ASPEN, Colo., December 22, 2022—In a thrilling finish, Blade And Bow won its first St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship Wednesday at Rio Grande Park.
Blade And Bow (Grant Ganzi, 3, Hilario Figueras, 6, Tommy Biddle, 9) rallied from a four-goal deficit to defeat St. Regis (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Nacho Figueras, 6, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7), 9-8, in front of a soldout VIP tent and worldwide ChukkerTV audience.
Biddle, making his fourth finals appearance, won the tournament for the first time and was named Most Valuable Player. „I am happy to finally win,“ Biddle said. „This makes it a very Merry Christmas. To be honest, I thought if we didn‘t win it they ought to kick me in the butt.“
The former 10-goal rated arena player had the play of the day scoring a goal off a knock-in the length of the field with 16 seconds left in the second chukker.
„I got very, very, very lucky because that ball is very tough to control,“ Biddle said. „When I hit it I went ‚what a crappy shot‘ because it looked like it was going to the right and going out of bounds. Then it curled back in and landed in and I went ‚oh wow.‘“
St. Regis, a 14-goal rated team, started with a 3-0 lead based on handicap against Blade And Bow. Melissa Ganzi made it 4-0 with a long goal just past center field. Biddle scored with 3:12 left in the opening chukker as Blade And Bow started to claw its way back into the game.
Grant Ganzi converted a 15-yard penalty to tie the game, 6-6, with 3:57 left in the third chukker. Melissa Ganzi then converted a 15-yard penalty to give St. Regis back the lead, 7-6. Hilario Figueras scored on a neck shot with 1:53 to tie the game again, 7-7. Nacho Figueras was awarded a penalty one for an 8-7 lead. Blade And Bow was also awarded a penalty one when Grant Ganzi was impeded with as he attempted to score and tied the game again, 8-8, in the third chukker.
In another big play, Grant Ganzi jumped on the line to draw a St. Regis foul and successfully converted a 15-yard penalty which turned out to be the winning goal for a 9-8 lead with 3:32 left in the game.
“We were clawing back the whole game,“ said Grant Ganzi after winning his third St. Regis title. „They got a cushion on us and then they scored a quick one, my mom scored an amazing goal. And they scored another goal. It was a lot of goals we had to make up. And I missed a couple of penalties. So, honestly, I was proud of my teammates. They fought really hard and I was happy I was able to knock the penalties down the second half when they were really important.
„I was just happy we were able to come back and not give up,“ Ganzi said. „It was an amazing game. Hats off to St. Regis. They played incredible. My mom played one of the best snow polo games I’ve seen her play in her life and Alejandro and Nacho battled their asses off to win. Kudos to them and all the love in the world to my teammates. They killed it.”
St. Regis had its chances to score late in the chukker missing two penalty shots and having a goal called back because of a foul. With 48 seconds left, Grant Ganzi stole the ball from Astrada and ran out the clock.
„I knew that having to give up three goals on handicap in the snow is a lot different from playing in the arena,“ Biddle said. „There was no sense to get upset. Just go and keep working and working and working. I figured we would get it worked out by the end.
„We really should have gone up by two goals and there would have been a lot less pressure but then we had to hang on for dear life because they had a couple of opportunities late.“
Biddle and Figueras each had three goals. Ganzi had two goals and was awarded a penalty-one.
Added Nacho Figueras, who has competed in all 10 St. Regis snow polo tournaments. “It’s always fun to see the kids excel. So that was fun. But I always like to win, so I wasn’t so happy about the result. But they beat us fair and square and I can’t wait until next year.”
In the second game of the doubleheader, Richard Mille (Sarah Siegel Magness, 1, Jesse Bray, 7, Pablo MacDonough, 10) defeated NetJets (Scott Wood, 2, Juan Martin Zubia, 9, Sugar Erskine, 7), 6-4, for the Aspen Cup. MacDonough scored a game-high four goals and was named Most Valuabler Player.
In the battle for fifth and sixth place in the six-team tournament on Tuesday, CK Shack (Santos Bollini, 3, Martin Uranga, 7, Juan Bollini, 4) defeated Edmiston (Cable Magness, 1, Jason Crowder, 7, Jeronimo Del Carril, 9), 9-5. Juan Bollini was selected MVP.
In the Celebrity Polo Round Robin, Aspen Valley Polo Club (Sterling Jones, Marc Ganzi, Nacho Figueras) won the three-team round robin, 1-0, over Casablanca (Saul Sacca, Juan Bollini, Grant Ganzi). Lugano Diamonds (Joyce Bonelli, Martin Uranga, Vinny Sangaline) finished third.
Irenita Sofia, owned and played by Grant Ganzi, was the Best Playing Pony for the final.
Open Deliciosa, played by MacDonough and owned by Halo Polo, was the Best Playing Pony for the tournament.
Call of Duty, played by Zubia and owned by Halo Pony, was the American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony of the tournament.
The six-team event was the most competitive tournament in its 10-year history.
„You have really good players that are playing here,“ Biddle said. „And the patrons that are playing in the tournament play very well. The Ganzis shipped out three loads of horses to help mount everybody.“
Blade And Bow Blade is a brand of bourbon whiskey produced at the original site of the iconic Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. The original distillery closed its doors in 1992, and the company Diageo re-opened the facility in 2014. In regards to the origins of the Blade and Bow name, it represents the two parts of a skeleton key, the blade shaft and the ornate bow.
For the second consecutive day, actress and singer songwriter Kelley Jakle, sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem and flag bearer Jenna Hammond carried the American flag on horseback during the pre-game ceremony.
During the awards ceremony, tournament co-host Marc Ganzi announced that $100,000 had been raised from record ticket sales (doubled from last year) and donations for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation and Calaway-Young Cancer Center.
„All of you showed up this weekend,“ said tournament co-host Marc Ganzi. „I know a lot of you came from a long distance to support the World Snow Polo Championships and part of that support is when all of you reached into your checkbooks and you bought VIP tickets to come. We blew this out. We raised $100,000 this weekend which is incredible. We were at $30,000 two days ago.“
Ganzi also praised the community support for the event.
„This week doesn‘t happen without a lot of important people,“ Ganzi said. „I have to give a lot of credit to Mayor Torre and the City Council. This city continues to support this event. We can‘t do it without the city of Aspen or without the help of Aspen Skiing Company. That‘s what this community does. It shows up and pulls for everyone and I want to give a great round of applause for the city of Aspen for their partnership in this event.“
For the tenth consecutive year, Aspen Valley Polo Club owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi hosted the world-class event which has joined St. Moritz as one of the world‘s top snow polo tournaments and one of Aspen‘s major international sporting events. It was the final stop on the World Polo Tour and only snow polo event in North America.
Past winners were: 2021, Richard Mille (Sarah Siegel Magness, Jesse Bray, Pablo MacDonough); 2020, World Polo League (Riley Ganzi, Hilario Figueras, Alejandro Novillo Astrada); 2019, Richard Mille (Edouard Pan, Pablo MacDonough, Louis Jarrige); 2018, Richard Mille (Marc Ganzi, Martin Pepa, Pablo MacDonough); U.S. Polo Assn.; 2017, (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan); 2016, Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini); 2015, U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini); 2014, Piaget (Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Nic Roldan); and 2013, St. Regis (Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips).
With the majestic 12,965-foot summit of Mount Sopris as a backdrop, Aspen Valley Polo Club continues to be one of the busiest and fastest growing USPA-sanctioned clubs in the nation. Aspen Valley Polo Club has become the world‘s destination spot for summer and snow polo.
Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi resurrected the club and polo in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club‘s offerings of various weekly grass and arena tournaments, Arena & Asado Nights, Kidz Polo, Kids Wheely 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.
By Sharon Robb
Photos by Nick Tininenko