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La Karina Captures USPA North American Cup; Sebastian Merlos Most Valuable Player

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La Karina Captures USPA North American Cup; Sebastian Merlos Most Valuable Player
CARBONDALE, Colo., July 21, 2019---In one of the most exciting games in USPA North American Cup history, La Karina won its 20-goal tournament debut Saturday at Aspen Valley Polo Club's McClure River Ranch.

USPA North American Cup champions Sebastian Merlos_ Carlitos Gracida_ Kris Kampsen and Brian Boyd of La Karina.
USPA North American Cup champions Sebastian Merlos, Carlitos Gracida, Kris Kampsen and Brian Boyd of La Karina.



Aspen-based La Karina (Brian Boyd, 0, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Sebastian Merlos, 8, Kris Kampsen, 6) led from start-to-finish to defeat McClure River Ranch (Hilario Figueras, 3, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Nic Roldan, 8, Stewart Armstrong, 3) with a stunning 15-12 victory in front of a worldwide USPA Polo Network audience.

Sebastian Merlos of La Karina is double teamed near the sideboards.
Sebastian Merlos of La Karina is double teamed near the sideboards.

"The polo gods were with us today," said Boyd, the only amateur player in the championship final competing in his first 20-goal tournament. "Nobody gave anybody an inch. They were a strong team, not a weak link among them. If you made a mistake you paid for it. It was a war out there. We had a lot of heart in that sixth chukker." 

Former 10-goaler Sebastian Merlos, 46, was named Most Valuable Player. The Argentine field general led his team on both ends of the field and shared in team-high scoring honors with four goals. Kampsen also had four goals. 

Sebastian Merlos of La Karina hits past Nic Roldan.
Sebastian Merlos of La Karina hits past Nic Roldan.

"Sebe was the MVP today," Boyd said. "He was a great captain. He was very tactical. He still has the 10-goal brain. I learned a lot from him. He captained us so well and won a lot of balls in the middle of the field. Sebe fired us up and pulled us all together."

Linador, an 11-year-old gelding owned and played by Armstrong, was USPA Best Playing Pony.

Rumba, a 7-year-old chestnut mare owned and played by Merlos, was selected American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony.

La Karina_s Brian Boyd watches his hit downfield for one of his team-high four goals.
La Karina's Brian Boyd watches his hit downfield for one of his team-high four goals.

The American Polo Horse Association was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.

The final between the two evenly-matched teams lived up to expectations. La Karina had the edge taking advantage of its momentum opportunities.

Carlitos Gracida of La Karina out of the saddle to hook Stewart Armstrong on his way to score.
Carlitos Gracida of La Karina out of the saddle to hook Stewart Armstrong on his way to score.

La Karina led by as many as four goals, 11-7, in the fourth chukker after Boyd scored back-to-back goals in the final two minutes. Boyd, playing well above his 0-rating, lofted an 80-yarder with 1:53 left after Merlos won the throw-in and Gracida took out Roldan. Boyd then scooped up the ball and scored on a missed Merlos attempt with eight seconds left.

McClure River Ranch started winning the throw-ins in the fifth chukker and reeled in La Karina to trail by only one, 12-11, after Roldan connected on a nice cut shot right before the horn. But it was the closest McClure River Ranch would get after Merlos rallied his teammates to enable La Karina to outscore McClure River Ranch, 3-1, in the final chukker to put the game away.

Fans and dogs stretching their legs during halftime.
Fans and dogs stretching their legs during halftime.

La Karina got balanced scoring. In addition to Boyd and Kampsen each with four goals, Gracida had three goals and Boyd added two goals. The 18-goal team also picked up two goals on handicap.

Roldan, making his summer debut in Aspen, scored a game-high seven goals. Spinacci and Armstrong each had two goals. Figueras, playing above his 3-goal handicap defending Merlos for most of the game, added one goal.

Brian Boyd of La Karina goes to hook Nic Roldan.
Brian Boyd of La Karina goes to hook Nic Roldan.

"We all pulled together and were calm in that sixth chukker," Boyd said. "Sebe told everyone if we weren't on our best two horses, go get on them, that it was going to come down to the horses, discipline and a little bit of luck."

Boyd, a 20-year veteran of the game, started his polo team, named after his wife Karin, 12 years ago. Playing only summer seasons, La Karina competed in 12-goal polo for eight years at Santa Barbara and Aspen Valley Polo Club where co-owners and players Marc and Melissa Ganzi convinced him to compete at the 20-goal level.

Awards presenter Marc Ganzi with MVP winner Sebastian Merlos.
Awards presenter Marc Ganzi with MVP winner Sebastian Merlos.

"Marc and Melli encouraged me to do it, they told me I would love it," Boyd said. "Melli is so good at the logistics and putting teams together. The biggest difference playing 20-goal is it's way more expensive. But you get to play with all these big guys.

"I've never played this fast before," Boyd said. "The horses were amazing the speed is fun. It was so competitive but I felt safe. I love it and now I'm hooked. This is the biggest win of my polo career."

Linador_ owned and played by Stewart Armstrong_ USPA Best Playing Pony.
Linador, owned and played by Stewart Armstrong, USPA Best Playing Pony.

Boyd also plans to compete in the highly-coveted 119th USPA Silver Cup with brothers Sebastian and Tincho Merlos and Carlitos Gracida.

It was a day of historic firsts for Aspen Valley Polo Club. It was the first time the USPA North American Cup was hosted by the club and first of two 20-goal USPA tournaments of the summer season in Aspen. It had been held at Wellington, Fla.-based sister club Grand Champions Polo Club since 2011.

Rumba_ owned and played by Sebastian Merlos_ American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony.
Rumba, owned and played by Sebastian Merlos, American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony.

"This tournament has purpose on a couple of levels," said Marc Ganzi. "As a USPA club we have always wanted to try the best competitive polo we can do here in the Rocky Mountain region. I think the next month provides a really unique opportunity to see true 20-goal polo played up here in the mountains. Great players, great teams, great organizations. I think you are going to see some really fantastic polo in the next three to four weeks.

"It's a real treat," Ganzi said. "There has never been USPA 20-goal polo here in the Rocky Mountain circuit. I think that's historic for the association and for our club as well. I'm really looking forward to seeing how these teams shape up for the next few weeks and most importantly how these new fields perform because they look absolutely amazing. It's really exciting to see what was once a big working ranch with cattle a year ago is now a really incredible polo facility."

Pablo Spinacci of McClure River Ranch tries to get the ball past Brian Boyd.
Pablo Spinacci of McClure River Ranch tries to get the ball past Brian Boyd.

The USPA North American Cup has a rich tradition in history dating back to 1974. The tournament has been a mainstay in American and Canadian polo for decades at the 16 and 20-goal level. 

The first winner was Tulsa with Hall of Famers John T. Oxley and Billy Linfoot, Corky Linfoot and Jim MacGinley. During the late 1990s and early 2000s Calgary Polo Club hosted the tournament before moving to Grand Champions.

Kris Kampsen of La Karina tries to get past Hilario Figueras.
Kris Kampsen of La Karina tries to get past Hilario Figueras.

The USPA North American Cup was the fourth of eleven grass tournaments and three arena tournaments being staged at AVPC in what is expected to be its best season.

Coming off its most successful summer season, Aspen Valley Polo Club has lined up a star-studded roster of players including Hilario Ulloa, Sapo Caset, Alejandro and Nacho Novillo Astrada, Tincho and Sebastian Merlos and Nic Roldan for the summer to compete with and against patrons and amateur players. 

Carlitos Gracida of La Karina on his way to scoring in the third chukker.
Carlitos Gracida of La Karina on his way to scoring in the third chukker.

The first three tournament winners of the 2019 summer season were: Mountain Chevrolet (Michael Payne, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nacho Novillo Astrada), ChukkerTV Challenge; Los Amigos Red (Hilario Figueras, Paul Foster, Lucas Lalor, Nacho Novillo Astrada), Craig Sakin Memorial; and Piocho Ranch (Tom Barrack, Gabriel Gracida, Nacho Figueras, Salvador Ulloa), the season-opening Independence Cup winners.

Among the 2019 summer highlights is the 119th USPA Silver Cup. The Aug. 11 final, set for one of the club's two newest fields at McClure River Ranch, will be paired with the annual Chukkers, Champagne & Caviar  fundraiser. Other top tournaments are the July 23-August 6 USPA National Arena Handicap, Aug. 7-14 Arena World Cup and Sept. 1-8 Triple Crown of Polo.

La Karina_s Sebastian Merlos works his magic downfield.
La Karina's Sebastian Merlos works his magic downfield.

The club's summer marquis charity event, hosted by club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi and Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, has raised $1 million dollars in the last two years to benefit Aspen Valley Hospital.

General admission tickets remain on sale now. VIP tickets are sold out, according to Andrea Olson, marketing coordinator for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation. Please call 970-544-1302 to be placed on a waiting list.

Carlitos Gracida of La Karina reaches to hook Pablo Spinacci.
Carlitos Gracida of La Karina reaches to hook Pablo Spinacci.

With the majestic 12,965-foot summit of Mount Sopris as a backdrop, Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the busiest and fastest growing USPA-sanctioned clubs in the nation with a membership increase of 75 percent over four seasons.

Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi founded the club in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club's offerings of various weekly grass and arena tournaments,  Tuesday Arena & Asado Nights, Kidz 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 weekend tournaments.

"We want polo to thrive here, and we want Aspen to be the summer polo destination in America," said Melissa Ganzi.

USPA North American Cup finalists La Karina and McClure River Ranch with award presenters Marc Ganzi and Cece Armstrong.
USPA North American Cup finalists La Karina and McClure River Ranch with award presenters Marc Ganzi and Cece Armstrong.

Added Marc Ganzi, who grew up in Aspen: "We want to make Aspen Valley Polo Club the place for this Valley. Most importantly the idea is to de-mystify the game of polo that people have the impression that it's a sport you can't access, that you can't play. We just want to get people to appreciate the horses and the Valley."

Aspen Valley Polo Club has had a positive impact in the area hosting kids polo camps, teaching lessons and  several charitable events at the club that have benefited local charities.

Aspen Peak Magazine has featured the club and its polo and charity events several times and recently featured players Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Tony Calle and Nic Roldan in a cover story.

USPA North American Cup awards table.
USPA North American Cup awards table.
Photos by Nick Tininenko/Aspen Valley Polo Club 

The Ganzis are avid players and patrons and "have created a polo paradise" according to Piocho Ranch padron Tom Barrack. "You can go all over the world but you can't have these kind of people, players and horses in this setting. It's really a gift." Players, sponsors, community leaders and fans share Barrack's sentiments.

All ages are welcome to enjoy polo at Aspen Valley Polo Club. Admission, food and refreshments are free for fans in a relaxed, laidback atmosphere. An added feature is the club's Jumbotron which made its debut last summer for the fans' enjoyment, Aspen Valley Polo Club Boutique and new electronic scoreboard.

2019 Aspen Valley Polo Club Summer Polo Series

July
Basalt Handicap
Sunday 7/21, 11 a.m. Basalt Handicap Final
Piocho Ranch vs Los Amigos Blue
at McClure River Ranch

1 p.m. Just For The Love Of It Cup
Los Amigos Red vs Mountain Chevrolet
at McClure River Ranch


 USPA National Arena Handicap July 23 - August 6
 USPA Silver Cup July 24-August 11
Emma Challenge Cup July 26-28
 ChukkerTV Arena Challenge July 30

August
High Alpine Cup 8/2 - 8/4
Arena World Cup 8/7 - 8/14
Rocky Mountain Open 8/9 - 8/17
Mount Sopris Cup 8/16 - 8/18
Carbondale Classic 8/23 - 8/25
 2019 PoloFest Denver 8/31

September
The Triple Crown of Polo Trophy 9/1 - 9/8

Visit www.aspenvalleypoloclub.com for more details.
All game time are MST

USPA Silver Cup 
 Photo by USPA
UNITED STATES POLO ASSOCIATION 

The United States Polo Association® was organized and exists for the purposes of promoting thegame of polo, coordinating the activities of its member clubs and registered players, arranging and supervising polo tournaments, competitions, and games and providing rules, handicaps, and conditions for those tournaments, competitions, and games including the safety and welfare of participants and mounts.
THE POLO SCHOOL

The Polo School and its Director Juan Bollini are dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. The school's mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. For lessons contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099.

              CHUKKERTV


ChukkerTV is live streaming the entire summer polo season. ChukkerTV, featuring cutting-edge technology, was the first to introduce state-of-the-art live streaming technology and instant replay in January, 2014 at Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Fla. For advertising opportunities on ChukkerTV please contact Mike Ferreira at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




ASPEN VALLEY POLO CLUB

CLUB ADDRESS:
3275 County Road 100,
Carbondale, Colo. 81623

POLO HOTLINE: 970-710-1663

The exclusive Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the nation's fastest-growing polo clubs. It offers polo in the summer for players and spectators. The Polo School is available to adults and juniors. It offers individual and group lessons for all levels and ages. For spectators there are great field side views for tournament action, indoor and outdoor arenas and also the Aspen Valley Polo Club Boutique. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere with complimentary food, refreshments and weekly asados. Admission and parking are free. For Polo On Demand price rates of group and private lessons, arena chukkers, grass chukkers and individualized "Polo Experience" packages call the polo hotline at 970-710-1663 or log onto www.aspenvalleypoloclub.com 

STAY CONNECTED:
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