Aspen Valley Polo Club will kick off the 2020 summer season with the Independence Cup on July 5th. This year’s roster includes three ten-goalers as well as top players from the US and Argentina.
By: Rebecca Baldridge
Polo returns to Aspen in July, with the club set to host 10 grass tournaments and three arena challenges over the course of the summer. Play kicks off on July 5th, with the season opening Independence Cup, followed by the ChukkerTV Challenge Cup and The Craig Sakin Memorial.
The season promises plenty of thrills on the field, with three ten-goal players driving the action. La Dolfina teammates Pablo MacDonough and Juan Martin Nero will mount up alongside Polito Pieres, who plays for perennial rival Ellerstina during the Argentine season.
MacDonough and Nero have each won the Argentine Open 10 times and will be joined at Aspen Valley by Horacio Heguy (6), a six-time winner, and Nacho Novillo Astrada (8), who won the Open as part of La Aguada in 2003. La Aguada also won the Tortugas Open and the Hurlingham Open that year to sweep the Argentine Triple Crown. It was the fourth team in history to win the Triple Crown, and the first team composed of four brothers to do so.
Other top Argentines playing at Aspen Valley will include Alejandro Novillo Astrada, father and son duo Juan and Juancito Bollini, Carlitos Gracida, Gabriel Gracida, Tincho Merlos, Pablo Spinacci, and Nacho Badiola.
Roldan (8), America’s number two ranked player after Polito Pieres, will also liven up the field along with Gussie Busch (2 ) and Alex Gooding (2). Internationally renowned umpires Gaston Dorignac and Martin Harriague will officiate.
Returning players also include sponsors Brian Boyd of La Karina, Michael Bickford of La Indiana, and Jeff Hildebrand, who won last year’s prestigious USPA Silver Cup with Tonkawa. USPA Chairman Stewart Armstrong will also be joining the lineup, as well as McClure River Ranch co-founders Paul and Alejandra Foster.
119th USPA Silver Cup champion Tonkawa‘s Jeff Hildebrand, Juan Martin Obregon, Sapo Caset, and Mason Wroe
Marc and Melissa Ganzi, who founded the club in 2014, will play, as will their children, Grant and Riley Ganzi. Since the club was founded, 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, The Polo School and Polo on Demand. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.
2019 Independence Cup American Polo Horse Association BPP Macumba, a 13-year-old mare owned and played by Brian Boyd of Flexjet.
While admission is traditionally open and free to the public, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the club to close to spectators for the foreseeable future. Aspen Valley Polo Club has taken this step out of an abundance of caution.
Club co-founder Melissa Ganzi says, “Polo has become part of the fabric of summer in Aspen. Our fans are important to us and we are extremely disappointed to be unable to include them in our 2020 season. This is obviously due to our need for caution and care in the face of the pandemic.“
Juan Martin Nero
Players and staff have been tested in 3 rounds at sister club Grand Champions Polo in Florida since March and will continue to be tested throughout the 2020 summer season.
Aspen Valley Polo Club also implemented testing for the Carbondale Fire Department, which stations an ambulance field side during all tournaments. Carbondale Operations Division Chief Mike Wagner organized the testing within the station. Wagner says; “We greatly appreciate the generosity from the Aspen Valley Polo Club to have the staff at Carbondale Fire tested for COVID-19. The testing provided us with valuable information, so we could continue to meet our goal of remaining healthy and we are able to serve the citizens of and visitors of the Carbondale Fire District.”
Nic Roldan and Juan Bollini
We are following the guidelines set in place by the CDC very closely. The CDC strongly recommends that individuals protect themselves and their community by minimizing the time spent with others in large groups, and by avoiding close contact with other individuals, especially those who are sick.
Other guidelines recommended by the CDC include:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or use hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay home if you are unwell, except to get medical care.
* Always wear a face mask out in public areas.
Although Aspen Valley will be closed to spectators, ChukkerTV will livestream the entire 2020 polo series so fans can still enjoy the best polo of the US summer season. ChukkerTV was the first to introduce state-of-the-art live streaming technology and instant replay in January 2014 at Grand Champtions Polo Club in Wellington, Florida.
2020 Aspen Valley Summer Polo Series:
Independence Cup 7/5
Craig Sakin Memorial 7/10 – 7/12
ChukkerTV Challenge Cup 7/17 – 7/19
USPA National Arena Handicap 7/22 – 7/29
Basalt Handicap 7/24 – 7/26
Emma Challenge Cup 7/30 – 8/2
High Alpine Cup 8/7 – 8/9
Mount Sopris Cup 8/14 – 8/16
Rocky Mountain Open 8/21 – 8/23
Carbondale Classic 8/28 – 8/30
The Triple Crown of Polo 9/1 – 9/6