In an emotionally charged final, Richard Mille defended its title in the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship Friday at Rio Grande Park.
In front of a sold-out VIP tent, defending champion Richard Mille (Louis Jarrige, 3, Edouard Pan, 4, Pablo MacDonough, 10) held off two-time champion U.S. Polo Assn. in the final seconds for a thrilling 7-6 victory.
Frenchman Louis Jarrige, turning in one of his finest career performances, was named Most Valuable Player after scoring a game-high four goals and playing well defensively.
Delicioso, a 15-year-old bay gelding played by MacDonough, was the Polo Today Best Playing Pony.
Barata, played by Ganzi, was the American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony. Ganzi was also awarded the Play of the Game.
The APHA was created in 2006 by legendary Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourage events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.
For MacDonough it was his second tournament victory in seven days. Last Saturday he won a record seventh Argentine Open with La Dolfina and was MVP.
“It feels great to win it two years in a row,” MacDonough said. “We are so happy to win again. It was a tough game and the field of teams this year was better than last year. I can’t say enough about this great event.”
MacDonough won his second snow polo title with two new teammates, Jarrige and Frenchman Edouard Pan, who played well above their handicaps in a physical and hotly-contested four-chukker game.
“This was really amazing,” Pan said. “This is my first time playing in Aspen. The field was amazing. It was a really good game and it feels good to leave here with a win.”
In the fourth and final chukker with the game tied at 5-5, Jarrige scored back-to-back goals within two minutes to give Richard Mille a 7-5 lead with 3:05 remaining. The first goal he scored on a great neck shot off a back shot pass from MacDonough. His second goal was on a breakaway after he picked up a loose ball.
Ganzi converted his third 15-yard penalty of the game with 2:26 left to cut the lead to 7-6. Against a strong man defense by Richard Mille, U.S. Polo Assn. tried to mount an offensive attack. With 1:30 left, Jarrige saved a potential Roldan goal.
U.S. Polo Assn. players, despite hitting it out of bounds three times, had two quick scoring opportunities but missed both. Roldan looked to be on his way to scoring the tying goal when Jarrige stopped his shot in the final seconds. Ganzi quickly backed the loose ball into the goal but the bell signifying the end of the game had rung one second earlier and it was no goal. The head umpire did review the play after the game and it was confirmed no goal.
“It was tough, it could have gone either way in the end,” Ganzi said. “The ball didn’t really bounce our way. It is what it is, that’s polo.”
In addition to Jarrige’s four goals, MacDonough scored two goals and Pan added one. For U.S. Polo Assn., Ganzi led with three goals, all on 15-yard penalty conversions. Roldan had two goals. The 15-goal rated team also received two goals on handicap.
In the first half, it didn’t take Richard Mille long to erase yje two-goal deficit by winning the first three throw-ins. Back-to-back goals by Jarrige tied the game at 2-2. Ganzi’s first penalty conversion gave U.S. Polo Assn. back the lead (3-2) going into the second chukker.
After a mostly defensive second chukker, Pan scored with 1:15 remaining to tie the game 3-3. With 31 seconds left, Roldan picked up a loose and scored for a 4-3 advantage.
Both teams came out more offensively in the third chukker but missed scoring opportunities. With two minutes left, MacDonough stole the ball from Roldan and scored to tie the game again, 4-4. With 1:30 left, MacDonough scored the goal of the game hitting the ball out of the air and into the net to give Richard Mille its first lead of the game, 5-4. Ganzi scored another penalty shot with 45 seconds left to tie the game, 5-5, and set up the thrilling final chukker.
In the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, Aspen Valley Polo Club (Sarah Siegel Magness, 0, Jesse Bray, 7, Patrick Uretz, 8) won the Aspen Cup subsidiary game for third place. The trio defeated St. Regis (Julien Reynes, 4, Jason Crowder, 7, Nacho Figueras, 6), 9-5. Bray scored a game-high six goals and was named Most Valuable Player. Aspen Cup Best Playing Pony was Muneco, played and owned by Sarah Siegel-Magness of Aspen Valley Polo Club.
In the High Alpine Cup on Thursday, Flexjet led Royal Salute from start-to-finish to win fifth place honors in the six-team tournament. Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 1, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, Juan Bollini, 6), led 6-1 at the half and held on for a 9-7 victory over Royal Salute (Pierre Henri Ngoumou, 6, Malcolm Borwick, 6, Horacio Heguy, 6).
Richard Mille also won the Celebrity Chukker knocking off St. Regis. In front of a good crowd including Australian actress Rebel Wilson, Richard Mille (Sterling Jones, Gary Magness, Pablo MacDonough) defeated St. Regis (Nacho Figueras, Hilario Figueras, Saye Yabandeh, 4-3. For the third year in a row, Jones was leading scorer with two goals. The remaining five players each had one goal.
In the U.S., snow polo is held exclusively in Aspen. 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. In addition to St. Moritz, it’s played in winter sports communities Aspen, Cortina, Italy, Kitzbuhel, Austria, Courchevel, France and Tianjin, China. In the U.S., snow polo is held exclusively in Aspen.
Said Melissa Ganzi: “Aspen, I think is the most special place, but it’s nice for others to see it and it brings attention to the area. Having the best players in the world is unique and special. It’s great for America. It’s great for Aspen. It just helps generate more attention with these top players.”