WELLINGTON, FL-March 11, 2013-–Audi, finding its championship form, put on a winning display of polo Sunday with a 13-7 victory over Alegria in the USPA Piaget Gold Cup at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The victory over the recently-crowned C.V. Whitney Cup champion was one of the most impressive of the 26-goal season for Audi and put them in contention to win the second jewel of U.S. polo’s Triple Crown.
|Audi’s 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres in perfect form hitting the ball downfield to teammate and younger brother Nico Pieres. Photo credit Alex Pacheco.|
For the second consecutive game, Audi team captain Marc Ganzi watched the game from the players’ tent. Ganzi, nursing a broken thumb and expected to return in two weeks, watched 16-year-old Juancito Bollini play well in his absence.
But it was 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres who showed his red-hot form with breakaway goals, Jeff Hall’s ball-hawking defense, Nico Pieres passing and steals and team’s lightning-quick ponies that enabled Audi to control the game.
“The team played great, everyone lined up well,” Ganzi said. “It was a great, great team effort today. You see Jeff Hall doing all the little details, taking the man, hitting the back-handers. He was my MVP today by far. The toughness he brought to the field today is the mentality we need going forward.
“We always keep talking about this but it’s the little details that change the game and Jeff took care of all the details today. We have six weeks left in the season and we would love to win this tournament, it would be great for us.”
“We have a good team,” Gonzalito Pieres said, “but we have two of the tougher teams (Zacara and Valiente) coming up.”
Audi dominated the game from wire-to-wire, outscoring Alegria, 4-1, in the opening chukker, 4-2 in the third chukker and holding them scoreless in the final two chukkers.
“They are a really good team, obviously, they won the first tournament,” said Hall, one of the highest ranked American players. “We came up with a good game plan. With our positions changing, our playing is getting better.
|Audi’s Gonzalito Pieres leaning out of the saddle and reaching back to keep possession of the ball with Alegria’s Mariano Aguerre trying to defend his brother-in-law. Photo credit Alex Pacheco.|
“All the teams are good, we just have to play hard and stay focused,” Hall said. “They are the same horses, maybe they are getting better. This was a really good win, it’s great for us and the confidence of the team.”
Gonzalito Pieres scored eight goals including five penalty shots. Hall and Bollini had two goals and Nico Pieres had one. Julian Mannix, Facundo Obregon and Aguerre each scored two goals and Hillario Ulloa, who was hit in the face with a mallet during the game, added one goal.
“We played and beat a really good team today,” said Gonzalito Pieres, who played against his brother-in-law and 9-goaler Mariano Aguerre.
“Today was quite different, it’s always good to play a team that just came from winning and had a week off,” Pieres said. “We all played really consistent. Jeff was really strong in the back, Nico forward and Juancito did a really good job.
“Today was really good. Every time that we hit a back shot we turned it into an attack and an offensive play. I was quite happy with that. Our horses were very good, hopefully they are hitting their peak. I still have a few I am saving that are on their way up.”
Audi was coming off an exciting 8-7 victory over Zorzal in sudden death. Alegria was coming off a week’s rest.
“This was a very important game today because now we just have to win one of our next two games and we are in,” said Nico Pieres. “The horses were really good and we were a four-man team. Hopefully, the team is coming together at the right time. We have two more games to see.”
Bollini, a Wellington High School senior playing only his second 26-goal game after playing 12-goal tournaments, looked more composed and poised against Alegria. He also scored his first goals of his 26-goal tournament debut.
|Audi’s Jeff Hall, one of America’s top-ranked players, turned in his best game of the 26-goal season with ball-hawking plays like this. Photo credit Alex Pacheco.|
“The horses are amazing, it just makes everything easier,” Bollini said. “It was a lot of fun today, I was less nervous than the first game. I felt more comfortable. I came in with a bit more confidence. This is exciting. I have never played this. I like the speed that they go. Thanks to Marc letting me play, I had a lot of fun.”
Said Gonzalito Pieres who instructed Bollini on the field: “I am really happy for Juancito. For his age, he is really clever. He understands the game very well.”
In other Sunday games, Zacara, led by Facundo Pieres’ seven goals, defeated Mt. Brilliant, 10-6, and Valiente knocked off Coca-Cola, 13-8. Valiente’s Adolfo Cambiaso was named the Most Valuable Player after scoring seven goals including three on penalty shots.
USPA Piaget Gold Cup action resumes Thursday with five games scheduled. Grand Champions Polo Club-based Audi and Piaget are scheduled to play. Piaget will play Orchard Hill at 10 a.m. and Audi plays Zacara in a battle of the unbeatens at 4 p.m.
First played in 1974, the 26-goal USPA Gold Cup has been played at various polo clubs but found a home at IPC in 2007.
When the USPA awarded IPC the Gold Cup in 2007, the International Polo Club Palm Beach, home of the 26-goal C.V. Whitney Cup Tournament and U.S. Open Championship, sealed its place in history as host of all three legs of the Triple Crown.
Piaget is saluting IPC’s tenth anniversary with the launch of its new luxury Polo FortyFive Black watch which will join their successful collection of polo watches first introduced in the late 1970s.
|Audi leading scorer Gonzalito Pieres keeps possession of the ball on a breakaway run downfield. Photo credit Alex Pacheco.|
USPA PIAGET GOLD CUP AUDI/PIAGET SCHEDULE
Thursday, March 14: Piaget vs. Orchard Hill, 10 a.m.; Zacara vs. Audi, 4 p.m.
Sunday, March 17: Valiente vs. Audi, 10 a.m.; Piaget vs. ERG, 3 p.m.
Wednesday, March 20: Piaget Gold Cup Semifinals, 2, 4 p.m.
Thursday, March 21: Butler Handicap Semifinals, Gold Cup subsidiary, 10 a.m., noon
Sunday, March 24: Butler Handicap Final, noon; USPA Piaget Gold Cup Final, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, March 26: U.S. Open begins, schedule, pairings to be announced.
AUDI/PIAGET TOURNAMENT LINEUP
March 7-March 24, USPA Piaget Gold Cup
March 26-April 21, 109th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championship
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: On the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington.
INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Piaget. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the International Cup, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League Tournament.