CARBONDALE, Colo., December 20, 2022 — Opening day action of the 10th annual St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship was one of the most competitive in tournament history.
In the biggest upset of the day, Blade & Bow (Grant Ganzi, 3, Hilario Figueras, 6, Tommy Biddle, 9) knocked off three-time defending champion Richard Mille (Sarah Siegel Magness, 1, Jesse Bray, 7, Pablo MacDonough, 10), 5-4, in overtime, to advance into the championship final Wednesday against St. Regis (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Nacho Figueras, 6, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7).
Five of the six player finalists have already won the coveted cup at least once. Only Biddle, a former 10-goal rated arena player, has not won it. The final will pit father against son Nacho and Hilario Figueras and mother against son Melissa and Grant Ganzi.
„We got really lucky,“ Grant Ganzi said. „We beat two very, very strong teams. I think all the teams here are strong this year. We are very lucky to be in the final.
„It was really tight (against Richard Mille) the whole time,“ Ganzi said. „We just knew that we needed to play super simple and open and keep moving the ball.“
After 12 chukkers of hardfought polo in Aspen Valley Polo Club‘s indoor arena, the matchups have been decided for the next two days when action now moves onto the hard-packed snow at Rio Grande Park.
On Wednesday, in front of an expected sellout VIP crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Blade & Bow will play St. Regis in the championship final at 1 p.m. followed by Richard Mille and NetJets (Scott Wood, 2, Juan Martin Zubia, 9, Sugar Erskine, 7) playing for the Aspen Cup at 3 p.m.
„It‘s going to take everything to beat St. Regis,“ Ganzi said. „They have a lot of experience and don‘t make a lot of mistakes so we have to limit ours. It will be really tough to beat them.
„It‘s a totally different game from arena to snow,“ Ganzi said. „Arena has the big walls. Playing in the snow is a totally different ball game. The ball bounces out more and you have all the fans screaming. It takes a lot of getting used to it but it‘s always amazing to play in the snow.“
On Tuesday, CK Shack (Santos Bollini, 3, Juan Bollini, 4, Martin Uranga, 7) and Edmiston (Cable Magness, 1, Jason Crowder, 7, Jeronimo Del Carril, 9) will play for fifth and sixth place in the High Alpine Cup at 1:15 p.m. followed by the popular Celebrity Polo Round Robin at 2:30 p.m.
Celebrity team sponsors and lineups are: Lugano Diamonds (Joyce Bonelli, Martin Uranga, Vinny Sangaline); Aspen Valley Polo Club (Marc Ganzi, Sterling Jones, Nacho Figueras); and Casablanca (Saul Sacca, Grant Ganzi, Juan Bollini).
In Monday‘s Bracket One qualifying games, Richard Mille defeated CK Shack, 9-7; Blade & Bow edged CK Shack, 7-6; and in a true final Blade & Bow knocked off Richard Mille, 5-4, in overtime with Hilario Figueras scoring the game-winner on a back shot.
„I thought we had a shot at the final when I saw our team on paper, I‘m not going to lie,“ Ganzi said. „Having Biddle in the arena is a huge help and obviously Hilario is fantastic.“
In Bracket Two action, NetJets defeated Edmiston, 6-4; St. Regis topped Edmiston, 9-6; and in another true final, St. Regis led from start-to-finish to defeat NetJets, 7-5.
Among leading scorers: Uranga, 6 goals; Hilario Figueras, 6; Zubia, 6; Bray, five; Del Carril, 5; Nacho Figueras, 5; MacDonough, 4; and Melissa Ganzi, 4.
The event, one of the world‘s top snow polo tournaments and only snow polo event in North America, is a fundraiser for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation and Calaway-Young Cancer Center. In addition to ticket proceeds, donations are welcomed.
For the tenth consecutive year, Aspen Valley Polo Club owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi are hosting 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 is the final stop on the World Polo Tour and kickoff to the holiday social season in Aspen.
Last year Richard Mille made history at the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship. In front of a soldout heated VIP tent, Richard Mille (Sarah Siegel Magness, 0, Jesse Bray, 7, Pablo MacDonough, 10) won its third title with an impressive 9-6 victory over St. Regis (Melissa Ganzi, 1, Nacho Figueras, 6, Nic Roldan, 9). Richard Mille had won the tournament three of the last four years. MacDonough, the only player on all three winning teams, was named Most Valuable Player.
Past winners are: 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).
The sport was first played on a frozen lake in St. Moritz, Switzerland, created by Swiss hotelier and polo visionary Reto Gaudenzi in 1985 and has been growing in popularity ever since, attracting thousands of spectators and top players from around the world.
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
2022 Aspen World Snow Polo Championship
12 p.m. VIP tent opens
1:15 p.m. High Alpine Cup Final
Edmiston vs CK Shack
2:30 p.m. Celebrity Polo Round Robin
at Rio Grande Park
12 p.m. VIP tent opens
1 p.m. Championship Final
St. Regis vs Blade & Bow
3 p.m. Aspen Cup Final
Richard Mille vs NetJets
at Rio Grande Park