• Mount Sopris Cup

    Travieso Captures Mount Sopris Cup; Nacho Novillo Astrada Named MVP

    Travieso returned to its winning ways in the championship final of the Mount Sopris Cup Sunday at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
    By Sharon Robb

    In front of a record crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, the foursome of Teo Calle, Tony Calle, Nacho Novillo Astrada and Marc Ganzi defeated Mexico (Billy Steta, Grant Ganzi, 
    Carlitos Gracida, Juancito Bollini), 10-6, to win the five-team, three-day tournament and bounce back from last weekend's 14-9 loss to Aspen Valley Polo Club in the High Alpine Cup final.

    Winning Travieso teammates Nacho Novillo Astrada, Tony Calle, Teo Calle and Marc Ganzi and champagne celebration.

    Travieso dominated the game from the opening chukker taking Mexico out of its game plan and dominating the throw-ins, 13-6.

    "The ball just came out our way today," Marc Ganzi said. "Those kids have played so great all summer. It's been tough to stop Juan and Grant.

    "Luckily, we had some good bounces out of those throw-ins. Sometimes throw-ins are a little bit of luck, hits a horse, hits a mallet. So today we were able to control them on the throw-ins because the last two weeks it's been the other way around. They won all the throw-ins and got the quick goals.

    Team finalists Travieso and Mexico with awards presenters.

    "We tried to get on top of them early today and I think we did a pretty good job taking care of the man," Ganzi said.

    Argentine 8-goaler Nacho Novillo Astrada, leading his team as a field general and scoring four goals, was named Most Valuable Player.

    Delicioso, a 14-year-old bay mare ridden by Guillermo (Billy) Steta and owned by Wellington-based Santa Rita Polo Farm, was selected Best Playing Pony. Delicioso was bred by Ellerstina (Picaro/Mazanita).

    Best Playing Pony Delicioso with Diego and Billy Steta.

    Travieso took a quick lead with Astrada scoring back-to-back goals in the opening chukker for a 2-0 advantage. Travieso kept attacking on offense not allowing Mexico to get back into the game.

    After Grant Ganzi converted the first of three penalty shots (two, six and three), Travieso kept pounding away for a 3-1 advantage after two chukkers and 5-2 halftime lead after Tony Calle won the throw-in and raced to goal for a perfect cut shot.

    Mexico had its opportunities but couldn't finish because of Travieso's aggressive defense that took them out of their fast, open running game. Teo Calle and Astrada turned back five Mexico scoring attempts near the goal.

    MVP Nacho Novillo Astrada of Travieso receiving his MVP award.

    "It was a game that didn't play to their advantage," Ganzi said. "They like to play open polo and we took that option away today."

    In the fourth and fifth chukkers, Travieso scored four unanswered goals for a 9-3 lead before Grant Ganzi converted his second penalty shot.

    Travieso opened the sixth chukker winning another throw-in with Tony Calle scoring on a coast-to-coast goal for a 10-4 lead.

    A record crowd for Sunday's final and Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation fundraiser.

    Tony Calle, with his big hitting, led Travieso with a game-high five goals. Marc Ganzi added a 
    goal on a penalty-two. Grant Ganzi and Gracida each had three goals for Mexico.

    "We needed to take advantage of every opportunity we had on a breakaway to score a goal," said Calle, 22, a senior at Lynn University. "We had to be disciplined. We played much better than last week."

    Calle spent the last three months in Argentina working with Sebastian Merlos, riding young horses and competing in tournaments to hone his skills and horsemanship and it showed in Sunday's game.

    Allie Azzaro getting a different view of polo during her aerial silks performance.

    "I am pretty happy about it, it was a great opportunity working with a 10-goaler," Calle said. "I was well mounted and had extra time to work on my swing. I put a lot more into it and it's helped my game."

    The loss snapped the four-tournament winning streak of Ganzi and Bollini as teammates.
    "Juancito and Grant had a pretty amazing run winning every final," Calle said. "We are all friends and looking to have fun, but we're also competitive and we push each other."

    It was a great weekend for the Calle family. Michael Calle, 15, was a member of Travieso's winning team and named MVP in Saturday'sAloha Cup at AVPC.

    Setting up for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation Fundraiser.

    "Michael has improved his game so much," said his older brother. "He is playing with confidence and he has two horses he is flying on."

    La Karina (Brian Boyd, Alex Gooding, Mike Azzaro, Stewart Armstrong) won the three-team round-robin subsidiary. La Karina defeated Flexjet, 4-2, (Lauren Sherry, Alejandra Foster, Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) and Los Amigos Red (Paul Foster, Gabriel Gracida, Pablo Dorignac, Lucas Lalor), 7-4. In the other game, Flexjet and Los Amigos Red tied, 5-5, and Flexjet advanced on goals scored.

    The club hosted a successful Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation fundraiser. The AVHF, now entering its fifth year, is a non-profit solely focused on encouraging philanthropic support for the current and future needs of Aspen Valley Hospital.

    A perfect table setting for a perfect fundraising event at Aspen Valley Polo Club.

    During the glitzy and fun event, there was a spirited live auction that featured auctioning off polo players, silent auction, pony rides, kids activities including face painting and cookie decorating, various vendor tents and live aerial silks performance by Allie Azzaro.

    The Mount Sopris Cup, named after the most impressive part of the Elk Mountains that create an impressive backdrop for the town of Carbondale, was the eighth of 12 tournaments scheduled, eight grass and four arena tournaments.

    Allie Azzaro performing her gravity-defying aerial silks routine at halftime.

    This season's first seven summer tournament winners were La Karina (Carlitos Gracida, Mariano Gracida, MVP Brian Boyd, Marc Ganzi), Independence Cup; Tiburon (Collen Clark, Lauren Sherry, Pablo Dorignac, MVP Lucas Lalor), ChukkerTV Challenge Cup; Casablanca (MVPs Mariano Gracida, Grant Ganzi, Pablo Dorignac, Juancito Bollini), Basalt Handicap; Casablanca (Santos Bollini, Grant Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Juancito Bollini), Craig Sakin Memorial; La Karina (Brian Boyd, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Mike Azzaro), Emma Challenge; Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, United States Arena Handicap; and Aspen Valley Polo Club (Alejandro Poma, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Lucas Lalor).

    Awards table for the Mount Sopris Cup.

    Aspen Valley Polo Club, the nation's fastest growing USPA polo club, is enjoying its most successful summer season in club history. The club, which recently broke ground for two more fields, is enjoying increased membership and continues to grow.

    Polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding areas with the club's offerings of various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids Polo, indoor and outdoor arena polo, charitable events and The Polo School. Practice sessions are also held for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.