Like everywhere else in the world, in Argentina Christmas is the season of giving. But in the Argentine polo world it can also be the season of taking away. And so it is this year with the AAP dropping Gonzalito Pieres’ handicap—which for the past 13 years has been 10-goals—down to 9.
That leaves the exclusive “10 club” with just nine members: the entire La Dolfina team (Adolfo Cambiaso, Pablo Mac Donough, Juan Martin Nero and David Stirling); half of the new Las Monjitas team (Sapo Caset and Hilario Ulloa), and three Ellerstina players, all of course from the Pieres family (Facundo, Polito and Nico). Of them, Nico is the newest 10 (raised from 9 two years ago).
Polito and Caset have experienced the bouncing ball of handicaps, having regained their 10 status in Argentina one year ago. They, like Gonza, were put down to 9 for a while. Unlike lower-rated players who have gone down, however, neither of them was in danger of losing his job.
Why Gonza went down for 2019 is anyone’s guess. Some point to the fact that Ellerstina, a 40-goal team, lost the semis in Palermo to Las Monjitas, a 38-goal debut team (ably captained by Caset). Yet if that’s the reason, why did Polito and Nico escape descending into handicap limbo? (Facundo, of course, is immune.) Besides, Ellerstina won the Hurlingham final over La Dolfina. Go figure.
Gonza surely isn’t happy about this turn of events, but in all likelihood it’s temporary. Veterans like him know that, as does Sapo. Sapo has a very healthy perspective on that. When he went back up to 10 last year, he told PoloChannel that he just rolls with handicap changes, whether they are up or down.
“The first time you go to 10 it feels amazing,” he said. “After that they might say you’re 9, then 10, then 9 again. Maybe one year you play better or you don’t play that well. You need to keep working and improving—for yourself and not for everyone else, not for a group of people who are going to sit in a room and tell you, ‘No, today you’re playing 10, or 9 or 8 . . .” added Sapo.
"I don’t give it much importance. I know how I played. You know if you’re doing things right or wrong, if it works or it doesn’t. To me for sure it’s a great bonus for the player and the organization to reach 10 goals and to be at the top of the sport, but on the other hand I know I worked as hard to win the Open when I was a 9 as when I’m a 10. When I went back to 10, I said, ‘Yes, it’s still great, but now I have another goal that no one is going to take away.’ If you win the Open, nothing can change that.”
Notable increases for other 2018 Argentine Triple Crown players: Santiago Toccalino, who moved to Las Monjitas early in the season, went from 8 to 9, while Julian de Lusarreta and first-time Open players Juan Britos and Juan Martin Zubía went from 7 to 8. Outside of the Open players, the most outstanding leap was that of Bautista Bayugar, who was monstered from 6 to 8.
Important decreases: Freddie Mannix from 9 to 8; Lucas Monteverde from 8 to 6; and Alejandro Agote, Gonzalo Deltour, Silvestre Donovan and Gonzalo Von Wernich, from 7 to 6.
Here are the criteria the Board of Directors and Handicap Subcommittees of the Argentine Polo Association used to make the decisions:
The new Argentine handicap changes were announced Dec. 19. and take effect January 1, 2019. There were a total of 233 men’s handicap changes, including 156 increases and 77 decreases.
Here is a complete list of handicap changes, which take effect January 1, 2019: https://www.aapolo.com/PerfilPublico/#/Noticia/2110
2019 WOMEN’S HANDICAP CHANGES: HAZEL JACKSON TO 10!
The Board of Directors of the AAP made handicap changes for 60 women players (55 increases and 5 decreases), which will also be effective January 1, 2019.
Among the most important rises are those Hazel Jackson to 10, and of Mía Cambiaso and Milagros Sánchez from 6 to 7.
Here is a complete list of women’s handicap changes:
Photography: Helen Cruden & The Art of Polo