Palermo has been sizzling this week with final preparations for Saturday’s start of the Argentine Open. Gargantuan billboards have cropped up all over BsAs heralding the best polo in the world. The maze of open-air pubs beneath the stadium at the Cathedral of Polo is being transformed into “party central” for the Open, and the manicured playing fields rival the verdant grounds at the palace of Versailles. This, of course, we have come to expect.
But as reported in La Nación, something else we have come to expect will not be part of the weekend. In the normal scheme of things, the defending champion kicks off the Open with the first game. But in a twist on tradition, 2016 champion La Dolfina won’t be playing this Saturday. In fact, if you want to watch Cambiaso & Company in action you’ll have to wait another two weeks for their first game November 11. (Not to worry, there are tons of killer games on tap between now and then.)
This year’s opening day shift is an unintentional side effect of an important change to the fixture. The way the original Palermo schedule worked out, two teams would have found themselves out of the irons for nearly a month after their last Hurlingham games. La Albertina Abu Dhabi was looking at a 25-day hiatus and La Dolfina Polo Ranch (aka “La Dolfina 2”) 26 days. Good luck trying to keep the horses game-ready for that long a stretch.
So to make things fair for everyone, the organizers of the Open decided to reconfigure the schedule so that each of the 10 teams would have about two weeks off. Perfect.
Well, almost. The plan was based on the reasonable assumption that La Dolfina would be in the Hurlingham final. But then Alegría came along and defeated them in the semis, tacking another seven days onto La Dolfina’s break.
Alegría will have had a week of rest before they play this Sunday, and Ellerstina gets two weeks off before their Palermo debut November 12 (hopefully enough time for Facundo Pieres to mend from his injury in the Hurlingham final). La Dolfina drew the short straw: a 21-day hiatus.
With the top 40-goal team counting down the days, opening day will see a somewhat lower level of competition than in the past. This Saturday pits La Irenita (30 goals) against La Esquina Los Machitos (29), followed by La Aguada Las Monjitas vs. La Albertina Abu Dhabi (both 32).
But don’t translate that into a ho-hum afternoon. All four of those teams are hungry, and game 2 looks to be particularly exciting, with La Aguada LM’s Eduardo Novillo Astrada (at least as of now) planning to play for the first time since his injury on day 1 of the Tortugas Open. Given his supreme skills, and knowing how fervently he has wanted to get back in, if he’s wearing the jersey we can expect some fireworks Saturday.
Cover Photo/Video by Katerina Morgan