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Casablanca Defeats Tonkawa in Rocky Mountain Open; Gonzalito Pieres MVP

By: Rebecca Baldridge
Photos by: Nick Tininenko for ChukkerTV

CARBONDALE, CO, August 23, 2021— On Sunday, Casablanca defeated Tonkawa in the final of the Rocky Mountain Open by a score of 10-6.

It was a special day at Aspen Valley Sunday, as the club hosted the annual Summer Polo Benefit for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation. In addition to four fast and exciting matches, guests enjoyed an elegant catered luncheon and a live auction between matches. One of the auction’s highlights was a private tour of Nacho Figueras’s architecturally acclaimed stable in Argentina, which went for $40,000. Following the day’s four matches, guests were treated to a special equestrian performance by John Payne, the One-Armed Bandit.

Torito Ruiz gets hooked by Jimmy Seward.

In the first match of the day, Casablanca (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, and Toro Ruiz) met Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Jimmy Seward, Nic Roldan, and Nacho Novillo Astrada) in the final match of the Rocky Mountain Open.

Gonzalito Pieres put the first goal of the day on the board for Casablanca at 4:38. After another two minutes of play, Pieres swooped in for a steal and took the ball downfield to score again. The chukker ended at 2-0 for Casablanca, establishing a lead that the team held for the entire match. Jimmy Seward fought off Pieres to take the ball through at 2:45 and put the first goal for Tonkawa on the board. A minute later, Pieres intercepted a pass from Nic Roldan and left the finish for Toro Ruiz, ending the second period with Casablanca in the lead by 3-1. Seward scored the first goal in the third chukker, but Tonkawa failed to gain much ground as Pieres put another pair of goals on the board, and the half ended with Casablanca in the lead by 5-2.

Marc Ganzi races ahead of Jeff Hildebrand.

The second half started with Toro Ruiz picking up a loose ball and running to goal. After two minutes of back-and forth-play, Roldan was carrying the ball only to be hooked by Grant Ganzi. Recovering immediately, Roldan took the ball back to score at 2:37. At the beginning of the pentultimate period, Casablanca was still in the lead with a score of 6- 3. Roldan quickly added a pair of goals to put Tonkawa within one goal, but Ruiz answered Roldan, taking Casablanca to a 7-5 lead. A Penalty 3 shot from Marc took the score to 8-5, but another goal from Roldan ended the chukker with a score of 8-6.

MVP Gonzalito Pieres.

In the final period, Pieres scored his third pair of consecutive goals, taking his team up to 10. Tonkawa couldn’t get by the Casablanca defense, and Casablanca took the title with a final score of 10-6. Gonzalito Pieres was named MVP, while Ladybug, a 7-year-old dark bay mare, took Best Playing Pony honors. Owned and played by Jimmy Seward, she was bred by Stewart Armstrong.

In the second final of the day, White Claw (Waqqas al-Siddiq, Vinny Sangaline, Gonzalito Pieres, and Nacho Badiola) and Dundas (Sarah Siegel Magness, Gussie Busch, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, and Juan Bollini) vied for the title in the Carbondale Classic.

Kids uniwheel game in between finals.

Gussie Busch started the scoring by successfully converting a Penalty 2. However, White Claw didn’t make it onto the board in the first chuker, which ended 1-0. Playing his second match of the day, Gonzalito Pieres put his team on the board with the first goal of the second chukker. Gussie Busch and Sarah Siegel Magness took Dundas up to three goals, while Pieres put the ball through the posts to end the chukker 3-2 with Dundas in the lead. Just over a minute into the third period, Pieres deflected a shot on goal, but the ball bounced off the post, giving Vinny Sangaline the opportunity to tap the ball through and tie things up at 3-all. Pieres converted a Penalty 2, putting White Claw ahead for the first time in the game. Busch scored an equalizer and the half ended with the teams tied at 4-all.

2021 Carbondale Classic winners, White Claw‘s Waqqas al-Siddiq, Vinny Sangaline, MVP Gonzalito Pieres,  and Nacho Badiola.

White Claw commanded the field in the fourth chukker, keeping Dundas off the goal, while Pieres converted a Penalty 4 to put his team back in the lead. The White Claw defense held in the pentultimate chukker while Dundas was still unable to score. Nacho Badiola contributed two more goals to keep White Claw firmly in the lead at 7-4. Dundas fought back hard in the final period. Busch put the first goal in, and Badiola answered by scoring to take his team up to 10. Sarah Magness converted a Penalty 2, which was followed by a final goal from Gussie Busch. However, Dundas was unable to overcome White Claw’s lead, and the game ended with an 8-7 victory for White Claw. For the second time in one day, Gonzalito Pieres took the MVP title. Cruella deVille, played by Pieres and owned and bred by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was named Best Playing Pony.

Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Nacho Badiola.

In the subsidiary match of the Rocky Mountain Open, McClure River Ranch (Sugar Erskine, Tomas Pieres, Horacio Heguy, and Stewart Armstrong) met La Karina (Brian Boyd, Pablo Spinacci, Nacho Figueras, and Alejandro Novillo Astrada). Sugar Erskine started the action with a pair of goals for McClure River, while Nacho Figueras answered to end the first chukker with McClure River in the lead by 2-1. In the second period, Alejandro Novillo Astrada began the scoring, and Pablo Spinacci put two more balls through the posts to take his team up to four. McClure River Ranch’s Tomas Pieres knocked in the final goal of the period, which ended 4-3 with La Karina in the lead. Neither team was able to score in the third period, and the half ended 4-3.

Vinny Sangaline assists teammate Waqqas al-Siddiq in gaining possession.

As the second half began, Pieres put a goal on the board for McClure River, but a Penalty 2 conversion and a goal from Figueras saw 6 on the board for La Karina. Pieres put another ball through the posts to end the period 5-6 with La Karina in the lead. In the pentultimate chukker, Figueras took his team up to 7. Horacio Heguy found the uprights for McClure River and the period ended 7-6 with La Karina in the lead. In the final period Novillo Astrada converted a Penalty 2 while Sugar Erskine scored another goal and Pieres successfully shot from the penalty to end the period in an 8-8 tie and send the match into overtime. Nacho Novillo Astrada converted a penalty to win the match for La Karina at 9-8. Tomas Pieres was the high scoring player with four goals.

Nacho Figueras and wife Delfina Blaquier with auctioneer John Sarpa and Deborah Breen raising money for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.

In the Just for the Fun of It subsidiary of the Carbondale Classic, NetJets (Alejandra Foster, Govinda Quish, Sugar Erskine, and Tomas Pieres) took on Rancho Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Michael Payne, Felipe Versallino, and Pablo Spinacci).  Alejandra Foster drew first blood, with an answer from Pablo Spinacci to end the chukker at 1-1. A penalty conversion by Michael Payne, followed by a goal from Govinda Quish for NetJets, saw the second period end with a score of 2-2. In the final chukker of the first half, Alejandra Foster put another goal on the board, while NetJets managed to contain Los Amigos and end the half leading by 3-2.

Guests enjoyed a special show by „The One-Armed Bandit“ John Payne.

Los Amigos continued to struggle in the fourth period and again failed to score, while a shot from the penalty line by Quish saw 4-2 on the board. The tables were turned in the fifth period, with NetJets failing to score while Michael Payne twice found the posts for Los Amigos and tied the match at 4-4 going into the final chukker. NetJets seemed to run out of steam, failing to get past the Los Amigos defense yet again. Payne scored the final goal to see Rancho Los Amigos prevail by 5-4. Michael Payne was the high scoring player of the match, scoring four of his team’s five goals.


2021 Aspen Valley Summer Polo Series

World Polo League Triple Crown of Polo 8/25-8/29

Arena Tournaments & Asado – Tuesday Evenings
Kidz Uni-Wheel games during select tournament halftimes

 Visit for more details.
Games live-streamed on

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