The 22-goal USPA Gold Cup was well underway at International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida, when COVID-19 reared its ugly head. The 14 teams were divided into four brackets, playing off from Feb. 23 to March 10. Brackets 1 and II had four teams playing off within their brackets while Brackets III and IV had three teams each, playing cross bracket.

  Cessna: 21   Old Hickory Bourbon: 22    
  Chip Campbell
Ezequiel Martinez Ferrario
Felipe Marquez
Nicolas Saenz
2
7
7
5
  Will Johnston
Toro Ruiz
Miguel Novillo Astrada
Stevie Orthwein
2
7
9
4
   
               
  Coca Cola: 22   Park Place: 22    
  Gillian Johnston
Steve Krueger
Nico Pieres
Julian de Lussaretta
1
4
9
8
  Andrey Borodin
Alejandro Muzzio
Alfredo Bigatti
Felipe Viana

0
8
8
6
   
               
  Daily Racing Form: 22   Patagones: 22    
  Costi Caset
Agustin Obregon
Jared Zenni
Tommy Collingwood
5
6
6
5
  Geronimo Obregon
Santi Toccalino
Tomas Garcia del Rio
Gonzalo Avendano
5
8
8
1
   
               
  Dutta Corp: 22   Pilot: 22    
  Timmy Dutta
Lucas Diaz Alberdi
Facundo Obregon
Nino Obregon
3
6
6
7
  Curtis Pilot
Lucas Escobar
Facundo Pieres
Gonzalo Pieres Jr.
0
2
10
10
   
               
  Equuleus: 22   Postage Stamp Farm: 22    
  Joe DiMenna/
Aiden Meeker
Iñaki Laprida
Magoo Laprida
Mariano Gonzalez
0

7
8
7
  Annabelle Gundlach/
Felipe Tro
Peke Gonzalez
Mariano Aguerre
Lerin Zubiaurre
0

6
8
8
   
               
  La Indiana: 22   Santa Clara: 22    
  Michael Bickford/
J. Avendano
Jeff Hall/Facundo Obregon
Polito Pieres
Santi Gomez Romero
2

6
10
4
  Henry Porter
Matias Magrini
Nachi du Plessis
Luis Escobar
3
7
8
4
   
               
  Las Monjitas: 22   Tonkawa: 22    
  Camilo Bautista/
J.Whitman
Mackenzie Weisz
Francisco Elizalde
Pelon Stirling
0

3
9
10
  Jeff Hildebrand
Matias Gonzalez
Cubi Toccalino
Guillermo “Sapo” Caset"
0
4
8
10
   
               

La Indiana topped Bracket I with a 2-1 record, its only loss coming at the hands of Santa Clara. Pilot went undefeated, 3-0, topping Bracket II. Las Monjitas topped Bracket III with a 2-1 record, falling only to Dutta Corp in a surprising 20-11 match. Dutta topped Bracket IV after finishing undefeated. These teams advanced to the quarterfinals along with three teams with 2-1 records: Santa Clara, Park Place and Patagones. The remaining spot was filled after Daily Racing Form, Tonkawa, Coca Cola and Equuleus, all with 1-2 records, had a shootout. Jared Zenni was the only player to make all of his shots, allowing the all-pro Daily Racing Form team to advance.

Meanwhile, with news of the coronavirus increasing, International Polo Club closed its doors to the public, limiting entrance to club members, game officials and teams and their staff.

The quarterfinals began on March 14 with Santa Clara up against Daily Racing Form. Zenni put Daily Racing Form on the scoreboard with back-to-back goals in the first period. Santa Clara shot at goal twice but was unable to find the mark. Nachi Du Plessis sunk a Penalty 3 to put Santa Clara on the board, but Zenni converted a Penalty 4 in response. Du Plessis converted a Penalty 2 early in the third but Agustin Obregon answered with a field goal. Du Plessis added a goal of his own and Luis Escobar’s first tally knotted the score at 4-4 at the half.

Costi Caset and Obregon scored the only goals of the fourth to put Daily Racing Form back in the lead. Santa Clara retaliated in the fifth with goals by Henry Porter, Matias Magrini and Du Plessis to take a first-time lead. It was short-lived, however, as Caset leveled the score at 7-all late in the chukker. Du Plessis scored early in the first to give Santa Clara the advantage. The teams fought hard to gain control, resulting in costly mistakes. Obregon nailed a Penalty 2 to tie the score, but a Penalty 1 put Santa Clara back on top. Obregon converted another Penalty 2 for the tie, and with time winding down, he split the uprights with a Penalty 3 just before the horn to give Daily Racing Form the win.

The same day, Pilot took on Park Place. The teams traded goals in the first chukker, ending level at 2-2. Park Place was silenced in the next 14minutes, as Pilot showed some of the brilliance that made it Gauntlet Champion last season. Brothers Gonzalito and Facundo Pieres combined for three goals in each chukker to take a convincing 8-2 lead at the half. Pilot capitalized on its fourth and fifth open-goal penalties in the fourth chukker, while Joaquin Panelo scored for Park Place.

The momentum changed in the fifth period. Britos scored a Penalty 6, then the team was awarded a Penalty 1. Soon after, Bigatti made a run, splitting the uprights to bring the team within four goals, 10-6. Facundo Pieres added another goal for Pilot, giving the team a five-goal advantage with seven minutes left. Park Place would have to dig deep to overcome the deficit and it tried, but a costly mistake gave Pilot a Penalty 1, putting the game out of reach. Bigatti never gave up and added a pair of goals but it wasn’t enough and Pilot advanced with a 12-8 win.

We were hearing more and more about coronavirus becoming a threat to the U.S. That evening Trump declared a state of emergency over the outbreak, and the House passed an economic relief bill. Out of an abundance of caution, Apple announced it was closing its stores, Agusta National postponed golf’s Masters Tournament and the Boston Marathon was postponed. But it wasn’t all looking bleak: stocks, which had been volatile all week, made their biggest one-day gain since 2008.

The club announced it was further tightening restrictions, prohibiting anyone but game officials and teams and their staff for the games.

The next day, the undefeated Dutta Corp took on La Indiana in a foul-riddled match. A Penalty 3 from Facundo Obregon got the scoring started, and a Penalty 2 from Polito Pieres put La Indiana on the board. Pieres split the uprights to end the chukker with La Indiana ahead, 2-1. Obregon and Pieres traded Penalty 2s in the second. La Indiana missed two open-goal penalties but still held a narrow advantage, 4-3. Nino Obregon traded goals with Michael Bickford in the opening minutes of the third. Santiago Gomez Ramiro added another for La Indiana, but Facundo Obregon responded with a Penalty 2, ending the half with La Indiana holding a razor-edge lead, 6-5.

Pieres made the most of a Penalty 4 and 2 early in the fourth. Later, Dutta found the mark to keep it close, 8-6. Nino Obregon cut the deficit to one in the fifth, but Pieres answered with a pair of goals, including a Penalty 4, to stretch the lead. A Penalty 1 late in the chukker kept Dutta in range. A Penalty 3 by Pieres in the sixth kept La Indiana in control. Dutta chipped away at the difference in the final minutes. Lucas Diaz Alberdi sunk a Penalty 4 and Facundo Obregon scored a Penalty 2. Only a single goal separated the teams but time wasn’t on Dutta’s side and La Indiana took the 11-10 win.

Later that day, Las Monjitas challenged Patagones. Fran Elizalde kicked off the scoring, then he traded Penalty 3s with Tomas del Rio. Each team followed with Penalty 3s before 10-goal Pelon Stirling swapped goals with Geronimo Obregon in an exciting first chukker. The next seven minutes was all Las Monjitas. Elizalde found the mark, then Stirling capitalized on a Penalty 2. Bautista Panelo, filling in for an injured Mackenzie Weisz, scored his first goal, tripling up Patagones, 6-2. Las Monjitas didn’t let up in the third with Stirling sinking a pair of Penalty 2s and Elizalde trading goals with Santiago Toccalino to end the half, 9-3.

Patagones rallied in the second half, outscoring Las Monjitas 7-3. Del Rio scored a Penalty 2, then a goal while holding Las Monjitas to a goal from Panelo. Gonzalo Avendano sandwiched goals around one from teammate Geronimo Obregon while Las Monjitas was held to a Penalty 4 conversion. Patagones trailed, 11-8, going into the last seven minutes, but a goal by Panelo increased the difference. Avendano scored his third goal and a Penalty 2 by del Rio brought Patagones within two, 12-10, but the team ran out of time and Las Monjitas advanced to the semis.

The teams that did not make the quarterfinal cut played off in a consolation Herbie Pennell Cup with a semifinal on March 17. Postage Stamp farm took on Coca Cola in the first game. It was a choppy match laden with fouls. Peke Gonzalez started the scoring with a Penalty 4 but Gillian Johnston answered with back-to-back goals. A Penalty 3 by Nico Pieres put Coca Cola ahead, 3-1. Annabelle Gundlach and Steve Krueger traded goals and Gonzalez sunk a Penalty 2 in the second and a field goal early in the third to tie the score, 4-4. Pieres broke the tie with a Penalty 2 and a Penalty 1 gave Coca Cola a 6-4 lead at the half.

Mariano Aguerre converted a Penalty 3 in the fourth, but Johnston answered with another goal. Postage Stamp took control in the fifth, scoring five goals while holding Coca Cola to a Penalty 4 from Pieres. Postage Stamp was ahead, 10-8, going into the last seven minutes. Postage Stamp tried to hold on to the momentum but Coca Cola capitalized on a pair of Penalty 4s, knotting the score and forcing overtime. Nico Pieres got the golden goal in extra time to give Coca Cola the win, 11-10.

The next game had Tonkawa against Cessna. Sapo Caset’s Penalty 2 conversion negated Cessna’s one-goal handicap. Cessna shot back with goals by Felipe Marquez and Ezequiel Ferrario. A goal by Jeff Hildebrand kept it close. Caset’s hat trick in the second gave Tonkawa a 5-3 lead. Caset traded goals with Nico Saenz in the third, ending the half with Tonkawa ahead, 6-4. Ferrario sandwiched goals around one from Caset to bring Cessna within one, 7-6. Caset and Ferrario traded goals in the fifth, maintaining the one-goal difference into the last chukker. Tonkawa shot at goal three times but was unable to find the mark. It didn’t matter, as it stopped all of Cessna’s drives to hang on for the win.

Later that day, the USPA announced it was suspending all USPA events for 14 days and recommended clubs also suspended their events. A few days later, on March 21, the USPA announced it was cancelling the balance of the Gauntlet of Polo season. The last time the Open was not played for was when World War II halted it.

“We anticipate rescheduling the balance of the 2020 USPA Gold Cup and the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship in late January 2021 prior to the start of the 2021 Gauntlet of Polo. We will be considering the feasibility of rescheduling the 2020 U.S. Open Polo Championship, as well as options for changing the handicap level of the pre-Gauntlet tournaments next winter. We will be reaching out to all the teams for input prior to finalizing these decisions,” a press release read.

A week later, the USPA extended its suspension of all USPA tournaments and events throughout the month of April due to the ongoing health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and the White House to continue to cease all gatherings of more than 10 people. By early April, 46 states and Washington D.C. had closed all non-essential business.

At press time, there were 2 million reported COVID-19 cases globally and the death toll had topped 121,000 and was expected to rise.

Clubs across the globe began canceling polo scheduled for well into the summer. The Hublot Gold Cup in Gstaad, scheduled for mid-August, has already been cancelled. Britain’s Hurlingham Polo Association is following government guidelines and was still in lockdown at press time. When it is safe to play, it promised to give players and clubs at least a month’s notice before the start of any competitive tournament to allow players to arrive and prepare ponies and clubs can make necessary arrangements. It. is still unclear when polo in the U.S. will be able to begin.

-- By Gwen Rizzo • Photos by David Lominska/Polographics

 

 
 
POLO Players' Edition 2773 W Forest Hill Blvd, Suite 206 • Wellington, FL 33414 Phone: 561.968.5208 Fax: 561.968.5209 Email Address: info@poloplayersedition.com

Polo Players Edition Online Magazine, a publication dedicated to the sport of polo and the lifestyle of polo players, is copyright protected. NOTHING from this site may be copied without permission of the publisher.