Here are some fun facts that put an interesting twist on this year’s Argentine Open.
GONZALITO PIERES – Gonza just broke the 200-goal barrier in Palermo. He made seven goals in Ellerstina’s debut game this season, in which they defeated Cria Yatay 15-5. This is Gonza’s 20th Argentine Open. He debuted in Palermo when he was just 16 years old.
SEBI MERLOS – Sebi has been Argentine Open champion twice. Surprisingly, this is just his second year as a starter in the past seven years. The other year was 2015, when he played for La Aguada/Las Monjitas.
THE 40-PLUS CLUB – Players in this year’s Open who are in their 40s: Adolfo Cambiaso (43), Matias Mac Donough (46), Ignacio Novillo Astrada (40) and Sebi Merlos (46). The youngest team is La Ensenada (average age 23.5).
GOAL RECORD – With the exception of La Dolfina, Las Monjitas is the only team to have made 22 goals in Palermo in recent years. Las Monjitas defeated Cria Yatay this season 22-9.
CAPTAINS OUT – Jejo Taranco (La Dolfina Polo Ranch) and Miguel Novillo Astrada (La Aguada) both played #3 for their teams as captains. Due to playing injuries, they have both been sidelined and are contributing as coaches. This would have been Jejo’s first year as a starter. Jejo has had a nagging injury since before the Triple Crown; he tried to play a game each in Tortugas and in Hurlingham, but then decided to sit it out for the Open. When Julian de Lusarreta subbed in for him, Jejo gave him nine of his horses to play.
JERSEY SWAP VOTE – De Lusarreta could not automatically put on a La Dolfina Polo Ranch jersey when he replaced Taranco as a member of La Dolfina Polo Ranch. He had to get permission from both the AAP and the other nine Triple Crown teams because he had already started the season as a member of a different team (Las Monjitas).
MISSING HEGUYS – This is the first time in 62 years that there has not been one or more Heguys playing the Open. Thirty-one seasons there was an Heguy on the winning team—on average they won the title every other season. Ten members of the Heguy family have played in Palermo. Their run began in 1956 with Horacio Heguy, who played 20 seasons (19 as a starter). Other Heguys who have won the Open: Alberto (17 times), Marcos (6), Bautista (5), Eduardo (4) and Nacho (4).
SUPERHORSE – Among the ponies Nico Pieres is playing in Palermo is his favorite, Guillermina. Nico made the winning goal on her in the last chukker of this year’s Hurlingham Open final. In that final, Ellerstina defeated La Dolfina 11-10. Nico was MVP, and Guillermina won the BPP honors from the AAP and the Argentine Polo Horse Breeders Association.
CLONES – Last year Adolfo Cambiaso fulfilled his dream of playing a Cuartetera clone in every chukker. This year the La Dolfina v. La Dolfina Polo Ranch match was a swarm of clones (13 total), particularly the third chukker, which had three Cuartetera clones on the field at once (played by Cambiaso, David Stirling and Juan Martin Nero). Their teammate Pablo Mac Donough played two Lapa clones in that game (first and seventh chukkers). Their opponent, La Dolfina Polo Ranch, had four clones: a Lapa (under Diego Cavanagh) and three Small Person clones (Guille Terrera) in the game.
LONGTIME LINEUP – La Dolfina has played 84 games with this year’s lineup (Cambiaso, Mac Donough, Nero and Stirling) since 2011 and lost only 6 of them.
BREEDING PROGRAMS – This year there are 86 Ellerstina-bred horses spread over nine teams; La Irenita has 74 on nine teams; La Dolfina has 40 on five teams, and Los Machitos has 17 on four teams.
THE BALL – The game in Palermo is played with a wooden ball instead of a plastic one. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Many players say the wooden ball doesn’t fly as well but tends to hit straighter.
Photography: Helen Cruden