2020 USPA Gold Cup® Recap and Semifinal Preview
Wellington, FL – February 9, 2021 – After securing quarterfinal victories in the 2020 USPA Gold Cup® in March of 2020, Daily Racing Form, Las Monjitas, La Indiana, and Pilot would never have imagined that they would need to wait 332 days to compete in the semifinals. Postponed on March 17, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the second edition of the Gauntlet of Polo® was abruptly suspended, leaving the four teams just two games from capturing the 2020 USPA Gold Cup®. Rescheduled in 2021, the semifinals feature the same four teams, yet only Daily Racing Form returns with the same line-up as the teams gear up for an exciting day of play on February 10th at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC).
Fighting their way into the semifinals, Daily Racing Form (Costi Caset, Agustin Obregon, Jared Zenni, Tommy Collingwood) faced the most adversity in 2020 of the remaining teams, losing their two opening games to La Indiana and Santa Clara, leaving no room for error. Capturing a crucial overtime victory over Postage Stamp Farm, Daily Racing Form set up a rematch with Santa Clara and emerged with a memorable 10-9 victory thanks to the six-goal, two-assist performance from Zenni. A well-rounded line-up of two 5-goalers and two 6-goalers, Daily Racing Form displayed a quick passing game, moving the ball via the pass rather than individual runs. Assisting on 60% of their field goals, Daily Racing Form enters 2021 with the same line-up that saw Zenni lead the way with 4.3 goals per game, followed by Obregon with 2.3 goals per game. The emergence of Caset at the 18-goal level for Palm Beach Equine, where he led all players in scoring in the Ylvisaker Cup, will be needed to challenge a new Las Monjitas team. Defensively, Collingwood was the steady presence for Daily Racing Form with consistent backhands to start the attack downfield.
One of the more intriguing storylines entering the semifinals is Las Monjitas, who won the first leg of the Gauntlet of Polo® in 2020 and are beginning the season with a six-game unbeaten streak thanks to the play of David Stirling and Francisco Elizalde. However, in 2021, Las Monjitas (Melissa Ganzi, TBA, Pablo MacDonough, Juan Martin Nero) will feature an entirely new line-up consisting of two 10-goalers in MacDonough and Nero. Familiarity will not be an issue with the duo having extensive experience together playing on La Dolfina in Argentina for the past decade and winning consistently on the global stage. Last seen at IPC capturing the U.S. Open Polo Championship® in 2016 with Orchard Hill, Nero is the consummate #4 position player that will give Las Monjitas an added factor defensively, allowing MacDonough to play the end-to-end style of play that will pressure Daily Racing Form in their semifinal matchup. Joining the duo is Ganzi, who has consistently played at the highest levels of polo in the USA, captaining the Flexjet team at IPC in 2018.
The second semi-final provides a close comparison to 2020, with both Pilot (Curtis Pilot, Keko Magrini, Gonzalito Pieres, Facundo Pieres) and La Indiana (Michael Bickford, Nico Escobar, Polito Pieres, Jeff Hall) substituting just one player due to handicap increases. Capturing the inaugural Gauntlet of Polo® in 2019 by winning the C.V. Whitney Cup, USPA Gold Cup®, and CaptiveOne U.S. Open Polo Championship®, Pilot provides one of the most formidable duos in polo in Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres. The only undefeated team in the 2020 USPA Gold Cup®, Pilot led all teams with 8.5 field goals per game, playing an effective two-man game that saw the duo combine for an impressive 10.0 goals per game from the field and penalty line. Curtis Pilot works tirelessly in the #1 position and with the addition of Magrini, who is coming off a strong showing with Santa Clara where he was named MVP of the Joe Barry Cup final, Pilot looks as dominant as ever, but faces a La Indiana team that ended their 18-game Gauntlet of Polo® win streak in the 2020 C.V. Whitney Cup.
Replacing Santiago Gomez Romero with Nico Escobar, La Indiana (Michael Bickford, Nico Escobar, Jeff Hall, Polito Pieres) enters the semifinal with a similar lineup, led by the play of 10-goaler Pieres, who was first among all players with 6.8 goals per game and fifth in assists before play was postponed. With the steady experience of Hall and Bickford off the ball, Pieres attacked relentlessly to draw the attention of opponents, providing the high-powered semifinal with the three Piereses. Adding Escobar to the mix as a capable scorer at the front of the game, La Indiana has the ability to match the offense of Pilot in a must-watch semifinal.
Pilot enters the semifinals of the 2020 USPA Gold Cup® as the only undefeated team. ©Alex Pacheco