Ladies and gentlemen, the wait is over. On Friday, November 12, multiple title holders La Dolfina Saudi and Alegria Fish Creek will play the opening match of the most prestigious polo tournament in the world: the Argentine Open.
Prior to the culminating moment of the Argentine Triple Crown, two very different teams have claimed the first two titles. Ellerstina won the Tortugas Open after defeating La Dolfina, while the Hurlingham Open went to La Natividad after they beat RS Murus Sanctus. Now, it’s just a matter of time before a team gets their hands on the coveted trophy at Palermo.
The 2021 edition of the Argentine Open promises to be more attractive and competitive than ever. While the format of ten teams remains, with the winners of each league set to play the final on Saturday, December 11, there is one very significant change. This year, there won’t be a final between La Dolfina and Ellerstina, as both teams are place in League A. Furthermore, Ellerstina is the top seeded team of the tournament, rated at 39 goals (La Dolfina is rated at 38, after Diego Cavanagh and Francisco Elizalde replaced Juan Martin Nero and Pablo Mac Donough).
While nothing is set in stone, it isn’t completely unfair to assume that either La Dolfina or Ellerstina will be playing the final. However, they have three obstacles to overcome before that can become a reality: La Ensenada (the runner up of the Tortugas Open), La Irenita, and Alegria Fish Creek.
League B action is set to start on Saturday, November 13, with a match between La Natividad and Chapaleufu. RS Murus Sanctus is the highest rated team in the league (39 goals). La Dolfina Brava, Alegria, and recent finalists of the Hurlingham Open, La Natividad, complete the league. Without a doubt, the rematch of the Hurlingham Open final between RS Murus Sanctus and La Natividad will be one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament.
Considering the standard of the two previous tournaments, expectations for Palermo are high. But this edition is not only about the big teams. La Ensenada and La Dolfina Brava have demonstrated that they are able to put up a fight, La Irenita and Alegria have made big improvements in their latest performances, and because Alegria Fish Creek and Chapaleufu, who came from the Qualification Tournament, are growing in confidence.
Facundo Pieres 10, Hilario Ulloa 9, Gonzalo Pieres Jr. 9, Nicolás Pieres 10.
The winners of the Tortugas Open have one goal in mind – to win Palermo. This is something they have not been able to do for the last nine years (they won their last title in 2012). Hilario Ulloa’s incorporation into the team gave them hopes of glory again – and they were close to achieving it. But 2021 didn’t get off to a good start for Hilario, as he sustained an injury in their debut match against Alegria. Matías Torres Zavaleta subbed in for the 10-goaler, performing exceedingly well. Fortunately, Ulloa is baxk in the saddle and ready to face their biggest challenge. Nico Pieres is also in good shape after recovering from a heavy fall during the Hurlingham Open.
LA DOLFINA SAUDI
Adolfo Cambiaso 10, Francisco Elizalde 9, David Stirling 10, Diego Cavanagh 9
Different lineup, same objective. La Dolfina are always at their best in Palermo. The team’s brand new members, Diego Cavanagh and Francisco Elizalde, have improved quickly. While they lost the Tortugas Open final and the Hurlingham Open semifinal, it is clear that they are buzzing to start Palermo and prove that they can make the final.
Juan Britos 9, Alfredo Bigatti 8, Juan Martín Zubía 8, Jerónimo del Carril 8
A fresh, young team, La Ensenada add energy to the polo world. Every member of the team has a reputable international career, as well as their success in Argentina. Ernesto Gutierrez’s organisation is growing and improving day by day. La Ensenada won the Jockey Club Open and were runners up of the Tortugas Open. Their goal is to earn enough points so as to qualify for the 2022 Triple Crown, but they are confident that they can challenge the favourites of the league.
Santiago Loza 8, Isidro Strada 8, Ignacio Toccalino 8, Segundo Bocchino 7
This year, La Irenita will only have one team playing at Palermo. This new lineup includes the experienced Cubi Toccalino. La Irenita’s main goal is to win enough points to qualify for the 2022 Triple Crown. They are determined to do so – their performance greatly improved throughout the Hurlingham Open.
ALEGRÍA FISH CREEK
Tito Ruiz Guiñazú 8, Clemente Zavaleta 7, Joaquín Pittaluga 7, Bautista Bayugar 8
Coming from the Qualification Tournament undefeated, Alegria Fish Creek is the final team in League A. For the first time, the Mannix family will have two teams competing at Palermo. The lineup is composed of three players that have played Palermo before, but attention is sure to fall on youngster Bautista Bayugar, who will be debuting in the Argentine Open.
RS MURUS SANCTUS
Guillermo Caset 10, Facundo Sola 9, Pablo MacDonough 10, Juan Martín Nero 10
Corinne Ricard’s organisation is the top rated team (39) alongside Ellerstina. The team boasts the experience of Pablo Mac Donough and Juan Martin Nero, who have won the Argentine Open 11 times each. Despite many injuries, both Facundo Sola and Pablo Mac Donough are back at their best, ready to go for the title. They will be particularly keen to take on La Natividad again, after losing heavily to them in the Hurlingham Open final. With the complete lineup, RS Murus Sanctus is a serious contender for the title.
Pablo Pieres 9, Camilo Castagnola 9, Bartolomé Castagnola Jr. 9, Nachi du Plessis 9
La Natividad are coming to Palermo more confident than ever. Their impressive win in the Hurlingham Open final gave them their first ever Argentine Triple Crown title. The victory was a breakthrough after a somewhat erratic start at the Tortugas Open. A mix of experience and youth, La Natividad showed that they are able to handle the tough moments against fierce competitors. They are on a mission to win the Argentine Open.
LA DOLFINA BRAVA
Rodrigo Andrade 8, Poroto Cambiaso 8, Alejo Taranco 8, Guillermo Terrera 9
The second La Dolfina team is ready to play Palermo after claiming an impressive victory against former title holders Ellerstina in the Hurlingham Open. This edition will mark Poroto Cambiaso’s debut in the Argentine Open. The 15-year-old will be joined by players of vast experience. Like La Ensenada, La Dolfina Brava expect challenge RS Murus Sanctus and La Natividad and top their league.
Tomás García del Río 7, Fred Mannix 7, Agustín Merlos 7, Pedro Zacharias 7
Like La Irenita, Alegría greatly improved throughout the Hurlingham Open, giving them the confidence needed to tackle Palermo, and win at least two games. This is Fred Mannix’s comeback to Palermo. In 2013, he played the final of the tournament. This is also a significant year for Pedrinho Zacharias, who will be making his Open debut. In 2020, Zacharias won the Pilar Cup and Cámara de Diputados Cup.
Rufino Bensadon 7, Juan Gris Zavaleta 8, Julián de Lusarreta 7, Felipe Dabas 7
This team also came in from the Qualification Tournament. While it is unusual that the Chapaleufu team does not have a member of the legendary Heguy family playing, it must be noted that Rufino Bensadon has Heguy blood in his veins. The 19-year-old, who recently won the the Argentine Junior Open, will make his debut at Palermo, as will 18-year-old Felipe Dabas. Both are two of the biggest promises of Argentine polo. They will be joined by talented and experienced players such as Juan Gris Zavaleta and Julián de Lusarreta; the latter wore the Chapaleufu jersey in 2017. They need to earn points to directly qualify for the 2022 Triple Crown.
The 128th Argentine Open kicks off as follows:
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12
2pm: La Dolfina vs. Alegria Fish Creek
4,30pm: La Ensenada vs. La Irenita