Photos by Candace Ferreira and Nick Tininenko
Richard Mille made history at the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship at Rio Grande Park, Aspen, Colo. In front of a sold-out, heated VIP tent and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, 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) on the final stop of the World Polo Tour.
Richard Mille has won the tournament three of the last four years. MacDonough, the only player on all three winning teams, was named Most Valuable Player.
“It was good to win for the third time,” said the Argentine 10-goaler. “We had a very good game. We played well. The most important thing was we won many throw-ins and we scored. It was an advantage toward the end of the game.”
It was the first time Bray and MacDonough played together.
“There is a reason the guy is 10 goals and one of the best players in the world,” Bray said. “He is a great teammate. It’s hard for players who play outdoor to go and play in the arena or only do it once a year, but he just picks it up so quickly. He is super talented, and it shows.”
Bray earned the High Scorer Award after scoring 12 goals in the tournament. The 29-year-old scored a game-high five goals in the championship. He also scored four goals in his team’s 10-7 opening tournament win over Aspen Valley Polo Club and three goals in a 3-2 win over defending champion World Polo League.
“I think throw-ins are a huge part of any polo, but especially in the arena or the snow because it’s so short,” Bray said. “If they throw the ball in and you win it you’re half a shot or breakaway to the goal.”
It was Bray’s fifth snow polo tournament appearance and third final. It was also the first game his 2-month-old baby Dorothy Lily watched him play.
“The pressure was on, it wouldn’t have been good if I lost the first game she watched,” Bray said. “I’m really happy with the win. I knew it was going to be a hard game, that was a really good team. I knew we had a good chance once we got to the snow.”
The victory avenged last year’s 11-10 overtime shootout loss to WPL (Riley Ganzi, Hilario Figueras, Alejandro Novillo Astrada). Bray, Siegel Magness and Jason Crowder played for runner-up Royal Salute.
“Jesse Bray is a machine at this kind of polo,” MacDonough said. “This was the toughest tournament so far because there were so many competitive teams. I remember the last time I was here the field was good, but this time the quality of the field was even better so we could run more. It was outstanding and that made the polo a lot better and the final much more exciting.”
It was Siegel Magness’ fourth snow polo appearance.
“I think it is the biggest win in my career just because it’s nearly impossible to make that final,” Siegel Magness said. “This tournament is won in the arena in the qualifying. It’s so hard. There are so many good teams and so many good players. And everybody wants to win.
“You think about what it’s going to be like when you win. Honestly, the only thing I could think about was ‘I wish I had played a better game.’ That’s how polo is. Every day you just try and get better. Even winning, I think, What do I need to do to get better next time?
“I felt like I played much better in the arena. I think I was really, really extremely nervous and really wanted to win. My teammates came alive which I knew would happen. I’m very appreciative of winning just because maybe next year I can relax a little bit.”
Best Playing Pony was home-bred Centauros, played by Bray and owned by Wellington-based Santa Rita Polo Farm. Father Heckle, an American thoroughbred out of Hennessey and gray Argentine mare Juana.
It was the most competitive final in the nine-year history of North America’s only snow polo tournament and fitting way to kick off the holiday social season in Aspen.
“It’s arguably two of the best finals this tournament has ever seen,” said tournament co-host Marc Ganzi. “A huge thanks to the Aspen Ski Company’s whole team...great preparation and incredible effort by the whole staff; all our great sponsors and to everyone that came out in the city of Aspen, Mayor Torre, the City Council and everyone that made this part of a great tradition. It’s official, the holidays have begun in Aspen and Snow Polo 2021 is in the books.”