Aspen Valley Polo Club Announces 2018 Summer Schedule; Opens Season July Third With Independence CupAspen Valley Polo Club, with breathtaking mountain backdrops for playing polo, announced its 13-tournament schedule for the upcoming summer season.
By Sharon Robb
Argentina's Alejandro Novillo Astrada will be among a star-studded lineup of players.The 2018 expanded season features ten grass tournaments including the inaugural Aug. 31-Sept. 2 Triple Crown of Polo Trophy and three arena tournaments highlighted by the July 24-Aug. 7 USPA National Arena Handicap.
It will be the first year the club will host a tournament on Labor Day Weekend, the same weekend as the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience that will feature music legend Lionel Richie and platinum-selling, Grammy-winning Zac Brown Band along with local favorite Michael Franti and Spearhead.
Juan Bollini and Stewart Armstrong will compete this summer.
It will be the second time Aspen Valley Polo Club will host the USPA National Arena Handicap Tournament and second time in several years that the tournament will be played as a stand-alone tournament.
The annual event dates back to 1980 and is a national USPA tournament played at medium goal level. In the past, the tournament has been played as a subsidiary to the U.S. Open Arena Polo Championship at Country Farms Polo Club in Medford, N.Y.
In last year's USPA National Arena Handicap, Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) defeated Audi (Marc Ganzi, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Stewart Armstrong), 12-9, to win the title.
This will be the scene, in six weeks, in Aspen when summer polo gets underway.
Alejandro Novillo Astrada, making his Aspen summer debut in 2017, was the tournament's Most Valuable Pro Player after finishing with 19 goals in three games. Stewart Armstrong, a USPA member since 1973 and USPA secretary, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Amateur Player. Juan Bollini was named the game's MVP.
It is the first season players will compete for the Triple Crown of Polo. The three legs will be held at Denver Polo Club, Aspen Valley Polo Club and finish in Wellington this fall.
Designed by Tiffany & Co., the Triple Crown of Polo is comprised of three separate trophies that fit perfectly together to create an entire polo scene that is breathtaking in sterling silver.
Triple Crown of Polo
With the majestic 12,965-foot summit of Mount Sopris as a backdrop, Aspen Valley Polo Club has been one of the busiest and fastest growing clubs in the nation with a membership increase of 75 percent over the last three seasons.
In the last four years Aspen Valley Polo Club has had a positive impact in the area hosting kids polo camps, teaching lessons and hosting several charitable events at the club that have benefitted local charities including the Champage, Caviar & Chukkers fundraiser that raised $366,000 for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.
Since Marc and Melissa took over the club in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club's offerings of various weekly tournaments including Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids Polo and The Polo School. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments and weekly asados.
Nacho Figueras of St. Regis Black congratulates St. Regis White champion Marc Ganzi after the St. Regis Family Traditions game.
Aspen Valley Polo Club, coming off its most successful season in club history, has a star-studded roster of players lined up for the summer to compete with and against patrons and amateur players including brothers Nacho and Alejandro Novillo Astrada, two of the world's top players.
The Novillo Astradas are members of a legendary polo family from Argentina based at one of the world's best polo clubs, La Aguada, founded by their grandfather Julio Novillo Astrada. The family has a tradition of more than 60 years in polo. Another brother Eduardo, Jr., is president of the Asociacion Argentina de Polo.
Also expected to compete is Nic Roldan, the highest rated American player; Pablo Dorignac, Lucas Lalor, Grant Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Juancito Bollini, Carlitos Gracida, Alex Gooding, Marc Ganzi, Stewart Armstrong and Brian Boyd.
Alejandro Novillo Astrada of Flexjet works the ball away from Stewart Armstrong, in last year's USPA National Arena Handicap Tournament.
"This is a beautiful place to play and the community has been wonderful supporting polo and the club," Juan Bollini said. "Marc and Melissa Ganzi have done a great job here promoting polo and teaching the kids. We have every level of play. The club and sport is growing every day, every year."
The club also hosted several special events including the St. Regis Family Traditions, featuring fathers and sons, Nacho and Hilario Figueras, Marc and Grant Ganzi, Juan and Juancito Bollini and TJ and Tom Barrack.
Last season Casablanca was the winningest team with three tournament wins. The 2017 summer tournament winners were:
Craig Sakin Memorial awards table
Independence Cup: La Karina (Carlitos Gracida, Mariano Gracida, Brian Boyd, Marc Ganzi).
ChukkerTV Challenge Cup: Tiburon (Lauren Sherry, Collen Clark, Pablo Dorignac, Lucas Lalor).
Basalt Handicap: Casablanca (Mariano Gracida, Grant Ganzi, Pablo Dorignac, Juancito Bollini).
Craig Sakin Memorial: Casablanca (Santos Bollini, Grant Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Juancito Bollini).
Emma Challenge: La Karina (Brian Boyd, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Mike Azzaro).
USPA National Arena Handicap: Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini).
High Alpine Cup: Aspen Valley Polo Club (Alejandro Poma, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Lucas Lalor).
Mount Sopris Cup: Travieso (Teo Calle, Tony Calle, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Marc Ganzi).
Rocky Mountain Open: Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Tony Calle, Juancito Bollini, Stewart Armstrong).
Carbondale Classic: Travieso (Mike Azzaro, Teo Calle, Tony Calle, Carlitos Gracida).
A good crowd enjoys polo at the Emma Challenge. File photos.
The Ganzis are avid players and patrons and "have put new life into polo" in the area according to local player Alex Gooding. Several players, sponsors and community leaders share in Gooding's sentiments.