Showcasing a full day of polo in the U.S. Open Polo Championship®, Friday’s thrilling tripleheader began at Grand Champions Polo Club Field 3, as a neck-and-neck battle between Audi and Tamera came down to the final seconds of regulation where Marc Ganzi jabbed the ball across the line, lifting Audi to the 11-10 victory. Relocating to International Polo Club Palm Beach’s Field 3, the second matchup of the day featured a high scoring affair between Grand Champions Polo Club and defending U.S. Open champions Scone. Despite a breakout performance from Grand Champions Polo Club’s Antonio Aguerre, a dominant nine goal performance from Poroto Cambiaso carried Scone to a 13-10 win. Wrapping up the tripleheader at Park Place, the formidable duo of Hilario Ulloa and Juan Britos aided their undefeated team past a slow start to defeat G-String Polo Ponies 17-13.
Carrying a 2-0 record into Friday’s matchup, Tamera’s Diego Cavanagh emerged with urgency to continue their winning ways by striking first from the field. Mounting a strong response, Audi began the back-and-forth battle on two quick goals in open play from Matt Coppola, substituting for Jason Crowder, and Bartolome Castagnola. Taking control of the second chukker, Cavanagh’s Penalty 2 ignited a spree of two unanswered goals from Magoo Laprida and Segundo Saravi for a 4-2 Tamera lead. Hitting his first conversion from the 40-yard line, 9-goaler Castagnola combined with Coppola to tie the match 4-all. Breaking the stalemate once again, Saravi found his second from the field, while a Penalty 2 from Cavanagh offset the firepower of Castagnola’s third goal of the half to give Tamera a narrow 6-5 advantage at halftime.
Maintaining the trend of keeping the score within one goal, the two teams continued to trade goals in the fourth chukker. Aided by multiple fouls on both sides, Castagnola accounted for three conversions, while Cavanagh rolled two Penalty 2’s over the line. Knotted up at 8-all, Castagnola found his second through traffic, as Saravi thrashed his third field goal to keep the contested game deadlocked. Contributing on defense for Tamara throughout the match, an unmanned Alejandro Poma got into the action to open the final chukker of regulation and break the tie once more. Leading his team with seven goals, including four crucial penalty conversions to keep Tamera in step with Audi, Cavanagh stepped up to send his fourth field goal though the posts for the 10-10 score. With overtime looming, a perfectly placed Marc Ganzi in front of the goal managed to send the ball over the line in a last second blitz to deliver Audi the hard-fought 11-10 win.
Relocating to IPC for the second contest of the day, Grand Champions Polo Club faced a monumental task of battling an undefeated Scone. Filling in for Riley Ganzi, young Antonio Aguerre began his spectacular GAUNTLET debut giving Grand Champions Polo Club an early 1-0 lead from the field. Displaying his confident mid-season form, Scone’s leading scorer in Cambiaso continued to thrive in open play, answering Grand Champions Polo Club with a run of three unanswered goals. Briefly halting Scone’s early offensive success, Gonzalito Pieres carried the ball through the posts for Grand Champions Polo Club, but Kristos “Keko” Magrini and Cambiaso wasted no time answering Pieres to keep Scone in the lead 6-2. Keeping themselves in contention, back-to-back goals from Juan Bollini and Juan Martin Zubia, Grand Champions cut the lead to just two goals as Scone took a 7-4 lead into halftime following a final goal off the mallet of Magrini.
Strategizing in the break, Grand Champions Polo Club started the second half sending Aguerre out front to great success, as Aguerre was able to elude coverage to score three straight goals and bring his team back within one. Sending David Paradice in coverage to halt Aguerre, Cambiaso drove his sixth field goal through the posts to initiate a commanding five goal run for Scone, including Magrini’s third and a drawn Penalty 1. Carrying a comfortable six-goal lead into the final chukker, Grand Champions Polo Club’s Pieres, Zubia and Bollini each contributed offensively, while their defense was able to leave Scone off the board for the first time in the match. Unable to complete the comeback despite the phenomenal effort of Aguerre’s four goals, the strength of Scone’s fifth chukker and firepower from Cambiaso gave Scone the 13-10 victory.
Shifting locations once more for the finale of the tripleheader, a 1-1 G-String Polo Ponies jumped on their first opportunity to score with early contributions from Nico Pieres and Julian de Lusarreta to grab an early 3-0 lead. In an uncharacteristically slow start for reigning C.V. Whitney Cup® champions Park Place, Ellis and Britos each responded from the field, however foul troubles soon hindered Park Place. Committing the most fouls in the GAUNTLET, Park Place sent Pieres to the penalty line for three successful conversions in the first half of play. Answering from the field, Park Place matched G-String Polo Ponies accuracy from the line with six goals in open play, including milestones for Andrey Borodin with his first of the GAUNTET, and Ulloa’s astounding ninetieth goal. Leading all players in the GAUNTLET in scoring, the strong play of Ulloa to account for three of Park Place’s first half goals allowed his team to take a slim 8-7 lead at the half.
Despite sending Pieres back to the line for two more penalty conversions, Park Place finally saw the offensive spark they had been working for, as Britos and Ulloa combined for four goals in the field to increase their hard-fought lead by three. Continuing their offensive hot streak in the fifth chukker, Britos and Ulloa stuck again for another run of three goals. Keeping themselves in contention, the tightened defense of G-Strong Polo Ponies allowed de Lusarreta to draw a Penalty 1, while Escobar knocked in his only goal of the match. Trailing only by three, G-String Polo Ponies attempted to push for a late comeback, but the offensive strength of Park Place couldn’t be denied, with Britos and Ulloa each scoring once more, combining for fourteen total goals to overtake their opponents 17-13.
Bracket play in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® resumes April 9 at IPC with CK Shack and Aspen Valley Polo Club kicking off the doubleheader at 10:00am ET, followed by La Fe facing La Indiana at 4:00pm ET.
Photo Credit ©Alex Pacheco