Aside from his notoriety as “The Weapon” (a moniker scathingly flung at him when he foiled a popular English team in the 2017 British Open), how did Diego Cavanagh craft La Dolfina Polo Ranch’s crucial victory Sunday in Palermo?
When asked that question after the game, he didn’t have to think for even a second. He pointed to the pony line, where three of his favorite mounts were being rubbed down: Paliza, Dolfina Cora and Lapa03.
“I love them, and I thank them,” he said simply. “And I thank Adolfo [Cambiaso] for the opportunity.”
Cambiaso has lent Cavanagh a number of horses in the Argentine season over the years, among them another Cavanagh favorite, a Small Person clone. This season he is playing Cambiaso’s prized Dolfina Cora and Lapa03 (the third clone of Lapa). Paliza, Cavanagh’s own horse, carried him to the final of the 20-goal Colorado Open in Denver this August.
The linchpin in most teams he plays for, Cavanagh took La Dolfina Polo Ranch to a 10-8 victory over Chapaleufú Cardón on Sunday. The win bumped up LD Polo Ranch into the top eight teams in the 2017 rankings, which puts them in the running for direct qualification to the 2018 Argentine Triple Crown.
Cavanagh described his top three mounts, each of which he says offers everything you’d want in a polo pony. “Lapa is very handy, very explosive; Paliza is more powerful, and Cora has a combination of handiness and speed,” he said.
They came through for him in a tight match against Chapaleufú, a seasoned force with two players who hold the record for competing in the most Argentine Opens (30-plus seasons and more than 100 games each). In addition to Cavanagh, LD Polo Ranch’s other three players performed at top level, each contributing to the scoreboard. Alejo Taranco, a tight teammate with Cavanagh when they played together in Florida for Valiente and Dubai, matched Cavanagh’s three goals Sunday. Guillermo Terrera and Ignatius du Plessis each scored twice.
On the heels of a Taranco goal in the second chukker, du Plessis pounded in a goal from 100 yards. La Dolfina Polo Ranch came through with a four-goal run. In the fourth chukker, five fouls for both teams combined put Eduardo Heguy on the penalty line twice and Cavanagh once (all went in).
It was a very defensive style of game with a lot of backhands and back-and-forth play, primarily in the middle of the field. Whenever a team finally broke away, it was typically La Dolfina Polo Ranch. They were effective converting when they got the chance, shooting 5/7 in the first five chukkers. Chapaleufú struggled to string together passes to create an attack. Eduardo Heguy seemed to be stuck in the back of the game, hitting backhands and then recovering to his defensive position to ultimately hit another backhand. Without the ability of Eduardo Heguy to come forward, that left Chapaleufú struggling to find consistent offense. Julián de Lusarreta tried his best throughout and made four goals. Most of his success came late in the game, but it was too late at that point to impact the result.
- La Dolfina Polo Ranch scoring balanced: Cavanagh (3), Taranco (3), Terrera (2), Du Plessis (2)
- Chapaleufú shot 4/12, La Dolfina Polo Ranch 6/13
- Penalty attempts: La Dolfina 4/4, Chapaleufú 4/6 (two-goal difference in final score)
- Close in fouls: La Dolfina Polo Ranch 12, Chapaleufú 10
- Close in throw-in wins: La Dolfina Polo Ranch 12, Chapaleufú 10
Photos by Katerina Morgan