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La Irenita, Park Place Play For Founders Cup Title Sunday At Grand Champions Polo Club

WELLINGTON, Fla., March 15, 2024---La Irenita will play Park Place in the final of the Founders Cup in the featured game at 4 p.m. at Grand Champions Polo Club.

By Sharon Robb

Photos by Candace Ferreira

Le Irenita (Gilberto Sayao, 0, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Pablo MacDonough, 10) held off Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Nic Roldan, 8/Pipe Vercellino, 7, Jeta Castagnola, 10, Pancho Bensadon, 7) for a 16-14 victory in the first semifinal game on Sunday.

Park Place (Cody Ellis, 5, Toly Ulloa, 8, Hilario Ulloa, 10, Marcos Bignoli, 3) knocked off previously unbeaten Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Sapo Caset, 9, Hilario Figueras, 6), 10-8, in the second semifinal on Monday.

Both will play for their first WPL title of the season. The semifinal games could not have been more different.

La Irenita 16, Audi 14

In the first semifinal, after La Irenita jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead behind MacDonough and one-goal handicap, Audi was dealt a blow when Roldan went down with a knee injury with 6:16 left in the opening chukker and left the game. Vercellino, playing Roldan's horses came in and needed very little time to adjust and fit into Audi's scheme .

La Irenita, using several backhanders, dominated scoring in the first two chukkers to lead 7-2 and 8-4 before the momentum swayed.  Audi, after losing its challenge on a penalty ball placement, found its rhythm late in the second chukker, scoring two goals in less than two minutes, and  shutting out La Irenita, 5-0, to take a 9-8 halftime lead. Castagnola's 40-yard penalty conversion tied the game at 8-8 and Ganzi's well-anticipated goal gave Audi the lead for the first time.

Early in the second half, the lead changed hands three times before La Irenita took an 11-10 lead on Tomacho Pieres quick goal off Gonzalito Pieres' missed 60-yard penalty. La Irenita regained its momentum, particularly on defense, and never relinquished its lead for the rest of the game. La Irenita led 13-11 in the fifth chukker and 14-12, 15-13 and 16-14 in the final chukker.

In the featured game, Gonzalito Pieres was named Most Valuable Player. MacDonough's horse Irenita Subaru was the World Polo League Best Playing Pony. The American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony honors went to Shale, played by Bensadon.

MacDonough led La Irenita with a game-high nine goals. Gonzalito Pieres had five goals and Tomacho Pieres added one. For Audi, Vercellino and Castagnola each had four goals. Ganzi had two goals and Bensadon added one.

La Irenita outshot Audi, 21-16. Audi dominated throw-ins, 17-8, but also led in fouls, 13-9

Park Place 10, Casablanca 8

The teams lined up evenly in talent but both needed a chukker to find their rhythm after a shaky start.

While Park Place took an early lead, 3-2, in the opening chukker, Casablanca was able to shut them out, 1-0, in the second chukker for a 3-3 tie after two and 4-4 at the half.

Park Place turned it up to open the second half, marking up Casablanca closely. Goals were hard to come by but Park Place managed to take a 7-5 lead in the fourth chukker behind Ulloa and outscoring Casablanca, 6-4, in the second half.

With Park Place leading, 8-6, Caset brought Casablanca back in the sixth chukker with back-to-back goals to tie, 8-8, with 3:17 left. Back-to-back goals by Toly and Hilario Ulloa and Casablanca's foul troubles and losing its challenge enabled Park Place to regain the lead.

Hilario Ulloa led Park Place with a team-high six points. Toly Ulloa added three and Ellis had one. Caset led Casablanca with six goals. Bensadon had one.

Casablanca outshot Park Place, 15-14. The teams each won eight throw-ins. Park Place led in knock-ins, 7-4, and led in fouls, 12-5, which did not play a major role in the game.

The WPL, the winter season's biggest highlight, continues to make history as the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina.



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