By Sharon Robb
CARBONDALE, Colo., July 14, 2018---Los Amigos Green captured the inaugural Mountain Cup Saturday on a perfect day for polo at Sopris Mountain Ranch.
In a hotly-contested game, Los Amigos Green (Alejandra de la Vega, Melissa Ganzi, Hilario Figueras, Juan Bollini) controlled most of the second half and held on for a thrilling 12-11 victory over Los Amigos Red (Paul Foster, Michael Payne, Gabriel Gracida, Carlitos Gracida).
De La Vega and Figueras shared Most Valuable Player honors.
Both teams got balanced scoring. For Los Amigos Green, Figueras scored a team-high four goals, Bollini and Ganzi each had three goals and De La Vega added two.
For Los Amigos Red, Foster scored a team-high four goals and Payne and Gabriel Gracida each had three goals.
Both teams were tied 2-2 after the opening chukker and 4-4 after the second chukker. Los Amigos Green took a 7-6 halftime lead with a goal by De La Vega just inside the goal post.
The lead changed hands twice in the fourth chukker before Los Amigos Green took an 8-7 lead on Ganzi's third goal of the game.
Los Amigos Green scored three unanswered goals late in the fourth and early in the fifth chukker before Los Amigos Red worked its way back within one goal, 11-10, on Foster's goal early in the sixth chukker.
With four minutes remaining, Figueras scored on a long cut shot to give Los Amigos Green a 12-10 lead. With time running out, Gabriel Gracida converted a safety to cut the lead to one, 12-11. Figueras came up with a game-saving stop of a last-ditch scoring run by Los Amigos Red followed by Bollini defending a Gracida center hit. With less than 20 seconds, Ganzi came up with the ball and ate up the clock on a near-goal run to end the game.
After the Mountain Cup, a large group of young players from The Polo School competed in a kids game with their parents watching from the sidelines including Argentine great Nacho Novillo Astrada.
On Sunday at 11 a.m. MST at Aspen Valley Polo Club, Los Amigos Red (Riley Ganzi, Melissa Ganzi, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini) will play Los Amigos Blue (Grant Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Pablo Dorignac, Paul Foster) in the final of the ChukkerTV Challenge Cup.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Piocho (Brian Boyd, Juancito Bollini, Nacho Figueras, Tom Barrack) will meet Sopris Mountain Ranch (Carlitos Gracida, Hilario Figueras, Marc Ganzi, Alex Gooding) in the Just For The Love Of It subsidiary game at 1 p.m. MST.
Also on Sunday, firefighters will be honored during AVPC's "Polo Cares" initiative. Each Sunday through Labor Day Weekend, firefighters and their families will be acknowledged on AVPC's featured game day. The club will also have donation boxes for anyone wishing to contribute to local fire and rescue stations. AVPC will match all funds collected 100 percent.
AVPC wanted to show its appreciation and support of the hundreds of brave men and women who have been battling the third largest fire in Colorado history for nearly three weeks.
In last year's ChukkerTV Challenge, Tiburon won the title with Lauren Sherry, Collen Clark, Pablo Dorignac and MVP Lucas Lalor. The Dallas-based team rallied in the sixth inning for a thrilling 10-9 victory over Casablanca (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Mariano Gracida). Tiburon had trailed by as many as four goals but rallied for three goals in the final chukker including the game-winner by Dorignac.
Last year Casablanca was the club's winningest team with three tournament wins during the summer season. La Karina won two tournaments.
With the breathtaking 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.
The ChukkerTV Challenge is the third of 13 tournaments. The schedule 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 during the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience.
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, Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids Polo and The Polo School. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments
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 last season's Champagne, Caviar & Chukkers fundraiser that raised $366,000 for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.
The Ganzis are avid players and patrons and "have created a polo paradise" according to Piocho player-sponsor Tom Barrack. Players, sponsors, community leaders and fans share Barrack's sentiments.
Everyone is welcome at Aspen Valley Polo Club. Admission, food and refreshments are free for fans in a relaxed, laidback atmosphere.
Aspen, named after trees that quiver in the slightest breeze, offers hiking, mountain biking, rafting, fishing, golf, horseback riding, mountain climbing, great restaurants and taverns in addition to a full summer of polo.