CARBONDALE, Colo., July 17, 2019---The coveted USPA North American Cup will make its debut at Aspen Valley Polo Club this week.
The club's first 20-goal tournament of the summer season moves from Wellington, Fla.-based Grand Champions Polo Club, where it has been held since 2011.
The USPA North American Cup has a rich tradition in history dating back to 1974. The tournament has been a mainstay in American and Canadian polo for decades at the 16 and 20-goal level.
The first winner was Tulsa with Hall of Famers John T. Oxley and Billy Linfoot, Corky Linfoot and Jim MacGinley. During the late 1990s and early 2000s Calgary Polo Club hosted the tournament before moving to Grand Champions.
The team rosters are:
Casablanca (20): Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Lucas Lalor, 5, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8.
Flexjet (20): Melissa Ganzi, 0, Salvador Ulloa, 7, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, Juan Bollini, 5.
La Karina (18): Brian Boyd, 0, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Kris Kampsen, 6, Sebastian Merlos, 8.
McClure River Ranch (19): Nacho Badiola, 5, Stewart Armstrong, 3, Hilario Figueras, 3, Nic Roldan, 8.
On Thursday at the new McClure River Ranch Field 2, Flexjet plays McClure River Ranch at 11 a.m. and La Karina plays Casablanca at 1 p.m. (MST). The winners advance into Saturday's final at 11 a.m.
The USPA North American Cup heads one of the club's busiest weeks that also is hosting the Basalt Handicap, Just For The Love Of It and draws for the 119th USPA Silver Cup and USPA National Arena Handicap Saturday night at St. Regis Hotel.
The USPA North American Cup will be live streamed on USPolo.org and Basalt Handicap Tournment will be live streamed by Wellington, Fla.-based ChukkerTV with Dale Schwetz calling the action.
The USPA North American Cup and Basalt Handicap are the fourth and fifth of eleven grass tournaments and three arena tournaments being staged at AVPC in what is expected to be its best season.
Coming off its most successful summer season, Aspen Valley Polo Club has lined up a star-studded roster of players including Hilario Ulloa, Sapo Caset, Alejandro and Nacho Novillo Astrada, Tincho and Sebastian Merlos and Nic Roldan for the summer to compete with and against patrons and amateur players.
This week Roldan, the youngest player to win the U.S. Open at age 15 and highest ranked American player at 8 goals, makes his debut at Aspen Valley Polo Club, the summer destination for polo. Roldan is coming off the Greenwich Polo Club season where he played with Altaris teammates Nick Manifold, Marcos Garcia Del Rio and Jamal Nusseibeh.
Also making his club summer debut is Argentine 6-goaler Nacho Badiola, son of polo great Juan Badiola, who has competed in tournaments in the U.S. and internationally. The Palm City Polo Club pro grew up under the tutelage of his father in Coronel Suarez, the Argentine town known as "the Capital of Polo."
Last year's USPA North American Cup champion was Travieso (Tony Calle, Grant Ganzi, Juan Cruz Merlos, Pite Merlos) after rallying in the second half to win in a wild finish.
Trailing by five goals at halftime, Travieso staged an incredible comeback for a stunning 14-13 overtime victory over Audi (Wes Finlayson, Brandon Phillips, Pablo Spinacci, Marc Ganzi). Travieso outscored Audi 9-4 in the final three chukkers before Grant Ganzi came up with the game-winning penalty-two conversion with 3:41 left in sudden death.
Former 10-goaler Pite Merlos was named Most Valuable Player after the playmaker sparked the comeback and scored four second-half goals. It was one of the most exciting finishes in USPA North American Cup history. It was also the first major tournament Merlos' 20-year-old son Juan Cruz Merlos won in the U.S. The five-goaler made his U.S. polo debut at Grand Champions last fall.
In the opening semifinals of the USPA North American Cup Travieso advanced into the final with an impressive 14-9 victory over Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Pablo Dorignac, Kris Kampsen/Dominic State, Juan Bollini, 5). In the second semifinal, Audi (Juancito Bollini, Justin Daniels, Brandon Phillips, Pablo Spinacci) won a 9-7 thriller against Gracida Wines (Carlitos Gracida, Whistle Uys, Mariano Gracida, Julio Gracida).
Also on Saturday, the draws for the 119th USPA Silver Cup and USPA National Arena Handicap will be held at St. Regis Hotel at 7:30 p.m.
The Basalt Handicap will be held Friday and Sunday. Two semifinal games are scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and two games on Sunday. The final is Sunday at 11 a.m. followed by the Just For The Love Of It Cup at 1 p.m., featuring the USPA North American Cup runners-up and Basalt Handicap teams.
The first three tournament winners of the 2019 summer season were: Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nacho Novillo Astrada), ChukkerTV Challenge; Los Amigos Red (Hilario Figueras, Paul Foster, Lucas Lalor, Nacho Novillo Astrada), Craig Sakin Memorial; Piocho Ranch (Tom Barrack, Gabriel Gracida, Nacho Figueras, Salvador Ulloa), the season-opening Independence Cup winners.
Among the 2019 summer highlights is the 119th USPA Silver Cup. The Aug. 11 final, set for one of the club's two newest fields at McClure River Ranch, will be paired with the annual Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar fundraiser. Other top tournaments are this week's USPA North American Cup, July 23-August 6 USPA National Arena Handicap, Aug. 7-14 Arena World Cup and Sept. 1-8 Triple Crown of Polo.
The club's summer marquis charity event, hosted by club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi and Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, has raised $1 million dollars in the last two years to benefit Aspen Valley Hospital.
Ticket packages range from $250 to $25,000 Luxury VIP Gold (table for 12) and $100,000 Luxury VIP Diamond package (30 guests). The $50,000 Luxury VIP Platinum package (20 guests) has already sold out. For more information call 970-544-1302.
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.
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, Tuesday Arena & Asado Nights, Kidz Polo, The Polo School headed by former 8-goaler Juan Bollini, and Polo On Demand. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.
“We want polo to thrive here, and we want Aspen to be the summer polo destination in America,” said Melissa Ganzi.
Added Marc Ganzi, who grew up in Aspen: "We want to make Aspen Valley Polo Club the place for this Valley. Most importantly the idea is to de-mystify the game of polo that people have the impression that it's a sport you can't access, that you can't play.
"We've always told people to come here," Ganzi said. "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."
Aspen Valley Polo Club has had a positive impact in the area hosting kids polo camps, teaching lessons and several charitable events at the club that have benefitted local charities.
Aspen Peak Magazine has featured the club and its polo and charity events several times and recently featured players Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Tony Calle and Nic Roldan in a cover story.
The Ganzis are avid players and patrons and "have created a polo paradise" according to Piocho Ranch padron Tom Barrack. "You can go all over the world but you can't have these kind of people, players and horses in this setting. It's really a gift." 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 last summer for the fans' enjoyment, Aspen Valley Polo Club Boutique and new electronic scoreboard.
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.
Colorado is of Spanish origin meaning "colored red" which Spanish explorers named the muddy red river Rio Colorado that they discovered. Congress kept the name for the territory in 1861.