In 2005 they could have done it, but blamed
their inexperience. They could have done it
in 2007, but for a setback in overtime. Or in
the 2009 edition, until what seemed to be an 11-goal
Adolfo Cambiaso appeared. The 2010 season was the year
of Ellerstina Etiqueta Negra. After its success at Tortugas
and Hurlingham, it was waiting patiently
to win the Triple Crown. In a season
characterized by changes in team line-ups,
the only team that kept the 40-goal handicap was the
favorite to lift the most desirable cup in the polo world on
the hallowed polo field in Palermo. And it didn’t fail.
Ellerstina Etiqueta Negra
Pablo Mac Donough
Juan Martín Nero
||La Dolfina Peugeot
||La Aguada BMW
Javier Novillo Astrada
Eduardo Novillo Astrada
Miguel Novillo Astrada
Ignacio Novillo Astrada
Alejandro Novillo Astrada
||Chapa Uno Hope Funds
Juan Ignacio Merlos
Matías Mac Donough
||Indios Chapaleufú II Cardón
Ignatius du Plessis
||Alegría Air France
Francisco de Narváez
Tomás García del Río
||Sao José Audi
Rodrigo Ribeiro de Andrade
Jaime García Huidobro
The action of the Bicentennial’s 117th
Argentine Open Movistar finally started
on Saturday, November 20. And it didn’t
start in the best way for La Dolfina Peugeot,
the defending champion. Just 16 seconds
into play on Field No. 2, Sao José Audi was
up on the scoreboard thanks to Nicolás
Pieres. And the first chukker ended 3-1 for
the team that qualified in the classification
tournament. The game was matched 7-7 in
the first half. There after, the all-road
Cambiaso came alive, scoring 14 goals to
lead his team to an 18-12 win in a match that
marked the debut of umpire Martin Goti in
Palermo following the retirement of Daniel
Boudou, who was dissatisfied with the
Argentine Association’s authorities.
In the second round, at Palermo’s
Cathedral, there was an unexpected beating
from Pilará Piaget against Chapa Uno Hope Funds. Piaget, wearing blue jerseys, was a
33-goal team playing against the 35-goal
Chapa team, and was missing its leader,
Marcos Heguy, who was still out with an
injured right shoulder. But on the field, it
was a real whirlwind. In 28 minutes it had
an unusual 11-3 advantage over a much
more experienced team at this level. And it
maintained the strength to reach the final
bell with a 19-9 score in its favor. The afternoon MVP was Agustín Merlos, author
of 10 goals.
A day later, the favored Zeta (Ellerstina)
debuted. And it showed a new facet it had
not shown in previous games: defense. The
team from General Rodriguez defeated
Alegría Air France by a 15-6 score. Its ability
to protect its own goal was such that the first
goal from the Alegría team, led by the
talented 10-goal Mariano Aguerre, didn’t
come until 30 minutes and 40 seconds into
the game, while Zeta had already racked up
eight goals. Zeta’s Facundo Pieres showed
his power, making 13 goals.
In the second match of the day, La
Aguada BMW took no pity on Indios
Chapaleufú II Cardón, beating it 20-10 in a
match that was distorted in the last chukker
when members of the defeated team
collectively received four yellow cards. The
Novillo Astradas were efficient in their
attack, using a classic style for the victory.
The following weekend opened with
Pilará’s victory over Sao José on Field 2 in an open and entertaining match in which a
Mercosur team of two Argentines (the
cousins Nicolás and Pablo Pieres), a
Brazilian (Rodrigo Ribeiro de Andrade) and
Chilean (Jaime García Huidobro)
dominated until the fourth chukker, when
Nico Pieres suffered a blow to his left
shoulder. Taking advantage of his physical
decline, better horses and a fully charged
Agustin Merlos who tallied 11 goals, Pilará
In the Cathedral, La Dolfina had to put
its best weapons in action against Chapa
Uno, playing its strongest match of the
season. La Dolfina eventually succeeded 16-
13, only because Cambiaso was inspired
with 11 goals.
Just 24 hours later, Ellerstina made clear
who the strongest team was. A patched
Chapa II team, with Joaquin Pittaluga and
South African Ignatius du Plessis replacing
the suspended Nachi and Ruso Heguy,
withstood the pace until the third chukker.
With the game leveled at 4-4, the quality of
play and better horses of the black-shirted
Ellerstina team was decisive. A gust of 11
goals from Zeta, compared to one from Chapa II, in a matter of 22 minutes defined
the course. In the end, the score was 19-9.
Earlier, La Aguada had to sweat more
than necessary against Alegría, which
dominated the match until the fourth
chukker. But in the fifth set, when the
Novillo Astradas doubled its best horses, the
score went from 7-8 to 12-8 in its favor. The
decisive final result was 15-12.
On Saturday, December 4 the first
finalist was defined. The day opened with
the success of Chapa Uno over Sao José by a
misleading 16-12 score. The younger Sao
José team led 12-11 with less than five
minutes until the final bell. In that short
time, the Bautista Heguy-led Chapa Uno
quartet made five goals and took an undeserved victory.
Then, La Dolfina made clear the
statement made previously by its Back, Lolo
Castagnola: “In the season we care just
about two games: Palermo’s semifinal and
final.” If his team came out staggering in
the beginning, at the appointed time it
made clear it was the defending champion.
In the initial two chukkers, Cambiaso
dismantled Pilará’s illusions with a lethal 9-1 advantage. With the win all but assured,
the team eased up, saving its horses and
thinking about the future. Adolfito added a
dozen goals for a total of 37 in three games.
“It doesn’t matter how, but we always
[stay in] to the end,” said Cambiaso after
securing his team’s place in the final for the
10th time since 2000.
The next day, it was the last performance
of Alberto Pedro Heguy’s three children
playing together with the same colors after
16 seasons. That week, Nachi had
formalized his move to Ellerstina in 2011, so
the 19-16 victory over Alegría left a particularly bittersweet taste for he and his
brothers. “I will very much miss not having
them at my side,” declared the thrilled No.
2, who scored three goals in his farewell
match with the team that has won the Open
Then it was time to determine the other
finalist. A rather dull Ellerstina defeated La
Aguada 14-11. The Novillo Astradas didn’t
seem to miss the injured Javier, replaced by
his younger brother Alexander, and they
managed to complicate the game for the
Zeta, which still managed to unlock the task
between the fifth and sixth chukkers, when
it doubled its best horses and scored a
decisive four goals.
On Saturday, December 11, an
unprecedented moment happened during
the final in Palermo, the fifth between
Ellerstina and La Dolfina. As never before,
the action was suspended during the first
chukker when a tropical storm hit the
Argentine capital. Like in a boxing bout,
they played almost a round (3:17), permitting both contenders enough time to
show their weapons. Ellerstina imposed its
speed in the first two throw-ins and made fast
attacks defined by Gonzalito Pieres. Lolo
Castagnola responded with La Dolfina’s
punchiness and talent and ended up getting
a free hit a few yards from the target posts,
which was converted into a goal by Adolfito.
Suddenly there was a deluge of rain and the
umpires suspended the match with the score
2-1 in favor of Ellerstina.
“If they stop the game now, let’s not play
anymore. Since now we are the champions,”
joked the older Pieres.
More concerned, on the other side,
Cambiaso recognized the postponement was
a blessing for his team. “Luckily, it rained a
little. We started out sluggish, it was almost a
The next day, the sun shone allowing the
action to be completed. La Dolfina came out
like a tornado and finished the remainder of
the first chukker up 3-2. But with a huge
effort from Gonzalito and a great job from
Juan Martin Nero, the well-designed Zeta
recovered and returned to command the top
spot up 7-5 at the end of the third. Cambiaso
and Pelón Stirling matched a couple of long
distance shots from over 70 yards, and some
errors by the men in black again allowed the
trend to change in La Dolfina’s favor. So,
going into the break after the fifth period,
the defending champion was in command by
a narrow 10-8.
It was quite unfair. We dominated the game but they made goals. Coach Alejandro
Agote told us to play without looking at the
score. And it worked,” Pablo Mac Donough
In the sixth, with a flurry of goals,
Ellerstina regained control of the game, 12-
10, and did not relinquish it again.
Defending Cambiaso with two players to
avoid the scoring drives he is known for (he
was best scorer with seven goals, a meager
amount for his standard) and being accurate
on each journey to the goal, the General
Rodriguez men knew how to control the
game and their nerves, avoiding the extra
chukker, that until then had meant their
The last bell declared Ellerstina the
winner with a final score of 14-13. The win
meant the team had finally achieved its
dream, the Triple Crown win, which the
Pieres’ father had achieved with a younger
Cambiaso in 1994. Thus, this quartet joined
the mythical formations of Coronel Suarez,
Santa Ana and La Aguada, the last quartet to
achieve the Triple Crown, in 2003.
The party was complete for the Pieres
family because earlier in the week, Cecilia,
the youngest daughter, had led Ellerstina to
triumph in the Chapa Uno tournament, one
of the leading women’s competitions of the
We had to win and we did it. It was an
obligation to the [members of the team]
because next year we will not be together and
it would be a shame to close this cycle without the Triple Crown. I thank Juanma
and Pablo for everything they gave to us.
Now [Facundo and I] will try to defend [the
win] next year with [brother] Nico and Nachi
Heguy,” said Gonzalito, author of six goals.
Facundo, who also scored six goals, stood
on the same podium full of tears of joy.
The conquest of the Bicentennial’s 117th Argentine Open
Movistar with the 14-13 victory over La Dolfina Peugeot still was
living in Gonzalito Pieres’ hackneyed smile. The celebration of the
victory, which included an orchestra,
much dancing and even a fire truck,
was alive in the man who was one
week away from celebrating his 28th
birthday with a memorable birthday
gift. His team, Ellerstina Etiqueta
Negra, joined the select group of
winners of the Triple Crown, like his
father Gonzalo Sr. had done with a
young Adolfito Cambiaso in 1994.
Other winners include Coronel
Suarez, Santa Ana and the last
winner, La Aguada, in 2003.
“I’m on a cloud. Winning this way
was a golden closing to the season. We
knew it was the last chance for this
group to get the Triple Crown. We had
already been very close in other years,
but this was our year.
“We could not lose because we had
a very good season winning the
Tortugas and Hurlingham and [La
Dolfina] saved its year with a just a
victory. We wanted to show that we didn’t get cold feet, but it would
be sad to lose. We didn’t have any option but win Palermo,” he said
after agreeing wholeheartedly to speaking with POLO Players’
Edition at the Ellerstina field in General Rodríguez, 35 miles
northwest of Buenos Aires.
PPE: Can you say mission accomplished?
GP: Yeah, sure. The main goal of the season was to win the
Triple Crown. As the year progressed, we were getting closer. It was
always a dream. I always knew the opportunity would come. I
thought that in 2005 we were ready to win, but it was taken from
us, then in 2007 we lost again in the final. We had to learn how to
win the finals, we were fine but it was not a given. And last year we
went out just for nothing. We wanted to say goodbye to Juan Martin
Nero and my cousin Pablo Mac Donough in the best way. At the
awards ceremony I had mixed feelings. I was living a great joy, but
I realized I would not share it again with the same team. In the last
three years we made a good chemistry, which was developed on the
field. If you do the math it is clear that we were not wrong: we
played nine tournaments, we won seven.
PPE: What was the most significant change to finally attaining
that desirable tournament trio?
GP: In the defeats you learn a lot, but with the victories you
don’t. Having had these setbacks was not a nice time but helped us
to mature and I think it served us well. We remained faithful to our
game, classic and open, and we learned to listen to those who know
more than us.
PPE: What did you need to do to win?
GP: Think more, and in the moments when the game is at its
crucial point, to just calm down. In additional chukkers, you cannot
play as you have in the past chukkers because if you make a mistake
it can cost you the game. You should be as cold as possible. Luckily,
this time we defined it in regulation time.
PPE: What was the key to
winning without going into
GP: We defended Adolfito
Cambiaso very well, in pairs, forcing
him to shoot from far away. The
tactic was a gamble. At one point, he
found a hole, but most times during
the match, he didn’t. And we didn’t
lose our minds when we were down
on the scoreboard.
In the fourth chukker we
deserved to be three or four goals up
and suddenly we were matched. And
they went two goals up in the fifth.
But we stuck to our game plan. Our
coach, Alejandro Agote, told us not
to look at the scoreboard and to
keep playing our style so things
would work themselves out. And we
learned to follow him. There was
that maturity that we did not have
in other years.
PPE: When did you say to yourself, “Now I am champion”?
GP: They had the ball with just over half-a-minute left.
Cambiaso began to make his play, taking the ball from his goal to
our goal on his own. Then I saw Juanma Nero take him and move
him to the boards. I began to celebrate because I knew Adolfito
could not get away from him.
PPE: You were very excited in the festivities, weren’t you?
GP: Yes, I lost a few tears. We, the Pieres, are quite sensitive
people (laughs). I cry in anger if I lose and also cry in great joy. This
year was very nice for me. I had my daughter, Violet, and won the
PPE: Now you can watch as an equal to your dad, who won the
Triple Crown in 1994.
GP: Yes. Jokingly I look at the Old Man and I say: “I also have
the Triple, you know.” Still, he is the happiest of us all. Ellerstina is
his project and we, his sons, tried our hardest to [keep the
momentum going]. What my brothers and I really want is to enjoy
him as much as possible. He is a fanatic about horses and always
wants to help us. He knows how to choose the best horses, advises
us, and is always outstanding.
PPE: What does your father think about his three sons being
together in the 2011 season?
GP: He is almost crazy because Nicolás (19 years old) is joining
me and Facundo (24). We do not know where on the team Nico and
Nachi Heguy will play. We don’t want to change positions but we
have to consider a new structure. There is enough time to plan this,
though. Now, we want to celebrate. Winning the three most
important tournaments in the world is not something that happens