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GAUNTLET OF POLO® ALUMS TAKE CENTER STAGE IN ARGENTINE TRIPLE CROWN

Nov 05, 2021 2:00 PM

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©CLICKPOLOUSA/Guadalupe Aizaga
Poroto Cambiaso of LD Brava Polo Team reaches for the hook on La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team's Francisco Elizalde during Tortugas Open competition. Both are GAUNTLET OF POLO® alumni. ©CLICKPOLOUSA/Guadalupe Aizaga

Twenty-three GAUNTLET OF POLO® alums are on the roster for the Triple Crown of Polo that began with the Tortugas Open on Tuesday, October 5 and runs through Sunday, October 17, 2021 at Tortugas Country Club in Argentina. Out of the eight teams entered, two teams (Ellerstina Johor, La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team) are comprised completely of GAUNTLET alums.

©CLICKPOLOUSA/Guadalupe Aizaga
La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team's Adolfo Cambiaso during the Tortugas Open Semifinals versus RS Murus Sanctus. ©CLICKPOLOUSA/Guadalupe Aizaga

Other GAUNTLET alums include Sapo Caset (Tonkawa 2019/2020/2021), Pablo MacDonough (Las Monjitas 2020), Juan Martín Nero (Las Monjitas 2020), Polito Pieres (Aspen 2019, La Indiana 2020/2021), Nachi Du Plessis (Iconica 2019 substitute, Santa Clara 2020), Juan Britos (Park Place 2019/2020/2021), Alfredo Bigatti (Park Place 2020), Poroto Cambiaso (Scone 2021), Cubi Toccalino (Santa Clara 2019, Tonkawa 2020), Agustin Merlos (Tonkawa 2019), Tomás García del Río (La Indiana 2019, Patagones 2020, Park Place 2021 substitute), Julian de Lusarreta (Coca-Cola 2019/2020/2021), Joaquin Pittaluga (Postage Stamp Farm 2019 substitute) and Magoo Laprida (Equuleus 2019/2020).

©AAP/Matías Callejo.
Ellerstina Johor's Nico Pieres with a neckshot during the Tortugas Open Semifinals versus La Ensenada Brubank. ©AAP/Matías Callejo

Eight teams between 28 and 39 goals of handicap battled in the opening event of the 2021 Triple Crown, the Tortugas Open. After a competitive quarterfinals on the AAP's venue in Pilar, action switched to the Tortugas Country Club for the semifinals. The first matchup saw reigning Tortugas Open champions Ellerstina Johor defeat La Ensenada Brubank 12-8, while La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team secured their spot in the finals after a narrow 11-10 victory over RS Murus Sanctus.

Ellerstina Johor entered the final as one of the two teams with the highest handicap. The performance they found in 2020, with the addition of Hilario Ulloa gave support to the synergy of the three Pieres brothers. However, Hilario Ulloa suffering from a fractured pointer finger on his right hand was substituted by Matias Torres Zavaleta who helped Ellerstina Johor claim the 11-9 win to celebrate the first leg of the Argentine Triple Crown as three-peat Tortugas Open champions.

2021 Tortugas Open Champions: Ellerstina Johor- ©Guadalupe Aizaga.
2021 Tortugas Open Champions: Ellerstina Johor - Nico Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres, Hilario Ulloa, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Facundo Pieres. ©CLICKPOLOUSA/Guadalupe Aizaga

Attention has now turned to the Hurlingham Open (October 19 - November 6). Brackets for Hurlingham were decided based on Tortugas results: Bracket A (Ellerstina Johor, RS Murus Sanctus, La Dolfina Brava, La Irenita) and Bracket B (La Dolfina Saudi, La Natividad, La Ensenada Brubank, Algeria Standard Wealth). Since the end of 2020, when La Dolfina announced it was splitting and RS Murus Sanctus brought in Juan Martin Nero and Pablo MacDonough, the polo community was buzzing about a change in polo. For the first time in many years, Argentine polo had four teams with real chances of winning a Triple Crown title (La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team, RS Murus Sanctus, Ellerstina Johor and La Natividad). After the Hurlingham Open's semifinals, it was evident that change had arrived. RS Murus Sanctus defeated Ellerstina and La Natividad bested La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team. Not only that, but the wins were solid, each team holding a reasonable lead entering the final chukker. After 13 years and 38 finals, the Triple Crown will have a new tournament champion.

La Natividad's Bartolome Castagnola celebrating their semifinal victory over La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team. ©Guadalupe Aizaga/CLICKPOLO
La Natividad's Bartolome Castagnola celebrating their semifinal victory over La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team. ©Guadalupe Aizaga/CLICKPOLO

The Argentine Open is slated for November 12 through December 11. Seven teams including Chapaleufú, La Irenita II, Los Machitos, Alegría Fish Creek, La Esquina, La Aguada, La Fija competed in the Qualifying Series for the remaining two spots in the Argentine Open and it was Chapaleufú and Alegría Fish Creek who emerged victorious.

All the games in the Hurlingham Open and Argentine Open will be livestreamed. Follow some of the GAUNTLET’s biggest hitters as they compete in the pinnacle of professional polo in the world.

ROSTERS

Ellerstina Johor (39)
Facundo Pieres 10 *
Hilario Ulloa 10 *
Gonzalo Pieres 9 *
Nicolás Pieres 10 *
sub. Matias Torres Zavaleta 7 *

RS Murus Sanctus (39)
Facundo Sola 9
Sapo Caset 10 *
Pablo MacDonough 10 *
Juan Martín Nero 10 *
sub. Facundo Fernandez Llorente
sub. Magoo Laprida*

La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team (38)
Adolfo Cambiaso 10 *
Pelon Sterling 10 *
Francisco Elizalde 9 *
Diego Cavanagh 9 *

La Natividad (36)
Camilo Castagnola 9
Polito Pieres 9 *
Bartolomé Castagnola 9
Nachi Du Plessis 9 *

La Ensenada Brubank (33)
Juan Britos 9 *
Alfredo Bigatti 8 *
Juan Martín Zubía 8
Jerónimo del Carril 8

LD Brava Polo Team (33)
Poroto Cambiaso 8 *
Guillermo Terrera 9
Rodrigo Ribeiro de Andrade 8
Alejo Taranco 8

La Irenita Polo Team (31)
Santiago Loza 8
Segundo Bocchino 7
Ignacio "Cubi" Toccalino 8 *
Isidro Strada 8

Alegría Fish Creek (30)
Clemente Zavaleta 7
Juan Ruiz Guiñazu 8
Joaquín Pittaluga 7 *
Bautista Bayugar 8

Chapaleufú (29)
Julian de Lusarreta 7 *
Juan Martin Zavaleta
Rufino Bensadon
Felipe Dabas

Alegría Standard Wealth (28)
Agustín Merlos 7 *
Pedro Zacharías 7
Tomás García del Río 7 *
Frederick Mannix 7

*GAUNTLET OF POLO® Alumni

Ellerstina Johor

Ellerstina Johor's Gonzalito Pieres. ©Guadalupe Aizaga.
Ellerstina Johor's Gonzalito Pieres was an inaugural GAUNTLET OF POLO® Champion with Pilot. ©Guadalupe Aizaga

After La Dolfina split, Ellerstina has not only remained one of two teams with the highest handicap (39-goals), but is also the favorite to win the three most important tournaments of the Argentine season.

Winning their third Tortugas Open, Ellerstina Johor seeks to continue improving on their performance in the face of the great goal to win the Argentine Open after eight years.

La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team

La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team's Adolfo Cambiaso. ©Guadalupe Aizaga.
La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team's Adolfo Cambiaso played for Scone in the 2021 GAUNTLET OF POLO®. ©Guadalupe Aizaga

Halfway between the dream team that won nine Palermo Opens in 10 years and the long-awaited competition between Adolfo Cambiaso and his son Poroto in Palermo, the 2021 version of La Dolfina has kept Adolfo Cambiaso in the lineup. At 46 years old, Cambiaso who is widely regarded as the best player of this era still has the same hunger for glory, which always makes him a contender.

Along with his faithful friend Pelón Stirling, Cambiaso recruited Diego Cavanagh from La Dolfina Polo Ranch and completed the team with a surprise: Francisco Elizalde.

RS Murus Sanctus

RS Murus Sanctus' Pablo MacDonough. ©Guadalupe Aizaga.
RS Murus Sanctus' Pablo MacDonough played for Las Monjitas in the GAUNTLET OF POLO® 2020 USPA Gold Cup® Final. ©Guadalupe Aizaga.

If Ellerstina Johor is the team to beat due to their history, then RS Murus Sanctus is the team to beat because of their names. With Juan Martin Nero and Pablo MacDonough joining the team, Guillermo ‘Sapo’ Caset and Facundo Sola will become the biggest threat to the Pieres' brothers' goals.

Together, Nero and MacDonough have won 11 out of the last 13 Opens (so has Cambiaso) and in the last few years Caset has proven to be one of the best, leading a team by himself. Sola is also one of the players who has grown the most both on and off the field, and they have a notable organization backing them up.

La Natividad

La Natividad's Camilo Castagnola on the ball with Alegria's Tomas Garcia del Rio defending. ©AAP-Matías Callejo
La Natividad's Camilo Castagnola on the ball with Alegria's Tomas Garcia del Rio defending. ©AAP/Matías Callejo

It has been a great year for Polito Pieres, the Argentine with the best record overseas which is great news for La Natividad. La Natividad and Ellerstina Johor are the only teams with the same lineup as last year, which gives them a small advantage. Winning in the United States, United Kingdom and Spain this year, Polito Pieres’ play will be essential for the team's performance.

La Ensenada Brubank

Ellerstina's Nicolas Pieres and La Ensenada's Juan Martin Zubia. ©AAP-Matías Callejo
Ellerstina's Nico Pieres and La Ensenada's Juan Martin Zubia. ©AAP/Matías Callejo

Before the Castagnola brothers reached the top, La Ensenada’s young players were the highlight of Argentine polo. After a few years they spread throughout a few teams. Juan Britos, Juan Martin Zubia and Jeronimo del Carril are meeting again on their original team. The three youth debuted in 2018 and are going to play for the fourth year in top level polo. This time, Alfredo Bigatti will replace Facundo Fernandez Llorente. The former La Aguada player will bring his experience to the table and fits the best with his teammate's positions.

Winning the Tortugas subsidiary last year, La Ensenada Brubank are on the rise, winning the 2021 Jockey Open as well with a fantastic comeback to defeat La H 17-12. Their objective will be to start gelling for Palermo, where they have a very tough group against both Ellerstina Johor and La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team.

La Dolfina Brava Polo Team

La Dolfina Brava's Poroto Cambiaso. ©CLICKPOLOUSA/Guadalupe Aizaga
La Dolfina Brava's Poroto Cambiaso headlined Scone in the 2021 GAUNTLET OF POLO® playing alongside his father. ©CLICKPOLOUSA/Guadalupe Aizaga

With half of the 2020 La Dolfina Polo Ranch team (Guillermo Terrera, Alejo Taranco) and half of the Brava team (Poroto Cambiaso, Rodrigo Andrade) that won the Copa Cámara de Diputados, La Dolfina Brava has the potential to make an upset happen against one of the other organizations. Poroto's Palermo debut (he played Tortugas in 2020 as a substitute) is a major event.

With Guillermo Terrera and Rodrigo Ribeiro de Andrade, La Dolfina Brava Polo is sure to be tough. Taranco is a solid back, as he has been for two years, and Poroto Cambiaso is the young and talented creative mind who rushes to goal. In his second year in top-level polo, 15-year-old Cambiaso is starting to become a threat and wants more than being on the path to play with his father next year. All four of them also have the backing of Cambiaso's horses.

La Irenita Polo Team

After both La Irenita teams came in last in 2020, MacDonough's organization has returned for redemption in 2021 and will be playing in the Triple Crown. Featuring two players who debuted last year, Segundo Bocchino and Santiago Loza, La Irenita has added an experienced veteran in Ignacio "Cubi" Toccalino and a brand-new addition in Isidro Strada.

Loza is clearly the ace, as he was one of the revelations last season. Toccalino's experience will also be very important for such a young team. La Irenita also has MacDonough's horsepower going for them, one of the most widespread in the Triple Crown.

Alegria Standard Wealth

Alegria's Pedro Zacharias attempts to hook Ellerstina's Nicolas Pieres. ©AAP-Matías Callejo
Alegria's Pedro Zacharias attempts to hook Ellerstina's Nico Pieres. ©AAP/Matías Callejo

After a two-year break from top-level polo, Fred Mannix is returning with a new La Alegria in 2021. After a failed attempt to join La Irenita in 2018, Alegria played and won the Copa Cámara de Diputados in 2019, but didn't make it to Palermo last year, losing to La Irenita II. Putting together a 28-goal team, La Irenita is the lowest-rated team in the Triple Crown.

Mannix's partner in crime will be Agustin Merlos, with whom he has played many times and who is still a strong player. They will be playing with the new Pedro Zacharias, who had a great season with Brava in 2020, and Tomas Garcia del Rio, who has always been solid.

USPA

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