Competing in the final day of bracket play in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® eight teams battled in four matches, with Dutta Corp/Show+ and Pilot kicking off the quadruple feature at La Indiana. Despite strong showings in both the C.V. Whitney Cup® and USPA Gold Cup®, Dutta Corp/Show+ were still looking for their first win in the third leg of the GAUNTLET. Facing an undefeated Pilot team, an early start from young Mackenzie Weisz contributing four goals, gave Pilot an early lift to stave off late efforts from Dutta Corp/Show+ for an 8-7 victory. Reconvening on International Polo Club Palm Beach’s (IPC) Field 3, a seven-goal performance from Nic Roldan powered a 1-1 Polo Training Foundation over a winless Old Hickory Bourbon/Airstream 14-10.
The third matchup of the day at Isla Carroll West featured La Elina against a new look lineup in Santa Rita Polo Farm following an injury to 10-goaler Polito Pieres. Despite foul troubles from La Elina allowing their opponents to remain in contention, an impressive nine goals from Juan Martin Obregon fueled La Elina to ultimately seize the 14-12 win. Capping off the day’s events on Isla Carroll West, a dominant performance from Sol de Agosto including a five-goal statement from Paco de Narvaez Jr. and a strong defensive effort held Cessna to just four goals, as Sol de Agosto comfortably claimed the 10-4 victory.
Pilot immediately made their mark on a quick opening drive from Weisz to begin the game. In a low scoring first half, the two teams traded goals in the second and third chukkers, with Dutta Corp/Show+’s Tomas Garcia del Rio leading his team from the penalty line, while Pilot’s leading scorer Facundo Pieres responded to take a 3-2 advantage for Pilot into the break.
Leading Dutta Corp/Show+ with thirty penalty goals in the GAUNTLET, Garcia del Rio tapped in his first of two from the 30-yard line in the opening moments of the second half. However, Weisz carried over his momentum from a strong first half to score back-to-back goals and increase Pilot’s lead to two. Answering Pilot in stride, Garcia del Rio drew a Penalty 1 followed by another from the field to tie the contested match 5-all. After two more successful Penalty 2 conversions from each side, Timmy Dutta eluded his defenders to post his first goal of the game and give Dutta Corp/Show+ their first lead. Relying on his ability to create space in the field, Pilot’s captain Pieres took control of the remaining time in regulation on two consecutive drives to put away Dutta Corp/Show+ and seal the 8-7 victory.
In the second match, Polo Training Foundation’s Nic Roldan quickly got his team on the board with a goal from the field, initiating a dominant first half for his team. Despite a quick response from Hilario Figueras filling in for an injured Santino Magrini, Polo Training Foundation held Old Hickory Bourbon/Airstream to just one goal in the first two chukkers of play. Compiling a successful start, Polo Training Foundation got out to a commanding 6-1 lead with contributions from Roldan, Carlitos Gracida, and a drawn Penalty 1 from Jesse Bray. Finally responding with a Penalty 1 of their own, Stevie Orthwein brought life back into a struggling Old Hickory Bourbon/Airstream, as Joaquin Panelo followed with his first of three goals from the field. Halting Old Hickory Bourbon/Airstream’s progress and adding his name as the last Polo Training Foundation teammate to reach the scoreboard, Matias Gonzalez put his first through the posts to end the half with a firm 7-3 lead.
Beginning the second half just as determined as the first, Roldan once again led his team on back-to-back goals to increase Polo Training Foundation’s lead to six. Trading goals between Polo Training Foundation’s Gonzalez and Old Hickory Bourbon/Airstream’s Figueras in the fourth, the fifth chukker belonged to the sudden dominance of Old Hickory Bourbon/Airstream. Beginning on a drawn Penalty 1 from Panelo, Old Hickory Bourbon/Airstream’s offensive finally broke through with four unanswered field goals, including two more from Panelo to trail 11-9. Despite a final penalty conversion from Orthwein, two more goals in open play from Gracida gave Polo Training Foundation the breathing room needed to secure a 14-10 win.
Switching to the Isla Carroll fields for the final two games of play, a 1-1 La Elina took advantage of Santa Rita Polo Farm’s recently rehauled roster construction. Firing with vigor, La Elina’s Juan Martin Obregon was unstoppable in the first chukker, quickly scoring three unanswered field goals to give his team a 3-0 lead. Briefly interjecting for Santa Rita Polo Farm, Camilo Castagnola scored his first of ten goals on the day, but La Elina’s early strength from the field was apparent as Geronimo Obregon drove to the goal on back-to-back drives. Despite goals from new additions Jake Klenter and Martin Jauregui for Santa Rita Polo Farm, the speed and power of the Obregon’s gave them a 7-5 lead at the half.
Committing just three fouls in the first half, La Elina’s foul troubles promptly began in the fourth sending Castagnola back to the line for three successful Santa Rita Polo Club conversions in the chukker. Responding with two goals in the field, including Facundo Obregon’s first goal for La Elina, costly defensive mistakes suddenly cut La Elina’s advantage to just two goals. Joining the three Obregon’s on the scoreboard, Jared Zenni opened the fifth from the field, while Juan Martin continued his commanding performance with another two in open play. Leading 13-9 to open the final chukker of the match, La Elina once again got into foul trouble with six total penalties in the chukker, allowing Castagnola to tap in three consecutive conversions to bring Santa Rita Polo Club to just within one goal. Unwilling to let their victory slip away on penalties, one last field goal from Geronimo Obregon in the field eased the errors of the second half to deliver La Elina the 14-12 win.
A confident Sol de Agosto utilized their team strength and effective ball circulation to post four consecutive goals with contributions from Narvaez Jr., Victorino “Torino” Ruiz Jorba, and Juan Martin Nero in the final match of the day. Left off the scoreboard in the first two chukkers, Will Johnston finally broke through from the field for Cessna. Quickly responding on a Penalty 2 from Jorba followed by 10-goaler Nero in open play, Sol de Agosto carried a commanding 7-1 lead into halftime.
Struggling to find space in the field, Johnston evaded Sol de Agosto’s overwhelming defence long enough to score his second. Keeping the pressure on their opponents despite the score, Nero and Narvaez Jr. combined once more to account for four Sol de Agosto goals in the second half. Goals from Raul “Gringo” Colombres from the line and substitute Alejo Taranco in the field kept Johnston from posting Cessna’s only goals of the match, but Sol de Agosto’s overwhelmingly efficient start and smothering defense secured their second tournament victory 10-4.
Playoff matches in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® begin April 13 at IPC with SD Farms taking on La Fe at 11:00am ET.
Photo Credit ©Alex Pacheco