players including top American player Nic Roldan, Argentine brothers Alejandro and Nacho Novillo Astrada, Pablo Dorignac and Carlitos Gracida, son of legendary Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida.
Last year in front of a record crowd, Porsche San Diego (Riley Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Mike Azzaro) defeated Westime (Melissa Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Alejandro Novillo Astrada), 9-6.
Ganzi, then 17, the youngest player in the 16-player field, was Most Valuable Player after scoring five goals in the final and nine goals overall. Ganzi will not compete this year since she is starting her freshman year at Georgetown University.
This year the Porsche San Diego Polo Team will be Ganzi's mother, Melissa Ganzi, 2, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 9, and Juan Bollini, 5. The team is rated at 16 goals.
The remaining teams are:
Aspen Valley Polo Team: (14) Grant Ganzi, 2, Juancito Bollini, 4, Alfredo Bigatti, 8.
U.S. Polo Assn.: (16) Chevy Beh, 3, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8, Carlitos Gracida, 5.
Viejas Casino and Resort Polo Team: (16) Marc Ganzi, 3, Nic Roldan, 8, Pablo Dorignac, 5.
Action gets under way Friday at 5 p.m. with Porsche San Diego playing U.S. Polo Assn. On Saturday, Viejas Casino and Resort plays Aspen Valley Polo Club at 12:45 p.m. On Sunday, the subsidiary is noon followed by the final at 2 p.m. and trophy presentation at 3:30 p.m.
Coronado has a long history with polo dating back to the early 1900s when John D. Spreckels first introduced polo to Coronado in 1909 with the Spreckels Cup Polo Challenge that is now played at San Diego Polo Club.
The legendary Hotel Del Coronado, the second largest wooden structure in the United States, has 128 years of history.
Polo America owner and event organizer Randy Russell worked on the event concept for fourteen months before launching it in 2016. Aspen Valley Polo Club (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Tincho Merlos) won the inaugural event with a 10-7 win over Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Julio Novillo Astrada).
The event since moved its dates from Labor Day Weekend and added several fun promotions.
"The visibility of this is totally different than what people are used to," Russell said. "We have gone over the top. The new dates this year came at the request of the Hotel Del Coronado. It's much easier to accommodate everybody the weekend following Labor Day.”
In addition to the polo games, polo lessons by the California Polo Club will be held 8 a.m.-noon and will be held all three mornings of the event.
Russell is also holding a sand sculpture event featuring six local artists. There will also be hot air balloons and tether rides. Fans will receive free beach polo hats on Friday. On Saturday, there will be modeling from Grayse Women's Fashions and Brady's Menswear.
The centerpiece is a massive 10,000 square foot VIP tent with ceiling fans and terraces.
The VIP Tent includes boxes on Millionaire’s Row; Gold VIP tables, located on the front row of the second terrace of the tent; and Silver tickets. Ticket prices range from $100 to $125 for Silver tickets, which includes two drink tickets; Gold Tickets are $250 each or $2500 for a table of 10, which includes a three-course luncheon and wine; while Millionaire’s Row box seats are $200 each or $2,000 for one of the luxurious boxes that feature white leather furniture with seating for 10. This category includes 20 drink tickets.
The event has an extensive list of sponsors. The Platinum Sponsor is the Hotel Del Coronado. Gold Sponsors include Porsche San Diego, Silver Seas Yachts, Discover Coronado, Grayse Women’s Fashions, Brady’s Menswear, Aspen Valley Polo Club and U.S. Polo Assn. Silver Seas Yachts will have a 54-foot yacht docked next to the VIP tent.
Russell said Ganzi family is the major supporter of Polo America’s Beach Polo, supplying 50 horses from their stables at Aspen Valley Polo Club in Carbondale, Colo. The horses will be stabled locally at San Diego Polo Club before the event.
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.
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.
Polo America is the oldest and largest marketing firm that specializes in promoting the sport of polo. The company’s expertise includes creating and producing a variety of world-class polo events throughout the U.S.