By Alejandra Ocampo
It’s here! The highlight of the coveted Argentine Triple Crown is due to kick off tomorrow, Tuesday November 1; it is the tournament everybody do want to play, at least once in their lifetime, the one every polo player wants to win, whether they are from here, there and everywhere. Yes, it is the 129th. Argentine Open! This year, the last leg of the Triple Crown is having both and earlier start and end, due to the World Cup, in Qatar. The two first matchdates – Tuesday November 1 and Wednesday November 2 – will take place at the AAP Headquarters in Pilar, and the remaining matches, as well as the much anticipated final, on Friday December 2, will be played at Palermo, the Cathedral. As it’s been happening since 2017, the 129th. Argentine Open will see ten teams up to 39 goals – the eight teams who have already played the Tortugas Open and the Hurlingham Open will be joined by the two who emerged from the Qualification Tournament Copa Remonta y Veterinaria. Teams are split in two leagues.
Two Cañuelas-based lineups have claimed the two previous tournaments: the Tortugas Open went to La Natividad– by the way, the current reigning champions of the Argentine Open – while La Dolfina won the Hurlingham Open, in a final that made history, with Adolfo Cambiaso adding a new milestone to his long and extraordinary career, by claiming his first ever title of the Triple Crown with his son, Poroto. So we wonder what will happen at Palermo – will there be a rematch-tie break between the two lineups from Cañuelas? Or perhaps some team will provide another surprise, like La Irenita Grand Champions did in Hurlingham? Anything could happen. But one thing is for sure: games should be played, first and foremost.
League A is quite complicated. La Natividad (39, Camilo Castagnola, Bartolomé Castagnola Jr., Polito Pieres and Nachi du Plessis), the title holders and winners of the recent Tortugas Open, had a stumble in the Hurlingham Open, after losing to La Irenita Grand Champions, in semifinals. But it’s in the past; now, their aim is to reach their best form, in order to repeat what they did in 2021. And it is worth noting that there will be a rematch of that semifinal at Palermo, because La Irenita Grand Champions (36, Juan Britos, Francisco Elizalde, Pablo MacDonough and Juan Martín Zubía), are within the same league, and, of course, they carry some extra motivation before playing the final of the Hurlingham Open. But there’s more – La Ensenada RS Murus Sanctus (34), that merged Facundo Sola and Guillermo Caset with Alfredo Bigatti and Jerónimo del Carril, are also within this league, and ready to present battle. And perhaps what’s most remarkable about these two lineups, is that the two of them have improved their performance significantly thoroghout the Triple Crown. This means that they are not only able to cause some damage to their contenders, but also they can even think of a possibility to reach the championship match.
The league is completed with La Irenita G-Squared (29), with Segundo Bocchino, Santiago Loza, Martín Podestá and Felipe Dabas, and La Hache (28). The latter is the Ulloa family’s organisation brand new team, who emerged from the Qualification Tournament, composed by Juan Ruiz Guiñazú, Carlos Ulloa – the only player to made his debut at Palermo -, Santiago Cernadas – who will be part of a starting lineup in the world’s most important tournament for the first time ever – and Joaquin Pittaluga. They are coached by Clemente “Corchito” Zavaleta, on his comeback to Argentine polo grounds.
With regards to League B, the 2021 story will be repeated – there won’t be a final between La Dolfina and Ellerstina this year either, because the two of them are within the same league. So, once again, it is expected that the clash between Ellerstina (38) – top seeded – (Facundo, Gonzalito and Nicolás Pieres, and Hilario Ulloa), and La Dolfina (39), still in full swing following their conquest in the Hurligham Open, with the remaining members Adolfo Cambiaso and Pelón Stirling, plus Juan Martín Nero’s comeback and the recent additon, Poroto Cambiaso, will occur in the League decider, once again.
But despite everybody know how powerful Ellerstina and La Dolfina are, League B features also three strong teams, who are armed and ready to bring some surprise: Cría La Dolfina (38), composed by former members of La Dolfina Polo Ranch – Diego Cavanagh, Jejo Taranco, Guillermo Terrera-, and Tomás Panelo, with the latter playing the Open for the second time; La Irenita Clinova, (32, Isidro Strada, Facundo Fernández Llorente, Tomás Fernández Llorente and Bautista Bayugar), a promising lineup, that aims to earn the most points they can, in order to remain in the 2023 Triple Crown; and La Esquina (29), back to Palermo for the second time in its history as the winners of their League in the Qualification. Spaniard Pascual Sainz de Vicuña will be joined by Cristian and Ignacio Laprida, and Lucas James.
The expectations are huge indeed, for both the teams and polo fans around the world, who await anxiously during a whole year for the most remarkable tournament of the world. So everything is set to enjoy the best polo in the world in what promises to be one exciting month.
The opening day of the 129th. Argentine Open will take place at the AAP Headquarters, in Pilar, with the following order of play:
129th. ARGENTINE OPEN – TUESDAY NOVEMBER 1
1pm: LA IRENITA GRAND CHAMPIONS vs LA HACHE
La Irenita Grand Champions: Juan Britos 9, Francisco Elizalde 9, Pablo Mac Donough 10, Juan M. Zubía 8. Total: 36.
La Hache: Juan Ruiz Guiñazú 8, Carlos María Ulloa 6, Santiago Cernadas 7, Joaquín Pittaluga 7. Total: 28.
Umpires: Martín Pascual & Matías Baibiene. Third man: Hernán Tasso.
4,30pm: LA ENSENADA RS MURUS SANCTUS vs. LA IRENITA G-SQUARED
La Ensenada RS Murus Sanctus: Facundo Sola 8, Alfredo Bigatti 9, Guillermo Caset 9, Jerónimo del Carril 8. Total: 34.
La Irenita Gsquared: Santiago Loza 8, Segundo Bocchino 7, Martín Podestá 7, Felipe Dabas 7. Total: 29.
Umpires: Gastón Lucero & Guillermo Villanueva. Third man: Martín Aguerre.
The final of the 129th. Argentine Open is set to be played on Friday December 2.
Cover photo: Final 128th. Argentine Open, La Natividad vs. La Dolfina, by Matias Callejo.