U.S. Polo Assn. Wins St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship; Nic Roldan Named MVP
St. Regis World Snow Polo champions Juancito Bollini, Grant Ganzi and Nic Roldan of U.S. Polo Assn.U.S. Polo Assn. defeated defending champion Flexjet in a rematch of last year's final to win the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship Sunday at Rio Grande Park.
By Sharon Robb
Juan Bollini of Flexjet scores with his son Juancito Bollini defending.
In front of a record crowd including a sold out VIP tent and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, U.S. Polo Assn. reclaimed the coveted trophy it won in 2015 and avenged last year's loss to Flexjet by controlling most of the game and holding off a fourth-chukker rally for a thrilling 5-4 victory.
St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship runner-up Flexjet players Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini and Melissa Ganzi.
U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan), making its fourth finals appearance in five years, relied on its team chemistry to jump out to a 4-1 halftime lead. Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) found its offensive punch in the second half, outscoring U.S. Polo Assn., 3-1, but ran out of time.
U.S. Polo Assn. teammates Nic Roldan and Juancito Bollini work together.Nic Roldan, the team's field general, was named Most Valuable Player for the fourth time in five years after scoring three goals. Roldan finished with 11 goals for the tournament. Javi, a 7-year-old stallion, ridden by Alejandro Novillo Astrada and owned by Wellington, Fla.-based Santa Rita Polo Farm, was Best Playing Pony.
Actress and singer songwriter Kelley Jakle sings the National Anthem.
"It's good to get the trophy back on our squad," Roldan said. "This event was really successful. This was probably one of the most successful and competitive ones and we just had a great time."
St. Regis (Marc Ganzi, Nacho Figueras, Nico Pieres) captured the St. Regis Snow Cup with an 8-7 win over Icon Global Aspen Valley Polo Club (Bernie Uechtritz, Carlitos Gracida, Nacho Novillo Astrada) in the subsidiary. Pieres, making his snow polo debut, scored on a incredible back shot off the post for the game-winner as time ran out. Figueras was named MVP. Fendi, an 11-year-old black mare ridden by Figueras, was selected Best Playing Pony.
St. Regis Snow Cup winners Nico Pieres, MVP Nacho Figueras and Marc Ganzi of St. Regis.
After two shootouts, Audi (Jim Miller, Magoo Laprida, Luis Escobar) defeated Moet (Mike Azzaro, Jason Crowder, Bash Kazi/Omar Mangalhi), 6-5, to finish fifth in the six-team tournament and win the Aspen Valley Snow Cup.
Nico Pieres of St. Regis works the ball downfield in front of soldout VIP tent.
Bollini and Ganzi were coming off a successful fall season at Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington. Roldan, who was injured in Spain, was coming off playing in two tournaments in Argentina. The trio have played together in several tournaments on every field surface.
Alejandro Novillo Astrada of Flexjet reaches for the ball with Juancito Bollini defending.
"I got lucky playing with Nic and Juan," said Grant Ganzi, playing his third straight tournament with the dynamic duo including 2016 with Audi. "I have played with them the last three years. They are two guys I know so well. Chemistry is a huge thing in the snow."
Aspen Valley Snow Polo Cup winners Magoo Laprida, Luis Escobar and Jim Miller.
The teams were tied (1-1) after the first chukker with Roldan scoring on a breakaway with 30 seconds left and Juan Bollini scoring on an incredible neck shot with one second left. U.S. Polo Assn. outscored Flexjet, 3-0, behind two goals by Juancito Bollini and one by Roldan.Luis Escobar converts a penalty shot as Audi teammates Jim Miller and Magoo Laprida watch."It was more about being disciplined on defense that people don't realize," Ganzi said. "It was constant rotation and it worked pretty well. It was close at the end but we kept our heads straight."
Added Roldan, "We got a good lead in the beginning. Flexjet is a strong team and got a couple of good goals in the end. We were a little more lucky today."
Fans were treated to various food and drink stations in the VIP tent.
In Friday's action-packed opening qualifying round robin at Aspen Valley Polo Club's indoor arena in Carbondale, Flexjet advanced with a thrilling come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Aspen Valley Polo Club and tied Audi, 5-5. In the other game, Aspen Valley Polo Club defeated Audi, 7-5. In the second round robin, U.S. Polo Assn. edged Moet, 5-4, and St. Regis, 9-5. In the other game, St. Regis topped Moet, 6-3.
Mixologists making their specialty drinks.U.S. Polo Assn. also won Saturday's fun Celebrity Chukker with Sterling Jones, Sarah Magness and Nacho Novillo Astrada with a 2-1 victory over St. Regis (Saye Yabandeh, Tucan Pereyra Iraola, Nacho Figueras). Jones scored two goals including the game-winner.
The soldout VIP tent enjoyed an array of food from the St. Regis Aspen Resort.
For the fifth consecutive year, Aspen Valley Polo Club co-founders Melissa and Marc Ganzi, hosted the star-studded event along with Figueras, polo ambassador and St. Regis Connoisseur and his wife Delfina.
Polo fans enjoying polo, fun and DJ music in the VIP tent.
"There was a lot of tough competition this year," Roldan said. "I think this was probably one of the best years, if not the best year team-wise and the attendance was amazing."
Ganzi, the first woman to win the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship last year, made history as the first woman to compete in the St. Moritz Snow Polo World Cup Tournament in Switzerland since its inception in 1985 and will return to compete in January 26-28 event. She will also play in the Jan. 12-14 Kitzbuhel event.
Celebrity teams, Saye Yabandeh, Tucan Pereyra Iarola and Nacho Figueras of St. Regis and, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Sterling Jones and Sarah Magness of U.S. Polo Assn.
The St. Regis event pitted Ganzi against her 19-year-old son, a third generation player.
"It's tough, because it's bittersweet when you win," Grant Ganzi said. "I always want her to play well and I think she played well today. I just wanted it to be a good game overall and obviously I want to win, but at the end of the day I just want her to play well, I want us to play well and I want everyone to have fun."
Actor Sterling Jones scored two goals including the game-winner.
U.S. Polo Assn. now joins past winners: 2016, champion Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Jesse Bray); 2015, U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini); 2014, Piaget (Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Nic Roldan); and 2013, St. Regis (Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips).
The event has joined St. Moritz as one of the world's top snow polo tournaments and one of Aspen's major international sporting events. It is the only snow polo event in North America, final stop on the World Polo Tour and kickoff to the social season in Aspen.
Nacho Figueras goes for the ball surrounded by celebrity players during Celebrity Chukker. Photos by Nick Tininenko
Rio Grande Park is Aspen's largest multi-functional park within the city's limits and just minutes away from the St. Regis Aspen Resort. Guests in the soldout heated VIP tent that featured Alpine luxe furnishing, were treated to signature St. Regis Aspen Resort rituals including afternoon tea, a fine array of light fare and iconic St. Regis Bloody Mary cocktail. Actress and singer songwriter Kelley Alice Jakle, who starred in the "Pitch Perfect" movies sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem on both days.