2K8A0011.JPG

CARBONDALE, Colo., July 19, 2019---La Karina and McClure River Ranch will play for the coveted USPA North American Cup Saturday at McClure River Ranch.

In Aspen Valley Polo Club's first 20-goal tournament game in club history, McClure River Ranch (Hilario Figueras, 3, Nacho Badiola, 5, Nic Roldan, 8, Stewart Armstrong, 3) knocked off Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, Salvador Ulloa, 7, Juan Bollini, 5), 11-10, in Thursday's opening semifinal.

In the second semifinal, La Karina (Brian Boyd, 1, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Kris Kampsen, 6, Sebastian Merlos, 8) defeated Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8, Lucas Lalor, 5), 15-11.

The championship game, scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. MST (1 p.m. EST), will be live streamed by USPA Polo Network on uspolo.org with Dale Schwetz calling the action.

The club's first 20-goal tournament of the summer season, previously held at Wellington, Fla.-based sister club Grand Champions Polo Club since 2011, did not disappoint fans in its debut.

In the opening game, McClure River Ranch had balanced scoring. Roldan, making his summer debut, had a team-high four goals. Figueras had three goals; Badiola, also making his summer debut, added two goals and Armstrong added one. McClure River Ranch, a 19-goal team, also received one goal on handicap.

For Flexjet, Ulloa scored a game-high five goals, including three in the fourth chukker. Ganzi had three goals and Astrada added two goals.

The lead changed hands fourteen times in the fast-paced, evenly-matched wide open game before Roldan's safety conversion with 1:03 left in the game turned out to be the game-winner.

Flexjet had one final opportunity to tie the game on a 60-yard penalty four with 38 seconds left but the shot was blocked by Badiola and Roldan ran out the clock.

In the second game, Kampsen led La Karina with a season-high eight goals. Boyd and Gracida each had two goals and Merlos added one goal and was relentless with his ball-hawking defense. La Karina also received two goals on handicap.

For Casablanca, Ganzi and Lalor each had three goals. Bollini and Astrada each scored two goals. Casablanca was also awarded a penalty-one.

La Karina, making its 20-goal debut, dominated most of the game behind a balanced team attack and throw-in advantage. La Karina took advantage of early Casablanca fouls for three penalty conversions in the first two chukkers. La Karina maintained a two-goal lead in the first half with leads of 5-3, 6-4 and 7-5 at the half.

Casablanca rallied in the fourth chukker, 3-1 with goals from Ganzi, Bollini and Astrada, to tie La Karina, 8-8, for the first time with 3:22 left on Ganzi's penalty conversion, but could never control the momentum after that.

Kampsen, playing one of his best games, scored six goals in the final two chukkers to enable La Karina to outscore Casablanca, 4-1 and 3-1.

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 USPA North American Cup is the fourth of eleven grass tournaments and three arena tournaments being staged at AVPC in what is expected to be its best season.

Last year's USPA North American Cup champion was Travieso (Tony Calle, Grant Ganzi, Juan Cruz Merlos, Pite Merlos).

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.

Among the 2019 summer highlights at Aspen Valley Polo Club 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.

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.

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.

Comment