After two weeks and 18 games, Valiente (3-0), Zacara (3-0), Lechuza (3-0) and Alegria (2-1) emerged from a field of 11 teams to compete in the semifinals of the 2013 USPA Piaget Gold Cup at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington.
In the final round of preliminary play last Sunday afternoon, 10 of the 11 teams took the field, with the results defining the tournament semifinalists.
In two Sunday morning games, Zacara (3-0) kept its record intact with a 16-10 win over Audi (2-2) while Alegria (2-1) managed to hold off Mt. Brilliant in a 7-5 victory. At noon, Lechuza (3-0) handed Orchard Hill its second loss of the tournament. In the feature match of the day, on the stadium field, ERG managed to sneak past a make-shift Piaget team 7-6. Piaget 10-goaler Sapo Caset was sidelined with the flu, forcing the reshuffle of the lineup that would eventually consist of Miguel Astrada, Lucas Lalor, Juan Bollini and Nacho Badiola.
Wednesday’s high-goal action featured Lyndon Lea’s Zacara team against Lechuza with both teams battling for a shot at the finals on Sunday, March 24. Wednesday’s results were not available at press time.
The Zacara team returned to the International Polo Club this year as the 2012 defending U.S. Open champion. Unfortunately, a hard bump in Thursday’s game sent team captain Lyndon Lea to the sidelines, to be replaced by 14-year-old Matias Gonzalez. Gonzalez fit comfortably into the lineup that broke the 8-8 fourth chukker tie and rode on to score a goal in the team’s 16-10 win over Orchard Hill. With Lea’s condition still uncertain, Gonzalez is patiently awaiting a final decision. Argentine 10-goaler Facundo Pieres will lead the team into Wednesday’s game ably supported by teammates Magoo Laprida (8) and Mike Azzaro (7).
Lechuza Caracas is no stranger to USPA Piaget Gold Cup semifinal competition. They have played in four finals, winning their first in 2011. Lechuza had trouble with Orchard Hill in last Sunday’s competition, trailing through much of the first part of the game, but rallied for seven goals in the final two chukkers to win 13-11. In the semifinals, there will be no margin for error and with a team as powerful as Zacara, team captain Victor Vargas will look to get the most out of 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero, 8-goaler Polito Pieres and 7-goaler Francisco Elizalde.
The second USPA Piaget Gold Cup semifinal will feature Valiente and Alegria. Bob Jornayvaz’s Valiente team is somewhat of the defending champion; it was his son’s Valiente II team that beat his Valiente I team last year. This year, Jornayvaz’s son is back in school at the University of Virginia, and Jornayvaz will be joined by two of his son’s teammates from last year, 10-goalers Adolfo Cambiaso and Pelon Stirling. Young 6-goaler Santi Torres will fill out the lineup.
The Alegria lineup will be led by veteran 9-goaler Mariano Aguerre who has appeared on seven past Gold Cup championship teams. Joining him will be Argentine 9-goaler Hilario Ulloa, local 6-goaler Facundo Obregon and team captain Julian Mannix.
The winners of Wednesday’s semifinals will meet in the USPA Piaget Gold Cup finals at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 24 on the stadium field at the International Polo Club in Wellington.
The high-goal polo action takes place every Sunday through April 21 at the International Polo Club. Ticket prices for Sunday polo range from $10 general admission to $120 box seating. Tickets for Sunday brunch at the Pavilion and its reception start at $55, upward to $330 for the Veuve Clicquot brunch package for two. Tickets can be purchased online at www.internationalpoloclub.com, or by calling (561) 204-5687. Find IPC on Facebook, follow on Twitter at @SundayPolo or visit www.ipcscoreboard.com for up-to-date scores, schedules, rosters and all other polo info.
Above: ERG managed to sneak past a make-shift Piaget team 7-6 last Sunday. PHOTOGRAPHY BY LILA PHOTO