DOUBLE TRIPLE: La Dolfina's season has a magic all its own

La Dolfina Hope Funds has already made history. The quartet of perfect handicaps that commands Adolfo Cambiaso, seconded by David Stirling, Pablo Mac Donough and Juan Martín Nero, managed to raise in Palermo for the eighth time, the most important trophy in the world of polo, beating its Nemesis, Ellerstina Piaget. It seemed the quartet from Cañuelas could not even be stopped by hereafter forces to add its second consecutive Triple Crown, including the Tortugas, Hurlingham and Argentine Opens..

As rarely happens, La Dolfina Hope Founds steamrolled Ellerstina Piaget to retain the title of the Tortugas Open, the first step of the Argentine Triple Crown.

Typically, Adolfo Cambiaso dismissed the first part of the high handicap season, instead aiming his guns for the Hurlingham and Argentine Opens. But, for the last four seasons, the No. 1 from Cañuelas had a change of heart, understanding the value of playing to win all three tournaments. So, instead of treating the Tortugas as a minor tournament for testing horses and plays for his quartet, Adolfito hastily gathered the troops like never before and presented them in the Jockey Club Open to be fully ready for the first leg of the Triple Crown.

La Dolfina Hope Funds:
Adolfo Cambiaso
David Stirling
Pablo Mac Donough
Juan Martin Nero

Ellerstina Piaget:
Facundo Pieres
Gonzalo Pieres
Mariano Aguerre/ alt. Ignatius Du Plessis
Nicolás Pieres

La Aguada ICBC:
Facundo Sola
Guillermo Caset
Miguel Novillo Astrada
Ignacio Novillo Astrada

Alegría Assist Card:
Pablo Pieres
Hilario Ulloa
Lucas Monteverde
Frederick Mannix

La Aguada Las Monjitas ICBC:
Lucas James
Cristian Laprida
Eduardo Novillo Astrada
Alejandro Novillo Astrada

Magual Prodigy Network:
Alejandro Muzzio
Ignacio Toccalino
Marcos Di Paola
Jaime García Huidobro

Chapaleufú Cardón:
Alberto Heguy
Ignacio Heguy
Francisco Bensadón
Eduardo Heguy

Miramar Bahía de los Moros:
Gonzalo Deltour
Valerio Zubiaurre (h)
Ignacio Laprida
Santiago Toccalino

40
10
10
10
10

38
10
10
9
9

36
8
9
10
9

36
9
9
9
9

33
8
8
9
8

33
8
9
8
8

31
7
8
8
8

28
7
7
7
7

 

The 74th edition of the Tortugas Open saw the six best teams on the planet, with ratings between 33 and 40 goals, participating. The first step was taken on Wednesday, September 24, with the
crossing between La Aguada ICBC (36
goals) and Magual Prodigy Network (33),
members of Group A, which included
defending champion La Dolfina Hope
Funds (40).


Despite the negative difference in their
handicap, Magual was ahead on the
scoreboard after the first four chukkers
thanks to Alejandro Muzzio drawing a
four goal lead (9-5). Within 14 minutes,
Facundo Sola (eight goals in the
afternoon) evened the score at 10-10. No
difference was gained in the last period
(12-12) so the clash was defined in
overtime. Just 3:29 into overtime, Muzzio
scored his seventh goal of the game,
giving Magual the win and signing the
biggest surprise of the tournament.


In the second game, Alegría Assist
Card (36 goals) took on La Aguada Las
Monjitas ICBC (33) The two joined Group
B with Ellerstina Piaget (38). While
Alegría were ahead on the scoreboard
from the second chukker on, La Aguada
Las Monjitas put up a good fight. Pablo
Pieres had another inspired afternoon
with nine goals, giving the 2013 Palermo
runner-up a 15-12 victory.


On the second day, two teams that
defined this tournament in its last three
seasons, debuted. The rain flooded the
courts of the Tortugas Country Club (the
oldest of Argentina) so the action moved
to the Argentine Polo Association’s
Alfredo Lalor Complex in Pilar.


Ellerstina opened the day with great team play, which paid off in the first two chukkers to get ahead 5-1, a difference it supported for the next 14 minutes thanks to the effectiveness of Facundo Pieres. But in the fifth chukker, La Aguada Las Monjitas’ James Lucas and Eduardo Novillo Astrada (three goals each) managed to close the gap to just one goal (10-9) with two episodes left. Ellerstina recovered after Facundo Pieres reconnected with the goal (13 on the day) giving La Zeta the 16-12 victory.

Then, La Dolfina took to the field, faithful to its style it showed the previous year. It had four solid players playing as a trio in the service of one super star. In the first three episodes, the Cañuelas quartet escaped 7-4. La Aguada reacted but failed to hit the target, so the score didn’t reflect what showed on the field. In contrast, Cambiaso’s scoring ability kept La Dolfina undefeated with a 13-9 win.

The closure of Group A was back at Tortugas. And, if in the first meeting Magual caused a sensation, this time La Dolfina did not leave room for oddities. The first three chukkers showed relative parity (4-2 after 21 minutes) but from the fourth on, Cambiaso & Co. put nitro into its jets and swept its rival. Pablo Mac Donough was replaced by Sebastian Merlos after falling, however, Juan Martin Nero stepped up his game with solid defense and unexpected attacks (four goals), added to 10 goals from Adolfito for the 17-5 victory. The win put La Dolfina in the final.

It was a different way for Ellerstina, which had to battle hard to break Alegría. Polito Pieres was inspired against his cousins (nine goals in the match) and held his team on top after three chukkers (5-3). In the fourth, combinations between Gonzalo Pieres and Mariano Aguerre changed the shape, and nine goals by Facundo Pieres allowed La Zeta to take control to escape 12-7 with a period to be played. A desperate attack by Alegría followed, but wasn’t enough, as La Zeta took the 13-10 match.

The final was played on October 13, on Tortugas’ Field 7, which held the decisive clash with the same faces for the fourth consecutive year. And, as rarely seen before, the difference between the two most powerful teams on the planet was abysmal. La Dolfina started like a bulldozer, taking a 3-0 lead, an unprecedented gap between the quartets in so short a time of action.

With great team play and talented horses, La Dolfina displayed a smart defensive system to cut the flow of the talented players from La Zeta almost without fouling (sevens fouls and a technical in seven chukkas). Ellerstina mildly reacted but collapsed in the fourth chukker with Adolfito & Co. scoring three unanswered goals to escape 8-3. With 21 minutes left, Ellerstina could not break through La Dolfina, which seemed to grow stronger by the minute.

The last two chukkers were a display of celebration for the Cañuelas foursome to finish by a wide 14-8. La Dolfina Hope Funds raised the traditional Emilio Anchorena’s Cup for the second year. Adolfo Cambiaso was best scorer of the match (eight goals) and MVP of the final. Two of his mares were also recognized: Lucky received the award for best horse from the APA representatives and Dolfina Nut was recognized by the Argentina Association of Polo Pony Breeders.

“We are getting better, on and off the field. This is because of our four years together. The best thing is that we are still far from our roof. We’ll see how it goes in the remaining steps of the Triple Crown but I see us doing very well,” an euphoric Cambiaso said after awards ceremony.

Next, La Dolfina exceeded Ellerstina 18-15 to take its 20th consecutive victory in two seasons and obtain its ninth Ayrshire Cup, the trophy that rewards the champion of the Hurlingham Open, one of the world’s oldest tournaments.

On October 18, the 121st edition of this ancestral tournament opened on the AAP’s fields in Pilar, with La Dolfina taking on Miramar. It was a great match with good polo played by both teams. While La Dolfina took the 3-0 lead in the first chukker, Miramar, which earned a spot after coming from the qualifying tournament, tried to play as equals thanks to Gonzalo Deltour’s three goals. The fifth chukker proved decisive when both teams began repeating horses. La Dolfina won this segment 4-0 to escape 10-5. From there, the differences in the strings were evident. The following 21 minutes, the 40-goal team outscored its opponent 9-1 for the 19-6 final, with 10 goals off the mallet of Cambiaso.

The second match saw Alegría’s Pablo Pieres and Hilario Ulloa make a half dozen goals against La Aguada Las Monjitas in just two chukkas (7-1). But the orange team’s brothers Alejandro and Eduardo Novillo Astrada reacted to equalize the score 8-8 just as a storm forced the game to be postponed at the halfway point. When they clashed again, 24 hours later, they kept it equal for the remaining 28 minutes and had to play an extra chukker. Alfredo Capella Barabucci, replacing an injured Fred Mannix, made the backhander that sealed the 14-13 victory for Alegría on his debut in a Triple Crown tournament.

The same day, two games in Group B were disputed. There was an avalanche of goals in the match between Ellerstina and Chapaleufú, which had the novelty of Bautista Heguy playing back, an unprecedented position for the crack in which he managed to make eight goals. In an open match with continuous attacks, La Zeta’s brothers Gonzalo and Facundo Pieres (20 goals between them) took the team from a tight 8-5 to a vast 20-10 after 21 minutes. Finally, the victory was 24-14.

In the other match in this group, La Aguada swept a surprisingly lackluster Magual, showing little collective game. Miguel Novillo Astrada played at a high level and Facundo Sola was unstoppable, scoring 10 goals for an easy 19-10 victory.

The second journey had Alegría defeating Miramar in a more even match than the six-goal handicap difference would suggest. Pablo Pieres was the force that carried Alegría (seven goals), while Ignacio Laprida (Magoo’s younger brother) was the playmaker that kept his team close until the final bell. The victory went to Alegría by a meager 12-9.

In the other match of the day, for Group A, not even the most powerful team could outline its domain forcefully. In a boring and tight match, with too many fouls and few goals, La Dolfina disposed of La Aguada Las Monjitas 12-6.

The next day, two classic teams met. The first chukker ended strangely goalless, but the good defensive work of La Aguada cut Chapaleufú’s running game. A 5-1 fifth chukker, in which Guillermo Caset (author of 12 goals in the afternoon) excelled, allowed La Aguada to ensure the match by a clear 19-14.

Later, Ellerstina scored its second win, this time against Magual, a quartet that led 2-1 after the first seven minutes thanks to the efficiency of Alejandro Muzzio. Once Zeta ignited its engines, the differences between the two teams were remarkable. Ellerstina, with nine goals from Facundo Pieres, methodically pressed ahead, finishing 15-7.

In the next match for Group A, La Dolfina suffered more problems than expected against Alegría. The Pinks, despite the six-goal handicap difference, and 18 matches without being able to defeat the Cañuelas quartet, decided to play them openly. After closing the first two chukkers down 4-2, Polito Pieres took the reins and dominated the next 21 minutes to turn the score.

It took Cambiaso & Co. until the end of the sixth chukker to equalize 10-10. Juan Martin Nero scored two vital goals in the last two episodes to advance La Dolfina to its fifth consecutive final.

A day later, two games were played in Group B. For the first time in the history of the high handicap, brothers Eduardo, Alberto and Ignacio Heguy shared the field with their cousin Bautista in an official Triple Crown match. The four veterans came very close to giving Chapaleufú the victory against Magual but collided with a highly inspired Francisco Elizalde (replacing the injured Ignacio Toccalino) who contributed five goals in the 16-15 victory.

The second game saw two undefeated teams battle for a spot in the final. La Aguada came close to upsetting Ellerstina, but the Novillo Astrada team just missed after lacking effectiveness in front of its opponent’s goal. It ended up falling 14-12 to La Zeta, which celebrated the victory that put it in its sixth consecutive definition.

On Monday, playing just for the honor, the quartet of La Aguada Las Monjitas widely dominated its match against Miramar to say goodbye to Hurlingham with a 18-4 victory. Lucas James and Alejandro Novillo Astrada showed their offensive capability with seven goals each.

Bad weather forced the final to be postponed a week until November 8. Seven of the last 10 finals in this competition included the same players. While the first leg of the Triple Crown made clear the superiority of La Dolfina after a lopsided 14-8 victory, no one expected the battle for the Ayrshire Cup would be defined in just seven minutes.

In the initial chukker, La Dolfina stormed ahead to close 5-1, with Cambiaso scoring the first four of his 11 goals, added to one from Pablo Mac Donough. From there, La Dolfina continued to dominate. In fact, La Zeta’s only burst of four consecutive goals in the sixth chukker allowed it to close the gap to three goals, a difference maintained until the end, 18-15.

Members of La Dolfina slipped on the victors’ navy blazers as they did in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013. It also completed its sixth consecutive tournament undefeated (2013 Argentine Open, 2013-2014 Tortugas and Hurlingham Opens, 2014 Jockey Club Open) and won its 20th consecutive match, a mark of efficiency never achieved in Argentina.

Facundo Pieres’ consolation was receiving the Daniel Kearney trophy for the best horse in the final, for his chestnut mare Open Chequera.

“We’ve got two of the three tournaments of the Triple Crown. But Palermo is special. We are not invincible but this team seems to know no limits,” admitted captain Mac Donough before celebrating with a champagne bath.

After securing the first two stages of the Argentine Triple Crown, La Dolfina began its Argentine Open title defense on Saturday, November 15 on Palermo’s Field 2. The quartet, led by Cambiaso, showed its way against Miramar Bahía de los Moros, again defeating it by a bulky score as in the Hurlingham Open, even though Uruguayan Stirling, wounded in his right arm, was unable to play. He was very well replaced by Sebastián Merlos.

Nearly a month before, the account was 19-6, now it was slightly narrowed: 17- 6. The reason for this dominance was the difference in horses. Still, the team coming from the classification, held on and were down just one goal concluding the first half (6-5).

Among Chukkers 5 and 6, when it began doubling up the horses, La Dolfina jumped ahead 8-0, making the difference insurmountable. Adolfito had the pleasure of playing Cuartetera 01, a clone, in the final period while the original cloned mare, Cuartetera, was a replacement in the same chukker.

A while later, in the main field, La Aguada ICBC achieved the objective of adding its first win against Magual Prodigy Network. If in Hurlingham the team of Novillo Astradas had dispatched its opponent by a convincing 19-10, this time it had to fight until the final bell as it entered in the last chukker matched 10- 10. In the hands of Guillermo Caset, (scorer with eight goals) La Aguada finally came away with the 12-10 triumph.

One day later, Group B was launched. On Court 2, Ellerstina found a quartet like Chapaleufú Cardón eager to green their old laurels. Brothers Alberto and Eduardo Heguy lived a day of celebration beginning their 29th Open, surpassing their father, Alberto’s 28. And true to their history, they battled until the end against a team that exceeded a seven-goal handicap.

La Zeta got a more costly victory than 16-12 suggests. Mariano Aguerre lost his mare Vitina to a fracture and then he had to retire from the match after injuring his shoulder, a nuisance that would take him out of the tournament.

Then, the Cathedral was the scene of what could be the first surprise of the tournament. Alegría Assist Card was in trouble against La Aguada Las Monjitas ICBC and ended up winning, but not without controversy. After 21 minutes, the orange-shirted La Aguada Las Monjitas were up 6-1, dominating the game with the striker Alejandro Novillo Astrada’s contribution (six in the evening).

Last year’s finalist started the comeback and equaled the score in the eighth chukker (11-11) to force extra time, just after Eduardo Novillo Astrada won a general applause by helping Lucas Monteverde regain his lost mallet.

In overtime, Pablo Pieres (top scorer of the match with seven) missed a penalty from the spot, but umpires Federico Martelli and Englishman Peter Wright validated it after whistling Negro Novillo Astrada for being in the wrong area when the foul was taken, ending heatedly.

The second date was slightly delayed by rain, moving the matches from Saturday to Monday, however Sunday’s matches were played according to schedule. In the first clash, Alegría defeated Chapaleufú 18-15 in a concert of goals. While the pink-shirted Alegría was always in control, with good plays produced by Hilario Ulloa, Chapa battled back, offering its open and dynamic way of play.

At the end, there were celebrations on both sides as Alegría (absent Fred Mannix with a fractured finger on his right hand) remained undefeated, and Pepe Heguy—with his six goals on the day—surpass the 400 barrier in Palermo.

On Field No 1, there was a fact that few noted at the time. Ellerstina played its match against La Aguada Las Monjitas using a white shirt. Later, it was discovered that, during the week, a seer had approached the team from General Rodriguez with a final judgment: the traditional black jersey was jinxed and they had to stop using it.

The advice paid off as La Zeta got a 16- 12 victory without major drawbacks, thanks to remarkable scoring production from Facundo Pieres (nine).

The following day, under a slight drizzle, games originally scheduled for Saturday were played. On field 2, La Aguada defeated Miramar with huge authority, 18-7. As had happened in its previous presentation, while it had fresh horses, Miramar, the team from the qualifier, complicated its rival closing the initial 21 minutes knotted at 4-4. But in the next chukker, the strength of Guillermo Caset appeared, allowing him to unlock the process after scoring four unanswered goals. From there, La Aguada dominated despite losing Facundo Sola in the sixth chukker, being replaced by William Terrera.

Then, La Dolfina returned to the Cathedral and did so with a forcefulness seen only a few times: 15-3 over Magual. The beating was such that it took 24 minutes 47 seconds for Marcos Di Paola to notch Magual’s first goal. Until then, the Cañuelas team was winning 9-0. The defending champion was a real force guided by Cambiaso, author of seven goals, to take the 22nd consecutive victory for his team.

The following Saturday, Group A was defined. In the first round, at the No 2 field, Magual recovered from the beating and met its goal of not going winless from Palermo. But, it had to fight for it because, as usual, Miramar had a very good start and completed half of the match tied 7-7. In the final four chukkers, the duo of Alejandro Muzzio (best scorer with 10) and Ignacio Toccalino made the difference for Magual’s 15-11 victory.

The first tournament finalist emerged in the Cathedral after a match between La Dolfina and La Aguada. Both teams decided to go on attack, with Sapo Caset matching Cambiaso’s eight goals on the afternoon. This produced the best match of the tournament, with the quartet from Cañuelas making the difference thanks to Stirling’s efforts as clouds began to threaten. The final 17-11 score allowed La Dolfina to advance to its 10th consecutive final in Palermo.

The skies opened, postponing Group B’s definition until Tuesday, December 2, a day full of emotions. Court 2 was the scene of a revival: the Heguys put their seniority in action and played an all-ornothing match against La Aguada Las Monjitas. They were able to force the second extra chukker of this tournament after equaling 10-10 in the eighth chukker. In overtime, Ruso Heguy made a memorable run past midfield to get the golden goal.

“We won our final,” summarized the back. That triumph and a good overall performance during the season elevated he and his brother Nachi to 9 goals, while Pepe will rise from 7 to 8. The eyes then moved to Court 1 where there was another notable match with good play. Alegría had already surprised Ellerstina in 2013. But this time, even the return of Canadian Mannix did not allow the rose-colored jerseys to beat the Men in Black (this time, White by “professional” advice). Facundo Pieres led his pals with nine goals, the same as his cousin Polito for Alegría (his work allowed him to climb to 10 goals when the season ended). La Zeta won 17-13 to reach its 11th final at Palermo.

On Saturday, December 6, Palermo’s guests dressed their best for the eighth definition of the maximum polo world cup between La Dolfina and Ellerstina. La Dolfina was La Dolfina, but Ellerstina was a shadow of itself, not only for the violet-colored jerseys used following the mandates of the seer to try to stop their archrival, but because for the first time in a long time they played not to play.

The three Pieres brothers and South African Ignatius Du Plessis, replacing Mariano Aguerre, sacrificed their traditional fast game and accuracy to impose a scheme showing friction and many faults as it tried to cut the remarkable circulation of the Cañuelas quartet. And while it served to get a closer score, it did not help to aspire to victory.

La Dolfina signed a clear 14-12 victory, figures that could have been larger if Adolfito (author of nine goals) had not missed five penalties for failing to hit the ball comfortably due to his back problems.

The only sad moment for the winners was the heart attack suffered by Anay Cielito Sur, a mare of Juan Martín Nero that collapsed in the sixth chukker, a victim of intense heat that exceeded 100 degrees on the field.

“We know it was not a good match; we wanted to play a little bit more, but failed. Still, this is a final and must be won. Tomorrow, nobody will remember if it was a nice game, but in the books the name of the winner is [remembered],” said the Uruguayan Stirling, who received the MVP trophy presented by Marcos Heguy. Cambiaso was awarded the Equine Promotion Cup as the best horseman of the final and the Lady Susan Townley Cup for having the best horse in the final: Dolfina Cuartetera. Pablo Mac Donough was recognized with the Gonzalo Tanoira prize as the best mounted player of the tournament.

The consolation for Facundo Pieres was the Javier Novillo Astrada trophy for the most goals scored in the Open (38 goals) and the Argentine Association of Polo Pony Breeders and Argentine Rural Society awards for his mare Open Chequera. With the win, La Dolfina completed its second consecutive Triple Crown, something that happened only once before when Coronel Suárez did it in the 1974 and 1975 seasons, and stretched its unbeaten record to 24 high handicap matches (wins in the Jockey Club Open must be added to both Triple Crowns triumphs).

“I know we made history, but our hunger cannot end here. The team still has no roof, so in 2015 we will continue looking for wins,” recognized a euphoric Cambiaso.

By Ernesto Rodriguez
Photos by Sergio Llamera

 
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