Open Canosa is a new, and very beautiful, face on the U.S. high-goal polo scene who, even in her first season, is making quite a statement. The stunning, compact bay mare belongs to Pilot 10 goaler and GAUNTLET OF POLO™ Champion Facundo Pieres. Pieres has had an unforgettable season, captaining Pilot to three exceptional wins to be being crowned supreme champion as well as winning the $1,000,000 prize money.
Polo is a team sport and as well as the three other players on the field, Pieres has also had the help of one exceptional four-legged teammate who has put her best hoof forward in every match this season. The punchy little mare has played her part in every one of the 16 straight GAUNTLET wins racked up by the unstoppable Pilot side and was instrumental in many of the 38 goals scored over the course of the U.S. Open Polo Championship®.
Possessing a string that would turn any polo fan green with envy, to have one that stands out among many greats is quite a feat. Open Canosa, the explosively successful mare that has taken the season by storm and won her place in Pieres’ heart as his best mare of the season. The 10-year-old wowed the crowds in Argentina for the last three years and travelled to the land of opportunity to try her luck at the American Dream on the fields of The International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Wellington, Florida.
And it’s not just Pieres she has won over. Open Canosa walks away from her first ever U.S. season with many an accolade. Voted Best Playing Pony of the GAUNTLET OF POLO™ by the USPA, she was also awarded Horse of the Year by IPC, an honor voted on by Pieres’ fellow competitors, leaving no doubt that this horse has made quite an impression and acquired a loyal fanbase.
The Pieres name is synonymous with incredible polo talent and breeding (both on the human and equine side) and the Z of Ellerstina, the Pieres extensive breeding program in Argentina, is stamped across many of the finest bloodlines in polo. Despite hundreds if not thousands of horses bred through the exquisite, carefully selected Ellerstina bloodlines, there are some that stand above the others and Open Canosa is the result of two of the finest specimens of Ellerstina polo gold. A perfectly put together, talented mare, she embodies everything that the Pieres dynasty have worked hard to perfect in a polo horse and every match she does the name and her brand proud.
The USPA spoke to Facundo to find out a little more about the prize-winning mare that stole the show in 2019.
What is her breeding?
“Her breeding is La Chusma and Open Lo Viste. La Chusma was a very famous mare that Carlos Gracida played before he sold her to Ellerston, to Kerry Packer and my father. She played with my father for the last few years that he was playing the Open in 1997, 1998 and 1999. Soon after that he retired, but she was one of his best mares. There are many of Chusma’s offspring that have gone on to be successful polo ponies. The sire, Lo Viste, is bred by La Ilusión and Bagual. Ilusión is one of our best broodmares at Ellerstina.”
What are her best assets on the field?
“She has so much strength. She is explosive in everything she does, stopping turning to both sides and accelerating. That would probably be her greatest strength. She does everything with a huge amount of power and enthusiasm. She helps me out constantly, beating people on the turns and the curves and getting to the ball before everyone else. She takes me to places and plays that I never think I can get to. I have a huge amount of confidence when I ride her because I know that whatever I ask her and whatever I need from her she’s there.”
What makes her different from the others in your string?
“She’s a horse that plays with muscle memory. Quite often she reads the game even before I do. She turns before I ask her and she knows the game so well it just comes naturally to her. It’s that explosiveness and the speed with which she does everything that makes her stand out.”
How has she gone this season?
“I didn’t play her in the 20 goal, only in the 22 goal. I brought her over from Argentina this year after the [Argentine] Open and it’s her first season in the U.S. so I didn’t want to play her straight away because I wanted to give her a break. I’ve played her in the last three Argentine Triple Crowns since 2016. She’s playing so well here. She won the award for Mejor Polo Argentino in the USPA Gold Cup® awarded by the Asociación de Criadores de Caballos de Polo, she’s been voted as Horse of the Year presented by IPC and voted on by the other players of the U.S. season and she was awarded Best Playing Pony of the Gauntlet of Polo™ by the USPA so it’s been an amazing season for her.”
Who trained her and when did she start playing?
“There are so many steps to making one of our horses. For her, the trainer was Polito Ulloa, one of the best horse trainers in Argentina. He is the one who ‘breaks’ all our best horses. The secondary steps and the training was done by the team that works for Ellerstina which Francisco Irastorza is in charge of.
She was trained up slowly and for her first season Lucas James played her in the Copa Republica where she was already playing so well. Unfortunately, she injured her leg that season, so we had to rest her and give her a pause in her training. Then in 2016 she debuted with me in the Triple Crown. Even at that stage, when she was so young, she was already one of my best mares. She was so good! I knew she would have a great future.”
Why did you bring her to the United States?
“I brought her here because I knew that the style of polo here would suit her perfectly. It’s not quite as quick running and you don’t fly around the field quite as much as in Argentina. I knew that this rhythm here would suit her even better and I would be able to get the most out of her.”
When in the match do you bring her out?
“I nearly always play her in the fourth or fifth chukker. I only ever bring her out once unless I really need her, but so far, it’s just been either in the fourth or the fifth.
She had an incredible game in the Gold Cup Final, and she was my best horse. She had many great plays. I played her in the fourth chukker and it was a great chukker for us. We started out losing but managed to get ahead and so I have some great memories of her playing that day. In the U.S. Open Polo Championship® she was my best mare again. She won every single play I asked of her. She’s the whole package.”
What are her characteristics on and off the field?
“She is easy in some ways, but everything she does, she does it with a lot of determination so she’s not really that easy to play in practices. To ride she’s lovely and you can ride her quietly, but as soon as you put her in a game situation like a practice, where she’s got other horses around her and a sense of competition, and you are starting to push her a bit, she’s a horse that will start to go hard and she isn’t the most relaxing to play. She is always at one-hundred percent and wants to play, so you can’t really just have easy chukkers on her. I actually try not to play her too much because when I put her in a match, I ask so much of her that outside the games I try to give her time to relax.”
What are your plans for her future?
“She has had such an amazing season here that I am going to leave her here until next year and hopefully continue to win on her. I won’t be taking her back to Argentina this year so she will go to a farm in Virginia to rest and I will bring her back next season. Maybe later on I will take her somewhere else, but for now my plan is to keep her here to play the seasons in Florida.”