Semi – Finals Set for the Open de France

Nico Pieres, one of the prominent players of the 2023 Open de France. © Justine Jacquemot

It is the last week of the 2023 Open de France, leading up to the final on Sunday September 17th at 3.30 p.m. But before that, the road will take us through the semi-finals (Thursday and Friday), which look set to be “scorching”, given the show put on by the teams in the quarter-finals played on Sunday and Monday.

Thrilling games of top-level polo. It began with a hard-fought confrontation between Kazak, finalists in 2021, and Brittany Polo Club, winner of the Deauville Gold Cup in 2022. Two teams accustomed to top-level competition, participating in the great English season notably the Queen’s Cup and the Gold Cup, the latter Brittany Polo Club, has won twice. The two teams’ strongmen, Nicolas Pieres for Kazak and Diego Cavanagh for Brittany Polo Club, put up on a great battle. For three chukkers, the teams traded goals and then Nico Pieres moved up a gear, well supported by the very young Antonio Heguy and Beltran Lauhle. Actions worthy of the Argentine Open, which Pieres has won twice. From 7-6, the score rose to 11-7 in two periods, allowing Kazak to secure the first ticket to the semi-finals.

The first semi-final will be a remake of the 2021 final as Sébastien Aguettant’s team will meet the other team from western Paris, La Magdeleine, this year’s Queen’s Cup finalists. They, too, had to fight hard to get the better of the Open de France 2022 champions Talandracas and their two prodigies Juan Martin Zubia and Rufino Bensadon, who were (slightly) outplayed in the last three chukkers after a big slump in which the score went from 4-1 in their favor to 5-7 against them in the fourth chukker: a 6-1 score in two periods! All this was thanks to the complicity between the two Abierto players Tito Ruiz Guiñazu (scorer of 6 of his team’s 8 goals) and Facundo F. Llorente, but it was a woman, France’s Elena Venot, who scored the “break point” goal for La Magdeleine.

The third quarter-final was even more dramatic with La Berta worrying Essso at the very end of the game, only to lose by a single goal. So close, yet so far from the semi-finals! The star players here were Jeronimo Del Carril and Facundo Sola, and it’s the latter, twice a finalist in the Argentine Open, who will be up against Amanara on Friday.

Dutchwoman Nicky Sen’s team qualified on Monday after another magnificent game against Jolly Roger King of Polo, the team of Sweden’s Niclas Johanson. There was plenty of pace in this match, with Palermo-style action led by Santi Chavanne, whose precise passing and perfect understanding with his son, Lorenzo, and their compatriot Benjamin Panelo, made this a game to remember. Simple polo with goals from one end of the field to the other in three passes. Simple but just beautiful to watch. Jolly Roger King of Polo held out with panache for three chukkers before the match got away from them, but with an identical idea of polo that explains the beauty of this last quarter final.

The Open de France also has its female version, and the competition kicks off on Tuesday with the first four qualifying games. The international teams include three of the world’s top four female players. Among them is Lia Salvo, one of Argentina’s 100 polo legends: a list just published by the country’s polo federation, compiling the sport’s greatest names – its most illustrious teams, its most exceptional players – since the beginning of the last century. (Tuesday at 11 a.m., 1, 3 and 5 p.m.).

Semi-final 1 of the 23rd Open de France, Thursday at La Magdeleine:
LA MAGDELEINE: Alexandre GARESE (FRA 0), Elena VENOT (FRA 1), Facundo F. LLORENTE (ARG 8) and Tito RUIZ GUINAZU (ARG 7)
KAZAK: Sébastien AGUETTANT (FRA 0), Beltran LAULHE (ARG 3), Antonio HEGUY (ARG 5) and Nicolas PIERES (ARG)
Semi-final 2 of the 23rd Open de France, Friday at the Polo Club du Domaine de Chantilly:
ESSSO: Ian GALLIENNE (FRA 0), William HARPER (GBR 4), Facundo SOLA (ARG 7) and Javier GUERREO (ARG 5)
AMANARA: Nicky SEN (NED 0), Lorenzo CHAVANNE (ARG 4), Santiago CHAVANNE (ARG 7) and Benjamin PANELO (ARG 6)