By Alejandra Ocampo
Is this Argentine season going to be a quadruple crown? It is likely, considering that big teams who play the Triple Crown, such as Ellerstina, Alegria, La Aguada Las Monjitas, and most likely La Dolfina, have confirmed that they will be playing the Jockey Club Open as a warm up to Tortugas.
La Dolfina were the ones to start this “trend” last year. With 40-goals and their 2013 Triple Crown title secured, Adolfo Cambiaso & Co. decided to go for more, signing up for the Jockey Club Open as a taster of what was to come. Needless to say, they won the tournament – and their second consecutive Triple Crown.
However, La Dolfina has not confirmed their participation yet. Juan Martin Nero spoke to PoloLine: “It’s very likely that we will play the Jockey Open. It has not been confirmed, but it is almost a certainty that we will play. We played the tournament last year as a way of testing out the horses before Tortugas. We saw which horses worked best and adjusted our list accordingly so we could be ready for Tortugas and play well after only having played a few matches together. Instead of playing practices, it is much better for the palyers and the horses if we play a few games of the Jockey. It’s not easy to get into the pace of the Argentine season, so this is a big help. We started Tortugas better than ever; we played better, our horses worked well and we could focus on winning.”
This is great news for the San Isidro club, whose tournament celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014. More teams of a higher handicap are signing up to play. While the complete lineup is not confirmed, many of the top six teams will play, alongside teams who will play the Qualification tournament.
“Yes, it’s confirmed. We are going to play the Jockey Club Open”, Eduardo Novillo Astrada told PoloLine from England. La Aguada Las Monjitas, who won the tournament in 2012, the year that they won the Qualification tournament, will play this year with their new line up of Eduardo and Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Ignacio “Cubi” Toccalino and Sebastián Merlos, who makes a comeback into high goal Argentine polo after two years as La Dolfina’s substitute.
“We decided to play the tournament so that we can get to know each other a bit more as players, work the horses, and get into the swing of things”, says Eduardo. “We didn’t think that all the big names would play the tournament as well, but it’s really just a way of playing matches instead of practices. Sebastian and I were not going to play the High Goal in England – in the end I played the Gold Cup, and in August I’m going to Colombia to play with Camilo Bautista. But the idea is to gain stamina and play. We’ve got together as a team and we are set on starting the season well.”
“The idea came about because we are playing with a new team and we thought that it would be good to start with the Jockey Club Open”, explained Gonzalito Pieres. Ellerstina this year will have a full Pieres line up after Polito confirmed that he would play alongside his cousins, Gonzalito, Facundo and Nicolás. “I think that playing matches with umpires is a good thing because we want to try out our positions”, continues Gonzalito. “Sometimes when you play a practice you don’t realise how your team is laid out on the field, but you do when you play a match.”
“This year we have a lot of new horses to try, especially with Cristian “Magoo” Laprida coming into the team”, says Alegria’s coach, Clemente Zavaleta. It was his idea that Alegria play the Jockey Club Open. “We thought it would be good to go into Tortugas having played at least two proper games. It’s much better than playing a practice because you can try more things, with the horses and the team. I spoke to Lucas Monteverde about it after having played with the idea for ten days or so. I mentioned it and he said that he had had the same idea. All four players – Freddie, Lucas, Hilario and “Magoo” – are dying to get out there and are happy to be playing the Jockey.
Gonzalito also expressed his Ellerstina’s willingness to play. “We are really looking forward to playing with this new lineup. We want to play and have fun. The Jockey will be useful in working out our positions. We want to get into rhythm as quickly as possible.” How will Ellerstina play? “The idea is to put Polito at 1, I’ll be at 2, Nico at 3, and Facu at back”, says Gonzalito.
In terms of Alegria’s formation, the idea is to “figure out how to go into Tortugas”, says Clemente. “We’ll start with Hilario at 1, but it’s not all confirmed yet. We’re going to get together around September 5 and figure it out.”
This Argentine season is coming at us fully loaded and the Jockey Club Open will be an excellent warm up to the Triple crown. As Clemente Zavaleta mentioned, “this is a great opportunity for the Jockey to attract teams – maybe there will even be a quadruple crown, so there will be more polo, more teams and more horses and Tortugas will start with a bang. I only ask that the weather doesn’t turn on us, because rain at that time of year can cause problems!” he laughs.
We will all try and wish away the rain so that everyone, both on and off the field, can enjoy the season and the best polo in the world!