Wellington, FL – February 10, 2021 – After almost a year of hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s 22-goal USPA Gold Cup® semifinal rounds finally commenced Wednesday at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) with two thrilling games that came down to the final seconds. Honoring Melissa Ganzi with pink armbands in support of her battle with cancer, it was Daily Racing Form that booked the first spot in the finals on a final shot from distance to narrowly defeat Las Monjitas 12-11. In one of the more memorable games at IPC, La Indiana captured the 16-15 victory over Pilot on a last-minute goal from Nico Escobar.
An intense match between Daily Racing Form, using their existing line-up, and Las Monjitas, using an entirely new line-up, left little separating the two teams as the outcome came down to the last play. Decided by the smallest of margins, Daily Racing Form and Las Monjitas each produced 11 shots from the field, but the extra conversion from the field for Daily Racing Form proved to be the difference. Within one goal after every chukker, Las Monjitas had their chances to capture the victory, utilizing the chemistry from 10-goalers Pablo MacDonough and Juan Martin Nero who accounted for all 11 of their team’s goals. Five penalty conversions from Jared Zenni, along with the last-minute goal from distance, led Daily Racing Form to the narrow 12-11 victory.
Claiming the lead behind the goal from Costi Caset in the first few minutes of the first chukker, Daily Racing Form held the lead until they conceded a goal to MacDonough to end the first chukker tied at 1-1. Las Monjitas took the lead in the second chukker behind the play of Nero, who scored three goals, coming forward from the #4 position. Las Monjitas’ MacDonough added another goal in the third chukker to take the slim lead but a determined Daily Racing Form team utilized their efficient shooting from the field to restore the tie at 5-5 after goals from Zenni and Caset ended the first half.
Continuing to utilize the two-man game from MacDonough and Nero, Las Monjitas edged back into the lead, producing a three-goal chukker to begin the second half. Daily Racing Form, with their balanced line-up, responded by scoring three consecutive goals – one each from Zenni, Obregon, and Caset – in what became a back-and-forth game. Nero’s fifth and sixth goals brought the game into a tie once again, with one chukker remaining to determine the first finalist. After trading goals, time was expiring when Obregon found Zenni on the receiving end of a pass. Despite a few players between him and the goal, Zenni found the way through, converting a shot from nearly 70 yards out to end the game and send Daily Racing Form into the final.
The second semi-final produced a high-powered offensive game between Pilot and La Indiana in a match to remember. Featuring a new roster that saw Juan Cruz Merlos and Nico Escobar enter the line-up for Michael Bickford and Santiago Gomez Romero, respectively, La Indiana matched Pilot stride for stride, surviving a late charge. Despite Pilot producing a more accurate performance from the field and penalty line, it was the additional attempts by La Indiana, along with a determined attack that received three Penalty 1 goals that led them to victory. Polito Pieres picked up where he left off from last year, scoring six goals, while newcomer Marcos produced an inspiring performance. The last-minute cut shot goal from Escobar completed a strong performance as La Indiana eliminated Pilot for the second consecutive tournament, dating back to the 2020 C.V. Whitney Cup.
A quick start from La Indiana saw them prevent Pilot from scoring a field goal while receiving two goals from Polito Pieres and one goal from Escobar to take the 3-1 lead. The hard-fought game carried into the remainder of the first half with Pilot pressuring La Indiana to try and tie the score, but La Indiana received two Penalty 1’s to maintain their lead. Outshot 6-0 in the third chukker, La Indiana escaped the first half holding the 8-6 advantage, conceding just one goal each to Gonzalito Pieres and Keko Magrini.
The high-scoring game immediately continued in the opening stages of the second half with La Indiana producing an astounding nine shots at goal in just seven minutes of play. Jeff Hall led the way with two goals in the chukker, while Polito Pieres added one goal and an assist to quickly double La Indiana’s lead to four. Making a significant impact at the front of the game, Marcos added two goals in the fifth chukker, running to goal with speed to keep La Indiana ahead. Never out of a game, Facundo Pieres led the way back for Pilot, scoring two goals while adding two assists in the four-goal chukker for Pilot, leaving them trailing by two. In an impressive comeback, Pilot fought all the way back to tie the score at 15-15, leaving spectators on the edge of their seats with time ticking down. Inside 60 yards, Escobar played the hero, cutting the ball into goal to give La Indiana the one-goal advantage inside the final minute. A foul resulted in one final possession for Pilot, but they could not get past the La Indiana defense as the horn sounded and La Indiana captured the exciting 16-15 victory.
Daily Racing Form and La Indiana will meet on Sunday, February 14, on the Home of the U.S. Polo Assn – Field 1 at IPC to determine the 2020 USPA Gold Cup® champion.
Polo matches at IPC are not open to the general public except for ticketed Sunday brunch. Online viewing is available with a subscription at globalpolo.com.