After Dutta Corp and Pilot’s Sunday, January 27, featured match on the U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1 at International Polo Club Palm Beach (Wellington, Florida) was postponed due to rain, the game was rescheduled for Thursday, January 31. Competing not only for top ranking in their Ylvisaker Cup bracket, the two teams challenged one another to take home the historic Butler Handicap trophy. Dutta Corp’s undefeated season, having swept both the Herbie Pennell Cup and the Joe Barry Cup, was ended by Pilot who assumed the lead from the second chukker to claim victory and the trophy 10-8.
As an enhancement to the Ylvisaker Cup tournament, the Butler Handicap trophy was presented in honor of Paul Butler and his close friendship with Bill Ylvisaker. Established at Oak Brook Polo Club (Oak Brook, Illinois) in 1954 in honor of Paul Butler, his litany of polo accomplishments, including 29 dedicated years on the USPA Board of Governors, warranted a commemorative tournament. Oak Brook Polo Club also played a large role in Bill Ylvisaker’s polo career. In 2014, due to the combined efforts of the Butler family and the USPA, the historic Butler Handicap was officially adopted as a national USPA event.
Dutta Corp predicted a strong force in their first matchup against Pilot, with formidable 10-goaler Facundo Pieres on the roster, and made a sizable effort to remain one step ahead of their opponents in the first chukker. After several minutes of battling for possession, Lucas Diaz Alberdi cut the ball between the goal posts to earn Dutta Corp’s first goal of the game, intercepting a tailshot by Curtis Pilot. Taking advantage of Kris Kampsen’s precision from the penalty line, Dutta Corp picked up a Penalty 2 conversion, but was matched soon after by Pieres. Although Timmy Dutta was working hard to keep defenders at bay, Pilot began to pull ahead in the second with three consecutive goals, one from the field and two Penalty 2 conversions. Leaving Dutta Corp scoreless, Pilot took the lead for the first time 4-3 headed into the third. Closing in on halftime, both teams played with discipline, sticking to their men and creating room for their teammates to score. Trading goals twice and making quick, strategic plays, Pilot came out with a narrow lead 6-5 at halftime.
In a second half dominated by Pieres, Pilot continued to rally around their offensive machine, shutting out Dutta Corp once again in the fourth. Picking up his fourth goal of the day, Diaz Alberdi barreled between the goal posts just ahead of Matias Gonzalez*. Retaliating with two strong goals from the field, Pieres expertly maneuvered his way past a pack of defenders to end the fifth 9-6 in favor of Pilot. Running out of time to make their comeback, Dutta Corp made a solid bet on Kampsen who delivered from the Penalty 4 line. Demonstrating his 10-goal status, Pieres took his seventh goal of the day, Dutta Corp unable to create enough momentum to overtake him. Dutta Corp added one more off the stick of Gringo Colombres with just over a minute remaining in the sixth, but ultimately could not subdue Pilot’s excellent team play, surrendering the win 10-8.
Pilot’s Matias Gonzalez was named Most Valuable Player. “I got a call from Facundo Pieres about organizing a team in Florida when I was finishing up playing the high-goal season in Dubai,” Gonzalez said. “I traveled to Argentina with Pilot before coming here.” Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Argentine chestnut mare Open Kattia (Ellerstina Picaro x Karenza), a 9-year-old competing in her second season in the U.S. played by Facundo Pieres in the fifth chukker.
The Ylvisaker Cup continues on Sunday, February 3, with a full day of polo. For the most updated schedule of games and times please visit uspolo.org.
*Matias Gonzalez is a member of Team USPA. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher-rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.
All photos courtesy ©David Lominska.