We are in the midst of December, and the 2019 Triple Crown has only just drawn to a close, but after two or three days of intense rumours, the first major changes to affect the 2020 Argentine Triple Crown have been confirmed. Almost simultaneously, after five years at Ellerstina playing alongside his cousins, Polito Pieres transferred to La Natividad, and his much whispered replacement was announced: Hilario Ulloa will join Ellerstina.
In Polito’s case, he will be replacing Matias Torres Zavaleta, a player who made his Argentine Open debut this year. Piece by piece, La Natividad’s tactical plan is coming into focus: Camilo Castagnola and Polito Pieres will lead the attack, while Barto Castagnola and Nachi Du Plessis will steer the team from behind. This transfer means that the now former Ellerstina player returns to the team in which he played the Argentine Open back in 2012. La Natividad is sure to benefit from the change, not only thanks to Polito’s skill, but also because of the horses he will take with him to the Cañuelas based organisation. Lastly, it can be said that the team’s handicap is now likely to go up to 36 or 37 goals.
Hilario Ulloa will jump into Polito’s former spot and join the ranks of Ellerstina, and here it is possible that the positions may not be so clearly delineated. One would imagine that Facundo Pieres will play at 1, Hilario at 2, Gonzalo at 3, and Nico will continue at number 4. But that is not set in stone. Perhaps Hilario will play at 1, Gonzalo at 2, Nico at 3, and Facundo at 4. Nothing has been announced just yet, which is understandable. Perhaps they have not even spoken about it among themselves yet. That they will be a fighting foursome, there is no doubt.
It was an intense Monday at Pilar, with phones ringing off the hook, for both players and journalists alike. So far there have been changes announced in nine of the ten teams that took part in the 126th Argentine Open. The truth is that at the time of writing this piece, the only absolute changes are the two mentioned. It is worth noting that the qualification system remains the same as it did in 2017 and 2018, meaning that the top seven teams, as well as the winner of the playoff (La Ensenada), qualify automatically for the 2020 Triple Crown – so long as 75% of the team line up remains the same.
This is important because the possibility of two players from one of the seven teams being transferred to another was mentioned. In this case, both would automatically have to play the 2020 Qualification tournament, and logic would dictate that the teams ranked ninth and tenth would then move up in the ranking and qualify for the Triple Crown, and the eighth team would change, as the play off would have to be held again. For the time being however, these are mere suppositions as there has been no confirmation that this will be the case.
On the other hand, if the format of play is maintained (two zones of five playing in the American style), that would mean that La Dolfina would be sharing a zone with Las Monjitas and La Natividad, if one considers the positions of these team in the ranking. Ellerstina would be up against La Dolfina Polo Ranch. However, regardless of whether the format of play is maintained, La Natividad is sure to be a firm candidate for the title.
The announcement informing the modifications in handicap is eagerly awaited, but mainly for reasons linked more to romanticism than to strategy. As opposed to what happens outside of Argentina, handicaps in the Triple Crown are not so important due to the open format. However, that would all change if the series were ever played with a handicap limitation…