CARBONDALE, Colo., July 4, 2019---The Craig Sakin Memorial, Just For The Fun Of It and "Polo Dreaming" Tournament highlight a busy weekend at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
Five teams will compete in the sixth annual Craig Sakin Memorial Friday and Sunday.
Two games are scheduled for Friday at Sopris Mountain Ranch. At 11 a.m. (MST) Flexjet plays defending champion Piocho Ranch. At 12:15 p.m., Los Amigos, La Karina and Mountain Chevrolet will play a round robin. Los Amigos and Mountain Chevrolet play first. The winner sits and La Karina plays the last six chukkers.
The winners of both games advance into Sunday's championship at 1 p.m. at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
Several players will be making their summer debut including Argentine 9-goaler Sebastian Merlos and 6-goalers Pablo Spinacci and Kris Kampsen.
The team rosters are:
Piocho Ranch (15): Tom Barrack, 0, Grant Ganzi, 3, Nacho Figueras, 6, Salvador Ulloa, 6.
Flexjet (14): Melissa Ganzi, 0, Alejandra Foster 1, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, Juan Bollini, 5.
Los Amigos Red (15): Paul Foster, 0, Marc Ganzi, 3, Lucas Lalor, 4, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8.
La Karina (14): Brian Boyd, .5, Lauren Sherry, 1, Sebastian Merlos, 9, Carlitos Gracida, 4.
Mountain Chevrolet (14): Michael Payne, 0, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Kris Kampsen, 6, Gussie Busch, 2.
On Saturday, also at Sopris Mountain Ranch, two games are set for the "Polo Dreaming" Tournament at 11 a.m. and noon.
The tournaments will be live streamed by Wellington, Fla.-based ChukkerTV with Dale Schwetz calling the action.
The Craig Sakin Memorial is the second of eleven grass tournaments and three arena tournaments being staged at AVPC in what is expected to be its most successful season.
Piocho Ranch (Gabriel Gracida, 4, Salvador Ulloa, 6, Nacho Figueras, 6, Tom Barrack, 0) won the season-opening Independence Cup for the second year in a row on Wednesday.
Coming off its most successful summer season, Aspen Valley Polo Club has lined up a star-studded roster of players including Hillario Ulloa, Sapo Caset and Nic Roldan for the summer to compete with and against patrons and amateur players.
Last year's Craig Sakin Memorial winner was Piocho Ranch (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nacho Figueras, Tom Barrack), with a thrilling 11-10 victory over Los Amigos Red (Jonathan Gracida/Alejandra Foster, Pablo Dorignac, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Paul Foster).
Figueras, who scored five goals including the game-winner, was Pro MVP and Alejandra Foster was the Amateur MVP. Ganzi and Bollini have won the tournament twice.
The Barrack family owns Piocho Ranch, acquired in 1992, and features rolling acres of vineyards nestled in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Calif. Piocho Ranch combines the family's passion for polo and the art of wine making. The vineyards have produced six wines: Ten Goal, Brand, Blanc, Piocho, Chukker and Piocho Sauvignon Blanc. Piocho means "where the two rivers meet and go to heaven."
The tournament is named in honor of Craig Sakin, who passed away on Feb. 11, 2014 at age 52. The former president of the Homeowners' Association of Sopris Mountain Ranch, was instrumental in helping Marc and Melissa Ganzi secure their first polo field. In 2015, some of Sakin's ashes were released over the polo field. His wife Sally Beneman Sakin is expected to present the tournament awards on Sunday.
Sakin was a private equity investor and turnaround specialist. His personal interests included horses and the outdoors. Sakin owned Sugar Frosted Cat, a mare ranked by the National Reined Cow Horse Association, and Idocus, a Dutch Warm Blood stallion that competed in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games for dressage and represented the U.S. in the World Cup. He was an avid and skilled hunter and skier, pursuing his passions around the world.
Other 2018 AVPC grass tournament winners were: Piocho Ranch, Independence Cup; Los Amigos Blue, ChukkerTV Challenge; La Karina, Basalt Handicap, Emma Challenge Cup and Rocky Mountain Cup; Los Amigos Red, High Alpine Cup; Tonkawa, Mount Sopris Cup and Mandarina, Triple Crown of Polo.
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 Ranch, will be coupled with the annual Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar fundraiser.
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 (Early Bird general admission single ticket if purchased before July 11) to $25,000 Luxury VIP Gold (table for 12) and $100,000 Luxury VIP Diamond package (30 guests). The $50,000 Luxury VIP Platinum (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, Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids 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 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.