Tonkawa Captures 119th USPA Silver Cup; Sapo Caset Named Most Valuable Player; Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar Fundraiser Huge Success
|Tournament favorite Tonkawa won the prestigious 119th USPA Silver Cup in front of a sellout crowd Sunday at windswept McClure River Ranch.
By Sharon Robb
Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, A, Juan Martin Obregon, 5, Sapo Caset, 10, Mason Wroe, 4) led Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Lucas Lalor, 5, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8) from start-to-finish for an impressive 15-10 victory.
Tonkawa finished the six-team tournament undefeated at 5-0. Casablanca ended the tournament at 3-2.
Argentine 10-goaler Sapo Caset, who dominated the game, was unanimous choice for Most Valuable Player. Caset scored a game-high nine goals and was instrumental in his team’s successful run throughout the tournament with his horsemanship, speed and agility.
The United States Polo Association Best Playing Pony was Pulga, played by Caset.
The Aspen Valley Polo Club Best Playing Pony of the Tournament was Lujan, played by Lalor.
The American Polo Horse Association was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.
In front of a lively local crowd and USPA Polo Network worldwide audience, Aspen Valley Polo Club hosted its biggest day of polo in the club’s history. The full day of polo featured 18 chukkers of play and successful Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar fundraiser which raised more than $600,000.
Tonkawa took charge early in the first half jumping out to a 5-1 lead in the opening chukker.
Behind Caset’s five goals, Tonkawa outscored Casablanca, 9-3, in the first half allowing Casablanca only one goal per chukker.
Casablanca, known for its slow starts, came back in the second half. While Tonkawa maintained its lead, Casablanca outscored them in the second half, 7-6, but could never make up the deficit.
Casablanca came within three when Astrada scored with two minutes left in the fifth chukker to trail by only, 12-9. But Wroe came right back with a great breakaway goal to put Tonkawa back up by four, 13-9.
Caset scored again early in the sixth chukker for a 14-9 advantage. The goal of the game came at the 4:04 mark when Grant Ganzi smacked the ball just inside the goal post which he took out neck-first to trail 14-10. Both teams had opportunities to score before Juan Martin Obregon converted a penalty-three to end that game at 15-10.
“It’s been an incredible day of polo at the club,” said tournament host Marc Ganzi. “Great game, great champions. Tonkawa was a very worthy champion. Hats off to them and great tournament.”
In addition to Caset’s nine goals, Hildebrand and Obregon each had two goals and Wroe added one goal. The 19-goal team also picked up one goal on handicap.
For Casablanca, Bollini led scoring with four goals. Ganzi, Lalor and Astrada each had two goals.
“This polo has been great here,” said USPA CEO Bob Puetz. “I don’t know how you can play much better than Sapo is playing right now. Today Tonkawa looks like they have stepped up one more level.”
Pre-game ceremonies featured Denver singer and songwriter Jenny Shawhan singing the National Anthem as two members of the U.S. parachute team parachuted in with the U.S. and Colorado flags.
Tonkawa advanced into the final with a 14-11 victory over Flexjet in the first semifinal that featured 10-goalers Caset and Hilario Ulloa. In the second semifinal, Casablanca rallied for an exciting 9-8 victory over Audi in sudden death overtime.
The 119th USPA Silver Cup, the club’s second USPA 20-goal tournament of the summer season, made its historical debut this season at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
“I want to give a big shout out to the Aspen Valley Polo Club, Marc and Melissa Ganzi, Peter Rizzo and all the people who worked so hard to put this tournament on,” Puetz said. “And, the ground crews and construction crews, who miraculously changed the landscape of this mountain area and put in two world-class polo fields within the last year. Not only world-class, but capable of playing high goal polo this fast. It is amazing. The future of polo in Aspen is strong.”
The 119th USPA Silver Cup has a rich tradition in history. It is considered the oldest of all American tournaments. The event has been called several names throughout its hallowed history. Originally established by the USPA as the Junior Championship, it was first played in 1900 close to the New York City birthplace of American polo.
The Cup was later renamed in 1938 to the Twenty-Goal Championship and played until 1951. The Trophy went on hiatus from 1942 to 1947 because of the effects on polo during and immediately after World War II.
It was not until 1974 that the tournament took its present name and was hosted in Texas. The Cup winners have been a Who’s Who in polo from J. Watson Webb and Tommy Hitchcock to Robert Skene, George Oliver, Memo Gracida, Carlos Gracida, Tommy Wayman, Red Armour, Harold Barry, Joe Barry, John Armstrong, Charles Smith, Cecil Smith, William Ylvisaker, Adam Snow, Mike Azzaro, Mariano Aguerre, Jeff Hall, Billy Busch and Adolfo Cambiaso, who won in 2012 and now Tonkawa will add its name to the prestigious list.
U.S. Polo Assn., the official brand of USPA, was the tournament’s official apparel sponsor.
During the full day of polo the annual Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar fundraiser was a huge success. The club’s summer marquis charity event, hosted by club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi and Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, has raised more than $1 million dollars in the last two years to benefit Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation. Preliminary reports has the event raising more than $600,000 during Sunday’s event. The official figures will be announced later this week.
“What a great day here at the club,” Ganzi said. “It looks like we raised a lot of money for a great cause. This is what it’s all about.”
The 119th USPA Silver Cup was the tenth of eleven grass tournaments being staged at AVPC in what is already its best season featuring six 20-goal teams and four 16-goal teams.
Coming off its most successful summer season, Aspen Valley Polo Club lined up a star-studded roster of players to compete with and against patrons and amateur players.
The 2019 summer tournament champions are: La Karina (Brian Boyd, Lauren Sherry, Carlitos Gracida, Sebastian Merlos), Mount Sopris Cup; Los Amigos Red (Alejandra Foster, Gabriel Gracida, Juan Bollini, Paul Foster), High Alpine Cup; Los Amigos Blue (Alejandra Foster, Alejandro Poma, Salvador Ulloa, Juan Bollini), Emma Challenge; Piocho Ranch (Gussie Busch, Nacho Figueras, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Tom Barrack), Basalt Handicap; La Karina (Brian Boyd, Carlitos Gracida, Sebastian Merlos, Kris Kampsen), USPA North American Cup; Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nacho Novillo Astrada), ChukkerTV Challenge; Los Amigos Red (Hilario Figueras, Paul Foster, Lucas Lalor, Nacho Novillo Astrada), Craig Sakin Memorial; and Piocho Ranch (Tom Barrack, Gabriel Gracida, Nacho Figueras, Salvador Ulloa), the season-opening Independence Cup winners.
Other top tournaments for the remainder of the season are the Rocky Mountain Cup, Aug. 7-14 Arena World Cup and Sept. 1-8 Triple Crown of Polo.
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.
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.