Rolling into the second half of the 2018 high-goal season at International Polo Club
Palm Beach (IPC), the past stretch has been a flurry of semis and finals. In the first
two tournaments of the 26-goal series, the C.V. Whitney and Butler Handicap titles
went to Valiente on consecutive Sunday feature matches. Ten-goaler Juan Martín
Nero made his first U.S. appearance this year in the Butler, playing for Grand
Champions Polo Club.
In 20-goal play La Indiana and Pilot stormed the Iglehart Cup semis Monday. La
Indiana defeated Goose Creek 9-6, and Pilot overtook Coca-Cola 13-10. Tomorrow’s
final (March 15 at 3 p.m.) will mark Pilot’s second go-around with La Indiana in the
tournament. The teams played each other in the opening game, with Pilot taking a
wipeout win (12-3). But don’t say chau chau yet to La Indiana. They seem to have
finally hit their stride. Last week La Indiana took two comfortable consecutive
victories over Goose Creek (9-6) and Postage Stamp Farm (13-8).
As for undefeated Pilot, every game in the Iglehart has been a good show for
spectators and a wicked lot of fun for the players. One of Pilot’s coolest moves came
last week in the final game of bracket play when they went up against Postage
Stamp. Annabelle Gundlach’s band of marauders pushed Pilot to the limit, leading
for the first two chukkers. With the score tied at 6 in the fourth, one of Pilot’s
Piereses (Facundo) pulled off a gravity-defying stunt. Tantalizingly close to goal but
with no space between him and the line, Pieres reached ridiculously far back for a
tail shot. His yanked shoulder and twisted torso probably didn’t appreciate it, but it
was a crucial shot that broke the tie.
Here’s how it went down: With the hulking Kris Kampsen between him and the goal,
Pieres’s eyes flickered to the ground for a microsecond and snapped back up. Before
anyone could figure out what he was up to, Pieres sent the ball rolling on the turf
directly under Kampsen’s horse’s belly, placing it equally distant between its front
and hind legs. The ball skittled into goal on one shot, giving Pilot a tight lead (7-6)
that grew to a 12-10 win.
NEXT UP IN THE 20: The Carlos Gracida Cup opens this weekend: Coca-Cola v.
Horseware (Saturday 10 a.m.), and Prestige Worldwide v. La Indiana (Sunday noon).
A REPEAT TOUSLE IN THE 26
How is it possible for the same two teams to go at it in two consecutive finals—with
the same result—and still keep things interesting? When they are Valiente’s and
Colorado’s 2018 entries. In a couple of scrappy Sunday feature matches, the two
Jornayvaz teams mixed it up in the finals of the first two 26-goal tournaments of the
season, the C.V. Whitney Cup and the Butler Handicap. Valiente took both titles
(C.V. Whitney 9-4 and Butler 11-8), and then all the trailers from both sides of the
field rolled home together for a communal barbecue.
Both 26-goal tournaments were single elimination and made for a quick spin, with
the opening day’s games serving as the semi-finals. The two finals took place just
seven days apart. In the Butler semis Colorado took Daily Racing Form-DRF Bets 14-11,
and Valiente defeated Grand Champions Polo Club 9-6. In the latter game Valiente patron Bob
Jornayvaz made a goal of his own while several times accomplishing what is almost guaranteed
to be a losing proposition for any player: containing Juan Martín Nero.
The Butler final went even better than the semis for Valiente, who took a five-goal
win. Facundo Pieres (who until this tournament had never before played in the U.S.
on an Adolfo Cambiaso team) was pleased that Valiente was getting into a rhythm.
“The second half was really difficult but we keep improving,” he said. “We looked for
each other on the field, passed the ball and stuck together.”
In the C.V. Whitney final the ball spent the vast majority of its time in open play,
which made for exciting viewing on the sidelines. Valiente clobbered Colorado in the
first half with five goals and kept their opponent scoreless. The second half was
exceptionally clean, with only two combined fouls from the teams. Colorado got on
the board four times, courtesy of Diego Cavanagh and Magoo Laprida, each with two
NEXT UP IN THE 26: The USPA Gold Cup® starts this Saturday, March 17: Audi v.
Tonkawa at 1 p.m. and Daily Racing Form v. Colorado at 4 p.m. Sunday’s feature
match in the Gold Cup is Valiente v. Flexjet at 3 p.m. on Engel & Volkers field at IPC.
The Gold Cup continues through March, with the final set April 1. All games in the
2018 season are live streamed on the USPA Polo Network: uspolo.org.
Article by Darlene Ricker
Photos Liz Lamont and David Lominska