Audi, Flexjet Advance Into WPL Triple Crown Of Polo Championship Sunday At McClure River Ranch
|The stage is set for what is expected to be the most competitive season finale in Aspen Valley Polo Club history.
By Sharon Robb
In front of a ChukkerTV worldwide audience, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Mariano Gracida, Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini) will face Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Salvador Ulloa, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini) in the championship final of the World Polo League Triple Crown of Polo at 11 a.m. MST (1 p.m. EST) at McClure River Ranch.
“I can’t wait,” said World Polo League Commissioner Dale Smicklas. “This isn’t the first time Marc and Melissa Ganzi have been on the field in the finals of a tournament. It will be husband against wife but I know for a fact they will both be doing everything they can to win. They both have really nice teams. This should be a really, really, really good game.”
Following the final, the Just For The Fun Of It round robin will be held at 12:30 p.m. in the final 2019 summer action of the most successful and historic seasons Aspen Valley Polo Club has had.
Audi advanced on Saturday with an impressive 12-7 victory over Los Amigos Blue (Alejandra Foster, Alfredo Bigatti, Stewart Armstrong, Sebastian Merlos).
Audi led from start-to-finish. Ganzi sparked Audi with six second-half goals including three penalty conversions. Playing consistent four-man polo, Audi kept its composure taking a 6-3 halftime lead.
The closest Los Amigos Blue came was the fourth chukker when Sebastian Merlos lofted the ball over a crowd of defenders and off the goal post to trail by only one, 6-5. Audi quickly regained its momentum and rotation to scored three unanswered goals for a 9-5 lead in the fifth chukker.
Ganzi finished with a game-high six goals. Roldan had three goals. Gracida and Bollini each had one. For Los Amigos Blue, Alejandra Foster, Bigatti and Merlos each had two goals and Armstrong added one.
Flexjet qualified on Friday in a round robin at Sopris Mountain Ranch. Flexjet defeated Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Kris Kampsen, Lucas Lalor, Pablo Spinacci), 5-2.5, and Los Amigos Red (Paul Foster, Carlitos Gracida, Tincho Merlos, Nacho Novillo Astrada), 5-3.
In Friday’s opening day action at Sopris Mountain Ranch, Flexjet won a hardfought three-team round robin semifinal.
In its first matchup, Flexjet took a 2-1.5 lead early in the second chukker and pulled away in the third chukker to clinch. In the second game, behind Ganzi and Ulloa, Flexjet jumped on Los Amigos Red for a 3-0 lead early in the second chukker and 4-1 in the third chukker.
Ganzi and Ulloa each finished with four goals in six chukkers.
Also on Saturday, Casablanca (Gussie Busch, Santos Merlos, Kris Kampsen, Juan Bollini) defeated McClure River Ranch (Paul Foster, Nico Harriot, Carlitos Gracida, Pablo Spinacci), 9-8, in the Saturday Fest Wide Open four-chukker matchup. The teams were tied 7-7 going into the final chukker. Kampsen ended up scoring the winning goal and stopping Foster’s final goal attempt.
Casablanca got balanced scoring. Merlos and Kampsen each had three goals, Bollini had two goals and Busch added one. Foster led McClure River Ranch with a game-high four goals. Harriot and Spinacci each had one. The team also received two goals on handicap.
The 20-goal World Polo League’s Triple Crown of Polo tournament featured five teams and several of the world’s top players.
The trophy is one of the sport’s most coveted and prestigious in the world. Designed by Tiffany & Co., the magnificent trophy is comprised of three separate trophies that fit perfectly together to create an entire polo scene that is breathtaking in sterling silver.
The winning teams’ names will be inscribed on the trophy and added to an impressive list of teams that feature several top players including Sebastian Merlos, Mike Azzaro, Tommy Biddle, Adam Snow, Nic Roldan, Matias Magrini, Jeff Hall, Mariano Gonzalez, Michel Dorignac and Kris Kampsen.
The Triple Crown of Polo, an ESPN2 television series, was created in 2005 by David McLane, known for Pro Beach Hockey, Women of Wrestling and Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, to help promote polo in the U.S. The spectacular trophy was created for the event that had stops in Sarasota, Dallas, Santa Barbara and Aiken during its heyday.
In last year’s season-finale, first-year team Mandarina (Sarah Magness, Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini) defeated Woodrow Farm (Leigh Brecheen, Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Tano Vial), 7-6. Astrada was Most Valuable Player.
Coming off its most successful summer season, Aspen Valley Polo Club lined up a star-studded field of players including Hilario and Salvador Ulloa, Alejandro and Nacho Novillo Astrada, Tincho and Sebastian Merlos, Nic Roldan and Kris Kampsen for the summer to compete with and against patrons and amateur players.
The 2019 summer tournament champions are: McClure River Ranch Pink (Melissa Ganzi, Alejandra Foster, Lauren Sherry, Juan Bollini), Battle of the Sexes; Audi (Lauren Sherry, Salvador Ulloa, Nic Roldan, Marc Ganzi), Labor Day Challenge; Los Amigos Red (Paul Foster, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Juancito Bollini, Juan Bollini), Carbondale Classic; Los Amigos Blue (Alejandra Foster, Alfredo Bigatti, Pablo Spinacci, Juancito Bollini), Rocky Mountain Handicap; Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Grant Ganzi, Hilario Ulloa, Salvador Ulloa), Rocky Mountain Open; La Karina (Brian Boyd, Lauren Sherry, Carlitos Gracida, Sebastian Merlos), Mount Sopris Cup; Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Juan Martin Obregon, Sapo Caset, Mason Wroe), 119th USPA Silver 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), 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 (Gabriel Gracida, Nacho Figueras, Salvador Ulloa), the season-opening Independence Cup winners.
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.
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 club 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 including the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.
Aspen Peak Magazine has featured the club and its polo and charity events several times and recently featured players Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Tony Calle and Nic Roldan in a cover story.
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.
2019 Aspen Valley Polo Club Summer Polo Series
The World Polo League Triple Crown of Polo Trophy
Sunday 9/8 at McClure River Ranch
11 a.m. Triple Crown Of Polo Final
Audi vs Flexjet
12:30 p.m. Just For The Love Of It Cup
Los Amigos Red vs Los Amigos Blue vs Mountain Chevrolet
All game time are MST