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Sunday's Piaget Gold Cup coverage

Photos to follow.


Gold Cup semifinals set

By Alex Webbe

In the feature match of the day two undefeated teams took the field in USPA Gold Cup competition at the International Polo Club with Alegria (Julian Mannix, Clemente Zavaleta, Mariano Aguerre and Hilario Ulloa) took an early 6-3 halftime lead on Audi (Marc Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Rodrigo Andrade and Gonzalo Del Tour) before registering a 10-7 win, but with 2-0 bracket records, both Alegria and Audi had already qualified for semifinal play and were just jockeying for positions, while the more heated contests took place earlier in the day.


Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Santi Torres, Sapo Caset and Adolfo Cambiaso) raced out to an early 3-1 lead over Lechuza Caracas (Victor Vargas, Nico Pieres, Juan Martin Nero and Nico Espain) before holding on to score an 11-10 win that put them in the running for a semifinal playoff berth.

Valiente entered the game with a 1-1 record, and needed to beat Lechuza Caracas (2-0) for a chance to land a semifinal slot. The two teams finished the morning game with identical 2-1 records and had to wait the outcome of the Coca-Cola (1-1) vs. Crab Orchard (0-2) match to see if they would win the semifinal spot outright or have to participate in a three team shootout that would eliminate one of the three teams (Lechuza Caracas, Valiente or Coca-Cola).

Adolfo Cambiaso scored the first goal of the game at the 5:19 mark, 1-0, followed by a 60-yard penalty goal and a goal from the field from teammate Sapo Caset for the 3-1 first chukker lead.

Second chukker goals from Santi Torres and Caset were countered by a single penalty conversion (60-yards) from Nico Pieres. After two periods of play Valiente owned a 5-2 advantage.

Valiente’s Caset and Lechuza Caracas 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero traded goals in the third. Caset opened with a penalty conversion followed by a pair of goals from the field from Nero, 6-4. Caset closed out the first half scoring with a final goal, 7-4, with 38 seconds on the clock for the halftime score.

Cambiaso’s second goal of the game in the fourth had Valiente leading by four goals, 8-4, but Lechuza Caracas stormed back. Pieres scored consecutive goals (one from the field after a 200-yard run and one on a 30-yard penalty shot) to cut the Valiente lead to two goals, 8-6. Caset pushed Valiente ahead by three goals again, 9-6, with a penalty conversion and the final goal of the chukker with 2:29 on the clock.

The fifth chukker belonged to Lechuza Caracas with Nero taking the leading role. Goals from team captain Victor Vargas, Pieres and Nero went unanswered as Lechuza Caracas tied it up at 9-9 with the final goal of the chukker coming from Nero with just 13 seconds to play.

Less than 90 seconds into the sixth chukker Caset put Valiente back on top, 10-9, with a goal from the field. Pieres tied it up on a penalty conversion at 2:56, 10-10, but Valiente continued to press their attack. With time running out, Caset maneuvered his way through the opposing Lechuza Caracas players to score the winning goal, 11-10, with just 23 seconds left in regulation play.

Caset’s eight goals (four on penalty shots) led both teams. Cambiaso scored twice in the Valiente win and Torres added a goal. Pieres scored four of his team high six goals for Lechuza Caracas. Nero added three goals and Vargas scored once. Both teams ended preliminary play with 2-1 records and would be awaiting the outcome of the Coca-Cola vs. Crab orchard match to see if they both qualified (with a Coca-Cola loss) or if a shootout would be required to eliminate one of the three teams.


Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Sebastian Merlos, Julio Arellano and Facundo Obregon) was eliminated from USPA Piaget Gold Cup competition on the strength of a 9-8 overtime win by Crab Orchard (Kerstie Allen, Facundo Pieres, Magoo Laprida and Paco de Narvaez), sending Valiente and Lechuza Caracas into semifinal play.

The Crab Orchard victory wasn’t easy in a game that was tied on six occasions, but eliminated speculation about the results of a three team shootout.

With Australian Kerstie Allen replacing team captain George Rawlings, Crab Orchard took the early lead on a pair of goals from Facundo Pieres (one on a penalty conversion) while Coca-Cola responded with a goal from the field from American 9-goaler Julio Arellano for the 2-1 Crab Orchard lead.

Pieres added his third goal of the game midway through the second chukker for a 3-1 Crab orchard lead, stretching the lead to three goals, 4-1, on a 60-yard penalty conversion (Safety) with 1:43 on the clock to end the period.

A lethargic Coca-Cola offense came alive in the third with consecutive goals from Facundo Obregon (penalty conversion), team captain Gillian Johnston (on a severe cut shot following a pass from Obregon) and a goal from the field from Sebastian Merlos that had it all even at 4-4. With 2:05 on the clock, Pieres gave the halftime lead to Crab Orchard, 5-4, with his fifth goal of the day.

A determined Coca-Cola team returned to the field in the fourth chukker. Physical play resulted in an injury to Paco de Narvaez at the 4:42 mark, with Marias Magrini replacing him for the balance of the match. Merlos tied it at 7-7 at the 5:48 mark and Arellano’s second goal of the game gave Coca-Cola their first lead of the match, 6-5. Crab Orchard was held scoreless by a resolute Coca-Cola defense.

Crab Orchard wasted no time in getting back into the game in the fifth chukker. Magoo Laprida scored his first goal of the game for a 6-6 tie. Pieres gave the lead back to Crab Orchard with just 2:47 left for the final goal of the chukker and the 7-6 edge.

In a physical sixth chukker Merlos managed to deadlock the game at 7-7 with his third goal of the game. Pieres converted a short penalty shot at 3:17 for an 8-7 Crab orchard advantage. Johnston scored the game-tying score with 2:31 left in regulation time on a backhand pass from Obregon, 8-8, for the final goal of the chukker, 8-8.

After a brief intermission, the two teams returned to the field for the sudden-death overtime chukker. Crab orchard took early control of the ball, and on the receiving end of a backhand pass from Pieres, Laprida scored the game winner, 9-8, eliminating Coca-Cola from the tournament.

Pieres led all scoring with seven goals (three on penalty shots). Laprida scored twice, including the game winner. A balanced Coca-Cola attack had Merlos leading the team with three goals. Johnston and Arellano scored two goals each with Obregon adding a penalty goal.


In a second noon match, Flight Options (Melissa Ganzi, Eduardo Astrada, Miguel Astrada and Alejandro Astrada) battled Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Santiago Chavanne, Pablo MacDonough and Matias MacDonough) trough six chukkers of fast-paced action before scoring the winning goal in an 11-9 game that had little effect on Piaget Gold Cup play.

The two teams entered the game with 0-2 records, but played as if it were the tournament finals.

First chukker action had Matias MacDonough and Santiago Chavanne scoring single goals for Orchard Hill while Miguel Astrada converted a 40-yard penalty shot and Alejandro Astrada scored the tying goal, 2-2, from the field.

Chavanne put Orchard Hill on top with a goal from the field to open the second chukker, 3-2. Flight Options struck back with consecutive goals from the field from Alejandro Astrada for the 4-3 lead.

Orchard Hill 10-goaler Pablo Macdonough tied the game at 4-4 in the third. Alejandro Astrada gave the lead back to flight Options with his fourth goal of the day, 5-4. Pablo MacDonough ended the first half with a game-tying goal from the field for the 5-5 halftime score.

The battle continued into the second half with Eduardo Astrada and Miguel Astrada scoring single goals for flight Options while Orchard Hill team captain Steve Van Andel and Chavanne countered with goals that ended the fourth chukker in a 7-7 deadlock.

The fifth chukker opened with goals from the field from Miguel Astrada and his brother Eduardo Astrada as flight Options took a two goal lead, 9-7. Matias MacDonough scored on a 60-yard penalty shot for Orchard Hill and teammate Chavanne added a goal for the fourth time for a 9-9 score. Alejandro Astrada, however, got the last word in with a go-ahead goal to end the chukker with flight Options in the lead, 10-9.

Matias MacDonough converted a penalty shot for a goal to open the scoring in the sixth period, 10-10, but flight Options was resolute in their efforts. An Orchard Hill foul sent Miguel Astrada to the penalty line where he converted the shot for the 11-10 Flight Options win.

Alejandro Astrada scored all five of his game-leading goals from the field. Miguel Astrada added four goals (two on penalty shots) and Eduardo Astrada scored twice from the field for the win. Chavanne’s four goals led the Orchard Hill attack. Matias MacDonough added three goals (two on penalty shots). Pablo MacDonough scored twice and Van Andel was credited with a goal in the loss.


With both teams already qualified for semifinal play, the showdown between Alegria and Audi was anti-climactic. Anticipating Wednesday’s tournament semifinals it appeared that both teams were conserving horse power, with Alegria riding off with the 10-7 win.

Alegria rode out to a 6-3 halftime lead on the strength of three goals from Clemente Zavaleta (two on penalty conversions), a pair of goals from team captain Julian Mannix and a Penalty 1 that awarded them a goal on a foul in the goal mouth by Audi. Audi displayed a listless offense that gave them a total of three penalty goals from 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres.

Gonzalo Del tour and Pieres (60-yard penalty goal) scored for Audi in the fourth with Mariano Aguerre adding a goal to the Alegria total to maintain the lead, 7-5.

Zavaleta and Pieres traded goals in a ho-hum fifth chukker that kept Alegria in the lead, 8-6 before the two teams ended the game with Aguerre and Hilario Ulloa chipping in goals from the field in the sixth for the 10-7 win. Pieres converted a 30-yard penalty shot for Audi.

Pieres scored all of his game-high six goals on penalty conversions. Del Tour added a goal for Audi. Zavaleta set the pace for Alegria with four goals (three on penalty shots). Aguerre and Mannix added two goals each and Ulloa scored once for the win.

Mannix was named MVP while Aguerre’s fifth chukker pony, Los Machitos Jackie, was named Best Playing Pony.

The semifinals of the 2014 USPA Piaget Gold Cup are schedule to be played on Wednesday, March 19 with Audi facing Valiente at 1pm followed by a Lechuza Caracas showdown at 3pm.

The semifinals of the subsidiary Butler Handicap will be played on Thursday, March 20 with Crab orchard facing Orchard Hill at 1pm followed by a 3pm contest between Flight Options and Coca-Cola.