The first Gauntlet of Polo final saw Pilot (Curtis Pilot, Matias Gonzalez, Gonzalito Pieres and Facundo Pieres) dominate Las Monjitas (Camilo Bautista, Francisco Elizalde, Hilario Ulloa, Matt Coppola and Santi Toccalino) 13-6 on Sunday, Feb. 24 to capture the 2019 C.V. Whitney Cup and the $125,000 prize on the U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington.
The convincing victory for Pilot saw Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres play a two-man game to perfection, with numerous runs and passing plays to set up scoring opportunities. The variety provided difficulties for Las Monjitas throughout the second half, as they were unable to contain the multiple facets of Pilot’s attack. After inaccurate 2-for-7 shooting in the first half, Pilot converted all seven shots taken in the second half, while Las Monjitas struggled to find the goal, converting just one of their first 12 shot attempts. Along with perfect shooting from the penalty line, Pilot cruised to the commanding victory, capturing the first leg of the Gauntlet of Polo and becoming the lone team capable of claiming the $1,000,000 top prize for winning all three Gauntlet events.
In the opening stages of the game, Pilot displayed their strategy utilizing Gonzalito and Facundo Pieres. The duo scored a goal each in the first chukker. Making his first appearance in the C.V. Whitney Cup, patron Curtis Pilot returned to the field, producing a strong showing to contribute in Pilot’s attack. Along with accurate passing, Pilot displayed strong horsepower, including Facundo Pieres’ second goal of the game, as he muscled his way past Francisco Elizade to give Pilot a 4-2 lead in the second chukker. Las Monjitas remained within reach thanks to two penalty goals from Elizalde that brought the score to 5-3 in favor of Pilot at halftime.
The game changed dramatically in the fourth chukker, as Las Monjitas struggled to contain the relentless attack of Pilot. In an impressive 5-0 chukker, Pilot separated themselves from Las Monjitas, opening up a seven-goal lead. Two goals and two assists in the chukker for both Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres provided a two-pronged attack that left Las Monjitas searching for answers. The frustration boiled over for Hilario Ulloa, who received his second yellow in the chukker, and then rode onto the field before the two-minute penalty was complete, resulting in a red card that forced him out of the game.
Santiago Toccalino came on in place of the 10-goaler, but Pilot had by that time built a large lead. Two more goals from Facundo Pieres in the fifth chukker extended Pilot’s lead to eight and sealed the victory, as the combination of Pilot’s lethal attack and Las Monjitas’ inaccuracy from the field allowed Pilot to run away with the game.
Most Valuable Player was awarded to Pilot’s Matias Gonzalez, who finished with two goals in the game, while Best Playing Pony went to Facundo Pieres’ Open Pennsylvania.
Next up at IPC is the USPA Gold Cup, the second leg of the Gauntlet of Polo. For more info., visit www.internationalpoloclub.com.