Casablanca Wins Craig Sakin Memorial Thriller Against Tonkawa; Ace Boyd Named MVP

Casablanca won its second consecutive tournament title  Sunday  at Aspen Valley Polo Club.

By Sharon Robb

On a beautiful, cool day in front of a large crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Casablanca (Santos Bollini, Grant Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Juancito Bollini) held on for a thrilling 10-9 victory over Tonkawa (Ace Boyd, Alex Gooding, Jimmy Seward, Pablo Dorignac).

Subsidiary winners Los Amigos Red players Mariano Gracida_ Alejandra Foster_ Marc Ganzi and Carlitos Gracida.

Subsidiary winners Los Amigos Red players Mariano Gracida, Alejandra Foster, Marc Ganzi and Carlitos Gracida.

Boyd, the lowest-rated player on the field competing in her first major final, was named Most Valuable Player. She replaced team patron Jeff Hildebrand and played well above her handicap scoring three goals, all on penalty-two conversions.

Tonkawa
Tonkawa’s Alex Gooding controlling the ball surrounded by three Casablanca players.

Mini Me, ridden by Santos Bollini, 17, the youngest player in the final, was selected Best Playing Pony. Mini Me, a 15-year-old gelding, was purchased by Melissa Ganzi when he was 2 ½ years old from Mariano Aguerre and Los Machitos. He has blossomed over the years into one of the top polo ponies at Wellington-based Santa Rita Polo Farm.

The future of polo playing in the Kids Foot Mallet exhibition game.
The future of polo playing in the Kids Foot Mallet exhibition game.

Bollini, a senior at Wellington High School and youngest son of former 8-goaler Juan Bollini, turned in his finest performance of his young career marking the veteran Dorignac which played a key role in Casablanca’s victory.

In the fifth chukker, Bollini scored despite a hard Dorignac bump and forced Gooding to hit wide on what looked to be a sure goal run.

MVP Ace Boyd of La Karina controls the ball with Juancito Bollini defending.
MVP Ace Boyd of La Karina controls the ball with Juancito Bollini defending.

Casablanca, the youngest team in the five-team field averaging 20 years, is the first team to win two tournaments during the summer season.

“The game was great, Tonkawa is a good team and it was a pretty even game,” Santos Bollini said. “We have a good team. I have been playing with these guys most of my life. We have chemistry. It’s so much fun to play with them.

Pablo Dorignac rallying La Karina in the final chukker.
Pablo Dorignac rallying La Karina in the final chukker.

“They sent me on Pablo for the knock-ins and told me to make him hit it,” Bollini said. “For me individually it was harder. I think I have improved a lot. They don’t treat me like the last man anymore. They make me work and make me do stuff. They yell at me like they never have before, but that’s part of the learning process.”

Casablanca held slim 2-1 and 3-2 leads after the first two chukkers but opened it up in the third chukker for a 6-3 halftime advantage. Tonkawa outscored Casablanca, 2-1, in the fourth chukker and trailed by only 6-5 but Casablanca turned the tables in the fifth for a 2-1 chukker and led 9-6. Led by Dorignac’s two goals in the sixth chukker, Tonkawa reeled in Casablanca but fell short of its rally.

Craig Sakin Memorial awards table and vintage 1938 Rolls Royce on display.
Craig Sakin Memorial awards table and vintage 1938 Rolls Royce on display.

Casablanca had balanced scoring. Ganzi led with four goals, Juancito Bollini had three, Santos Bollini added two second-half goals and Lalor had one. Dorignac scored a game-high five goals.

In the subsidiary round robin, Los Amigos Red (Alejandra Foster, Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Mariano Gracida) captured the three-team subsidiary. Los Amigos Red defeated La Karina (Melissa Ganzi, Brian Boyd, Mike Azzaro, Juan Bollini), 6-5, and tied Los Amigos Blue (Paul Foster, Gabriel Gracida, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Stewart Armstrong), 5-5, with Carlitos Gracida scoring the tying goal in the final seconds. In the other game, La Karina edged Los Amigos Blue, 4-3.

Ace Boyd receiving her MVP plaque from awards presenter Sally Sakin.
Ace Boyd receiving her MVP plaque from awards presenter Sally Sakin.

Carlitos Gracida, oldest son of legendary Hall of Famer Carlos Gracida, was selected MVP. Riegna, an 8-year-old American thoroughbred, owned and played by Armstrong, was named Best Playing Pony. It was the second consecutive week one of Armstrong’s horses earned BPP. Alejandra Foster and Melissa Ganzi each scored six goals. Carlitos Gracida scored three goals.

Aspen Valley Polo Club was also busy in the community this past week.
Craig Sakin Memorial winning Casablanca teammates Santos Bollini_ Grant Ganzi_ Lucas Lalor and Juancito Bollini with presenter Sally Sakin.
Craig Sakin Memorial winning Casablanca teammates Santos Bollini, Grant Ganzi, Lucas Lalor and Juancito Bollini with presenter Sally Sakin.
On Wednesday, Marc and Melissa Ganzi and Anthony Kennedy Shriver of Miami Beach hosted An Evening with Best Buddies. In 1989, Shriver founded Best Buddies, a program that continues to enrich the lives of adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and helps find them employment and social opportunities.
Championship final Best Playing Pony Mini Me with Diego_ Santos Bollini and Sally Sakin.
Championship final Best Playing Pony Mini Me with Diego, Santos Bollini and Sally Sakin.
On Thursday, Melissa Ganzi and Aspen Valley Polo Club hosted Louis Vuitton Aspen’s launch of the new Tambour Horizon and on Saturday, the club hosted the Stick & Ball Farm To Fieldside Dinner, featuring local farmer markets’ local growers for a special evening on the polo field with Stick & Ball founder Elizabeth Goodwin Welborn and the Airstream Northwest Summer Polo Roadshow. Welborn presented the subsidiary game trophies.
The fourth annual Craig Sakin Memorial is named in honor of Sakin, who passed away on Feb. 11, 2014 at age 52. The former president of the Homeowners’ Association of Sopris Mountain Ranch, was instrumental in helping Marc and Melissa Ganzi secure their first polo field.
Alejandra Foster of Los Amigos Red with Juan Bollini of La Karina defending.
Alejandra Foster of Los Amigos Red with Juan Bollini of La Karina defending.
“I want to thank Melissa and Marc for every year honoring Craig,” said his wife Sally Beneman Sakin, who presented the tournament awards. “I know he’s watching down with a big, huge smile on his face. I also want to thank them for being so charitable to the community, giving so much back especially to the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.”
Melissa Ganzi of La Karina drives the ball downfield with husband Marc Ganzi defending.
Melissa Ganzi of La Karina drives the ball downfield with husband Marc Ganzi defending.
The crowd was treated to a spirited halftime Kids Foot Mallet exhibition game between three teams from The Polo School, currently working with 30 youth players under the tutelage of Polo School Director Juan Bollini and Melissa Ganzi.
The Craig Sakin Memorial was the fourth of 12 tournaments scheduled, eight grass and four arena tournaments including this week’s USPA National Arena Handicap.
Another good Sunday polo turnout for the Craig Sakin Memorial.
Another good Sunday polo turnout for the Craig Sakin Memorial.
This season’s first three tournament winners were La Karina (Carlitos Gracida, Mariano Gracida, MVP Brian Boyd, Marc Ganzi), Independence Cup; Tiburon (Collen Clark, Lauren Sherry, Pablo Dorignac, MVP Lucas Lalor), ChukkerTV Challenge Cup and Casablanca (MVPs Mariano Gracida, Grant Ganzi, Pablo Dorignac, Juancito Bollini), Basalt Handicap.
Stewart Armstrong and the subsidiary game Best Playing Pony Riegna.
Stewart Armstrong and the subsidiary game Best Playing Pony Riegna.

Polo is increasing in popularity in Aspen and surrounding areas with the club’s offering of various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Tuesdays arena polo and asado, Kids Polo, indoor and outdoor arena polo, charitable events and The Polo School. Practice sessions are also held for players competing in weekend tournaments.

MVP Carlitos Gracida with awards presenter Elizabeth Welborn.

MVP Carlitos Gracida with awards presenter Elizabeth Welborn.

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