The dizzying debuts of La Dolfina and Ellerstina—who flattened the opposition Monday in the Tortugas Open—were surprising only in their crazy-big spreads: La Dolfina defeated La Irenita by 14 goals (20-6), and Ellerstina took Cría Yatay by 12 (15-3). In fairness to the defeated teams, however, you have to allow that their opponents out-handicapped them by 8 or 9 goals: La Dolfina is 40 goals and Ellerstina 39, compared to 31 each for La Irenita and Cría Yatay. The latter two teams were eliminated.
That leaves La Aguada Las Monjitas and Alegría marching toward what may be a double whammy this weekend in the virtual semifinals. La Dolfina opposes La Aguada Las Monjitas (32 goals) on Saturday, and Ellerstina faces Alegría (35) on Sunday.
In the interim, Alegría is not wasting a second trying to gain an edge against the Pieres machine. They are adhering to a lockstep preparation regimen, which includes “hitting the gym hard” and working closely with coach Clemente Zavaleta, says patron Fred Mannix.
Alegría played their horses lightly Tuesday, and today they have a practice game against La Dolfina—the world’s No. 1 expert in what works, and what doesn’t, against Ellerstina. But even though Alegría is doing their homework, unless all four Piereses come down with a wicked case of stomach flu, it looks like an uphill battle may be in store for the guys in the hot pink jerseys.
When asked Tuesday about the situation, Mannix’s face wore a mixture of confidence and concern. “So far we’re on track putting together the game plan, but we saw Ellerstina play Monday, and they were amazing. They looked very, very strong,” he said.
Indeed, Ellerstina won the majority of the throw-ins, consistently ran the ball forward and drove deep. They held Cría Yatay scoreless through the first three chukkers. Facundo Pieres alone made eight goals.
Always a straight shooter, Mannix, summed up the scenario this way: “Either we need to play very, very well to beat them, or they’re going to have to slow it down. We have big challenge in front of us, and I hope we can rise to the occasion.”
The weekend games take place at 3:30 p.m. local time and will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
Photos by Sergio Llamera