By Alejandra Ocampo & Andrés Ugarte Larrain
After giving a look at League A, it could be said that League B looks much easier to battle; moreover, if we consider that Ellerstina (39) lands on the Palermo grounds with the biggest motivation, as the winners of the two previous tournaments, the Tortugas Open and the Hurlingham Ope. Not to mention their spectacular performance and their unbeaten status. They are the only team eligible to claim the Triple Crown.
So, everything suggests that Ellerstina (Facundo Pieres 10, Hilario Ulloa 10, Gonzalo Pieres 9 and Nicolás Pieres 10) not only will seek for the Triple Crown but also claim the Argentine Open, a title that has been denied to them since 2012. Having hired Hilario Ulloa was crucial for the Pieres brothers, in such a way that the talented Lincoln-born 10-goaler fitted quickly within the team, and added some extra power in midfield alongside Gonzalito, in addition to Facundo’s amazing skills and an already solid back like Nico. As a conclusion, after having seen them in Tortugas and Hurlingham, and if something unexpected does not happen, Ellerstina are up-to-date the biggest contenders to claim the coveted trophy.
Facundo Pieres (Ellerstina): “We got to Palermo with great expectations, very concentrated and very much looking forward to winning. But at the same time, we are well aware that this is a new tournament, the most important one, indeed, and the one we do want to win. We must forget a bit about what we’ve done before, in order to achieve that goal; maintain our own system of play, which give us confidence to get the best results. I am happy when I play well; when you are within a team and the team works well, everything is better, you enjoy and have fun. Anyway, we rather go step by step. We are aware that we won’t be playing against tough teams like La Natividad and Murus Sanctus. But, on the other side, the team must work very well to win Palermo”.
La Dolfina Polo Ranch (33), with Guillermo Terrera 8, Juan Britos 8, Diego Cavanagh 9 and Jejo Taranco 8, second pre-qualified within the league, is the only team that entered directly to the Triple Crown and with the advantage to maintain the same lineup like in 2019. They reached the semifinals in Tortugas and they weren’t that lucky at all in Hurlingham; so, Palermo could be perhaps a rematch, to re-gain the very good level they demonstrated in the last years.
Diego Cavanagh (La Dolfina Polo Ranch): Our expectations and goals for Palermo are try to win as much as posibles. We are aware that all the teams are very balanced and that we have to play against Ellerstina, who already won Tortugas and Hurlingham. But we are very confident, very happy and motivated. I’ve also seen that everything is changing, and there are more competitive teams. The bar has been raised, and it will be a very good Palermo”.
Los Machitos (31) will make their debut at Palermo as a team, with a lineup that includes no less that 7-goaler Mariano Aguerre’s comeback to the place that saw him as a champion no less than nine times. He is joined by Agustín Merlos 8, and the Toccalino brothers, Ignacio and Santiago (both 8-goalers). Despite Mariano was not able to play in the latest games due to an injury, his comeback to the Cathedral is very significant. And although the results up-to-date were not those expected, Los Machitos will undoubtedly have the big opportunity to redeem themselves in the Open and maintain their place in the 2021 Triple Crown.
Agustín Merlos (Los Machitos): “It is quite difficult to answer how is Los Machitos currently doing, because we got off to a bad start, two days before the first game of the Tortugas Open, due to Mariano’s injury; we barely played 4, 5 chukkas together and he had to leave. And that was it. Now, we played a couple of practices with Mariano and we did very well to face Palermo. We are very motivated, very much looking forward to playing. But despite we couldn’t be able to play together as much as we wanetd, I guess we are doing OK as well as the horses. In addition, to had to manage the horses carefully, in order to have them the best conditions during a very short season that started very late, with many games, something that was not in our plans due to a team structure as well”.
Two of the strongest organisations of Argentine polo joined forces to put a team together that did very well up-to-date. La Ensenada La Aguada (29), is the other lineup that features an absolute debutant in the Argentine Open, 6-goaler Segundo Bocchino, who’s playing alongside Alfredo Bigatti 8, Matías Torres Zavaleta 8 and Jerónimo del Carril 7. They have displayed a good and solid system of play, that led them to win the Sarmiento Cup and the Drysdale Cup, the Subsidiary Trophies of the Tortugas Open and the Hurlingham Open, respectively, both played on handicap. It is indeed a big motivation for this young foursome who not only have the talent, but also the support of two of the finest organisations, like La Ensenada and La Aguada.
Nachi Heguy (La Ensenada La Aguada coach): “La Ensenada La Aguada’s expectations are get as highest as possible, perhaps the semifinal. Palermo is about to dream a bit, but the fact is that it is our goal. We are aware we do have three games that we can either win or loose, but they are not impossible. The team has been doing very well, they only lost two games, and both against no less than La Dolfina. With regards on the favourites to win the Open, there are two for me. One is La Dolfina, but we must wait and see how will they do after the injuries. However, I think they are ok. The other is Ellerstina, obviously”.
An “old new team” is coming back to Palermo: Cria GT (32), formerly Cria Yatay. Coming from the Qualification Tournament, and with the same team members (Valerio Zubiarurre 8, Cristian Laprida 8, Joaquin Pittaluga 8 and Ignacio Laprida 8), these boys are back to the Cathedral, with the aim to qualify for the 2021 Triple Crown. It is not an impossible task for them, because not only they’ve been playing together for several years but they have also the experience of having played the Open Palermo during four consecutive years.
Joaquín Pittaluga (Cria GT): “Our expectations are play well and win as much as possible, with the aim to be in the Open next year. We feel really well and we have much better horses. I am currently struggling with a pubalgia, but we have a great replacement, Tomás García del Rio, a great friend who has been a big help for us for years”.
The Argentine Open will kick off on Saturday November 28, with the following order of play:
11am: RS Murus Sanctus vs La Irenita II
4pm: La Natividad Monjitas vs La Irenita