Casablanca Holds Off La Karina To Win Rocky Mountain Open; Stewart Armstrong Named MVP

Casablanca winning teammates Stewart Armstrong, Tony Calle, Grant Ganzi and Juancito Bollini.

Casablanca winning teammates Stewart Armstrong, Tony Calle, Grant Ganzi and Juancito Bollini.

CARBONDALE, Colo., August 20, 2017---Casablanca won its third tournament of the summer polo season Sunday at Aspen Valley Polo Club.

The foursome of Grant Ganzi, Tony Calle, Juancito Bollini and Stewart Armstrong won the Rocky Mountain Open with a 12-9 victory over La Karina (Melissa Ganzi, Brian Boyd, Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada).

Casablanca has now won more tournaments than any other team this summer. Going into the five-team, two-day tournament Casablanca and La Karina each had won two tournaments. Casablanca also won the Basalt Handicap and Craig Sakin Memorial.

Bollini, 21, and Ganzi, 19, have now won five tournaments as teammates.

Hometown favorite Stewart Armstrong was named Most Valuable Player.

“He’s a great choice,” Ganzi said. “I love playing with him. He is a classic player. He brings a lot to the table and is dependable.

“He is very disciplined. He controls the back and crushes the ball. He plays classic hit-and-run polo. He makes the team play better. He played well, we all played well as a team. I don’t think he made a bad play today.”

Reina, an 8-year-old bay thoroughbred mare, owned and played by Armstrong in the sixth chukker, was named Best Playing Pony for the second time this season.

Casablanca took control of the game early dominating the throw-ins. Calle opened scoring with back-to-back goals and Ganzi added one for a 3-1 lead after the first chukker.

Melissa Ganzi’s early goal in the second chukker cut the lead to 3-2, but Casablanca kept its composure playing hit-and-run polo and pulled away for a 5-2 lead.

Casablanca also took advantage of La Karina’s cold shooting extending its lead to 7-3 in the third chukker. La Karina missed five scoring opportunities in the first half.

“I’m really happy with the win, it was a great win,” Ganzi said. “We had a meeting last night at the house and stayed up late talking about how we played on Friday and how we wanted to play today.

“We stuck to our game plan. Our knock-ins were really effective and we found the spaces. We made them hit a lot of back shots. Whoever was with Juan or Alejandro we waited for one of them to come in and hit it over the two of them. Our throw-ins worked really well.”

La Karina, still plagued by missed goals, tried to stay with Casablanca in the second half. Astrada converted a penalty-six safety to cut the lead to 8-5 in the fifth chukker.

Grant Ganzi came back with a big goal and Armstrong scored on a coast-to-coast goal to pull away for a 10-5 lead.

In a wild sixth chukker and despite missing 12 scoring attempts, La Karina mounted a late comeback, winning three consecutive throw-ins and closing the gap to 11-9 on Melissa Ganzi’s penalty-two conversion with less than three minutes remaining.

Calle won the next throw-in and quickly raced downfield to score to give Casablanca a 12-9 cushion.

Calle scored a game-high five goals. Ganzi had three and Bollini and Armstrong each had two goals. Melissa Ganzi, Boyd and Astrada each scored three goals for La Karina.

“This summer has been great,” Grant Ganzi said. “It’s great to play with a lot of different people. I think I’ve improved. I’m excited about going back and playing in Wellington.”

In the Rocky Mountain Open Handicap final, Los Amigos Blue (Alejandra Foster, Lucas Lalor, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Paul Foster) defeated Travieso (Carlitos Gracida, Teo Calle, Alex Gooding, Marc Ganzi), 8-7.

Paul Foster, who scored a club-record tying seven goals, including the game-winner, for the second time this season, was named Most Valuable Player.

Onyx, bred (out of Open Quarzo and Nuebe) and owned by Wellington-based Santa Rita Polo Farm and played by Gracida in the sixth chukker, was selected Best Playing Pony.

Marc Ganzi led Travieso scoring with three goals.

On Saturday, Los Amigos Red won the Eclipse Challenge Cup. Alejandra Foster was named MVP.

Trailing at halftime, Los Amigos Red (Paul Foster/Alejandra Foster, Oscar Bermudez, Carlitos Gracida, Jonathan Gracida/David Almeida) rallied for a 5-4 victory over Travieso (Ailsa “Ace” Currier, Will Jacobs, Michael Calle, Juan Bollini).

The Rocky Mountain Open was the ninth of 11 tournaments scheduled, eight grass and three arena tournaments. The Carbondale Classic and Arena World Cup remain.

This season’s first eight tournament winners were La Karina (Carlitos Gracida, Mariano Gracida, Brian Boyd, Marc Ganzi), Independence Cup; Tiburon (Collen Clark, Lauren Sherry, Pablo Dorignac, Lucas Lalor), ChukkerTV Challenge Cup; Casablanca ( 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; Aspen Valley Polo Club (Alejandro Poma, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Lucas Lalor), High Alpine Cup; and Travieso (Teo Calle, Tony Calle, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Marc Ganzi), 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 and introduce polo throughout the valley.

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.

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.

2017 SUMMER POLO SCHEDULE

Aug. 25-27, Carbondale Classic

TBA: Arena World Cup

ASPEN VALLEY POLO CLUB

CLUB ADDRESS: 3275 County Road 100, Carbondale, Colo. 81623

POLO HOTLINE: 970-710-1663

The exclusive Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the nation’s fastest-growing polo clubs. It offers polo in the summer for players and spectators. The Polo School is available to adults and juniors. It offers individual and group lessons for all levels and ages. For spectators there are great field side views for tournament action, indoor and outdoor arenas and also the Aspen Valley Polo Club Boutique. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere with complimentary food, refreshments and weekly asados. Admission and parking are free. For Polo On Demand price rates of group and private lessons, arena chukkers, grass chukkers and individualized “Polo Experience” packages emailaspenvalleypolo@bellsouth.net or log ontowww.aspenvalleypoloclub.com