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La Irenita, Park Place Play Founders Cup Final On Sunday; Pilot Wins World Polo League Debut

WELLINGTON, Fla., March 16, 2024--Polo's version of March Madness continues with the much-anticipated World Polo League Founder's Cup championship between Park Place and La Irenita Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club at 4 p.m.


By Sharon Robb

Photos by Candace Ferreira


Taking a day off from the Palm Beach Open which started on Thursday with Park Place winning its WPL debut, the Founders Cup final will feature 10-goalers Hilario Ulloa and Pablo MacDonough.



Reigning U.S. Open champion Park Place, (Cody Ellis, 5, Toly Ulloa, 8, Hilario Ulloa, 10, Marcos Bignoli, 3) also making its 26-goal WPL debut this season, and La Irenita (Gilberto Sayao, 0, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Pablo MacDonough, 10) are coming off a week's rest because of rain-delays. Both are playing for their first WPL title.


La Irenita advanced into the final with a 16-14 win over Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Nic Roldan, 8/Pipe Vercellino, 7, Jeta Castagnola, 10, Pancho Bensadon, 7). Park Place advanced with a 10-8 win over Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Sapo Caset, 9, Hilario Figueras, 6).


Pilot 14, Casablanca 11

Pilot, led by 10-goaler Facundo Pieres, looked like a well-oiled four-man rotating machine with its win over the defending champions.



Pilot (Curtis Pilot, 0, Lucas James, 7, Santos Merlos, 7, Facundo Pieres, 10) led Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Sapo Caset, 9, Hilario Figueras, 6) for most of the game.


With Pieres as its field general, Pilot led after each chukker except the fourth when Casablanca tied, 8-8, after Caset converted a 30-yard penalty with 30 seconds left in the chukker.


Casablanca played well on defense with its control game, but could not get any closer with Pilot outscoring them, 6-3, in the final two chukkers. In the fifth chukker, Pilot scored three unanswered goals for an 11-8 lead with 3:38 left.



Pilot got balanced scoring from its lineup, James had a team-high five goals, Merlos had four and Pieres added two. Caset had a game-high seven goals for Casablanca. Bensadon had three and Ganzi added one.


Casablanca led in shots on goals, 17-16. Pilot led knock-ins, 6-5. Pilot dominated throw-ins, 13-9. Casablanca led fouls, 9-8.


Maltese Falcons 11, Kaia Polo 9

Maltese Falcons (Mia Cambiaso, 2, Paquito de Narvaez, 5, Poroto Cambiaso, 10, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7) quickly overcame a two-goal handicap lead by Kaia Polo (Larry Austin 0, Lerin Zubiaurre, 7, Mariano Aguerre, 7, Santi Toccalino, 8) with a 4-0 second chukker.



Siblings Mia and Poroto Cambiaso played well together with great anticipation for each other. Mia Cambiaso was a sub for patron Melissa Ganzi, still nursing a serious elbow injury suffered while playing.


After a 6-6 halftime, Maltese Falcons pulled away in the fourth chukker for a 10-7 advantage, its first three-goal lead, and never relinquished its second half lead.  


Maltese Falcons was led by balanced scoring. Astrada, de Narvaez and Poroto Cambiaso each had three goals. Mia Cambiaso added two.


Kaia Polo was led by Toccalino with four goals. Aguerre had two and Austin added one. The team picked up two goals on handicap.



Maltese Falcons outshot Kaia Polo, 17-12. Each team had five knock-ins and Kaia Polo led throw-ins, 10-9. Maltese Falcons led fours, 6-3.


Palm Beach Open play resumes on Monday at 4 p.m. with Pilot playing Maltese Falcons.


For the Palm Beach Open, two brackets of three will play across, one bracket of four plays within. The cross bracket will have a full rank and the top two teams advance straight to the semifinals. The top team in the four team bracket will also advance. Then third place from cross bracket and second place from four-team play a playoff match for the final semifinal spot. This tournament will be played using handicaps.



In last year's Palm Beach Open Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Barto Castagnola, 10, Jesse Bray, 7) held on for a 14-13 victory over Dead End (Evan White, Jr., 1, Pedro Falabella, 7, Magoo Laprida, 8/Gringo Colombres, 7, Facu Llosa, 7), 14-13. It was Casablanca's second WPL title of the season. For the second time in two tournaments, Argentine 10-goaler Barto Castagnola was Most Valuable Player.


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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