In front of a record crowd at Aspen Valley Polo Club, Steta Polo Team held on for a thrilling 12-11 victory over Flexjet Sunday in the final of the Mount Sopris Cup. Steta Polo Team (Guillermo Steta, Brian Boyd/Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Carlitos Gracida) built a 9-3 halftime lead and then turned back a second-half rally by Flexjet (Alejandra Foster, Marc Ganzi, Alex Gooding, Julio Novillo Astrada) to win its’ summer polo debut.
Carlitos Gracida scored a team-high five goals and was named Most Valuable Player. “We changed the lineup,” Gracida said. “The other day Nic was playing back. Today I played back, that way Nic could receive it and hit it hard and score.”
Kismet, a 5-year-old mare owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm and ridden by Julio Novillo Astrada was selected Best Playing Pony. Astrada scored a game-high six goals and Marc Ganzi added five goals for Flexjet.
Brian Boyd fractured his right wrist with 3:08 left in the fifth chukka and was replaced by Grant Ganzi. Boyd said he will undergo surgery this week. Boyd was attempting to score when he and his horse collided with one of the padded goal posts. Boyd just missed scoring with the ball going over the end line. He finished with two goals. “I’m going to be okay,” Boyd texted. “It was a fun tourney. It was pilot error. I should have gone for it.”
After a close opening chukka with Steta Polo Team leading 3-2 on Boyd’s first goal of the game, Steta Polo Team found its momentum scoring three consecutive goals for a 6-2 lead early in the second chukka and finished with a 9-3 halftime lead including two goals from Steta, the president of the Mexican Polo Federation.
Flexjet regained its rhythm behind Astrada and scored four consecutive goals to cut Steta Polo Team’s lead to 10-8 lead. Roldan scored at the 4-minute mark for an 11-8 advantage before Boyd was injured.
After Steta Polo Team regained its composure with Ganzi coming in, Flexjet mounted a late rally outscoring Steta Polo Team, 5-2 in the final two chukkas but ran out of time.
In the subsidiary game, Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Lauren Sherry, Agustin (Tincho) Merlos, Gabriel Gracida) trailing after the first half, came back to defeat Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Jimmy Seward, Lucas Lalor, Stewart Armstrong), 9-8.
Los Amigos rallied for three goals in the second half, including two from Paul Foster, who was named Most Valuable Player. Foster and Merlos each finished with three goals. Seward and Armstrong each had three goals for Tonkawa.
In the third and final game of the day, Sopris Mountain Ranch (Ace Boyd, Rufino Merlos, Santos Merlos, Juan Bollini), leading 6-4 after the opening round of four chukkas on Friday, held on for an 8-7 victory over ChukkerTV (Will Jacobs, Juancito Bollini, Grant Ganzi, Tomas Pieres) to win the Aspen Valley Polo Cup. Rufino Merlos, the 9-year-old son of Tincho Merlos, led with three goals and Santos Merlos, the son of Sebastian Merlos added two goals.
The five-hour day, featuring a silent auction, several vendors, face painting, cookie decorating, four-piece musical ensemble and auctioning off polo players, was designated as Charity Day at the club, benefitting Aspen Valley Hospital celebrating its 125th anniversary. Aspen Valley Hospital is the first Colorado hospital to be selected as a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network.
“What a great turnout,” said Deborah Breen, President and CEO of Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation. “What a great day. Special thanks to Marc and Melissa Ganzi and Aspen Valley Polo Club. We thought about doing something like this for the hospital a few weeks ago and everyone here on staff and my staff really made it happen,” Breen said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled. It was a great fundraiser.”
The polo player auction turned out to be the highlight of the day with several players earning money for the hospital. Lauren Sherry of Los Amigos earned the highest bid of $1,000 and Marc Ganzi the second highest at $900.
Aspen Valley Polo Club
Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the busiest and nation’s fastest growing USPA-sanctioned clubs. Polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Arena Polo, Kids Polo and The Polo School at the club owned by Marc and Melissa Ganzi since 2014, in addition to practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.