While in lockdown in Wellington, Florida, where he was competing in the Gauntlet of Polo until it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Facundo Pieres spoke to PoloLine via Instagram Live, on Friday April 10. 


Among other topics, he mentioned the following:


“Uncertainty is the most complicated thing; we don’t know what’s going to happen, when we will be able to play again. We are all still in Wellington, we don’t have any news on upcoming flights. The people who work with us are here as well, and many of them are without their families. Our priority now is to give them an answer, and let them know whether they can go home, or at least give them a date.”


“We have a large organisation in the United States, with 4 or 5 grooms for each player, as well as Gonzalo de la Fuente, who is Pilot’s manager; Lucas James came to help out with the horses and also played the World Polo League. We have vets, our trainer Pablo Erbin, physical trainers, there are lots of us, about 60 people.”


“I think it was very positive for polo in the United States to lower the handicap from 26 to 22 goals. All of a sudden, there were 16 teams playing last year, and 14 in 2020. It means that there were several patrons, teams, and players who doubted the 26-goal level, thinking it was either too high or was too expensive to put a team together.”


“The idea is to wear Ellerstina’s original team shirt this year. We have been thinking about this for a long time, but we weren’t able to do it because of the sponsorship from clothing brands, which identified with the black. Our bond with this brand has just finished; we’ve been together since 2004, it was a good sponsorship for us, and once it was finished, we thought it was good to go back to the basics, to our original colours. Our current sponsor is Johor, and their colour is blue as well, so everything fits.”


“In terms of going straight from the United States to England, we are not sure yet; up to now we didn’t know what was going to happen with the season in England, but we were told that there is a possibility to play in July and August. This information changes things a bit, because it is really crazy to go to Argentina just to stay in isolation for 15 days and then to England and have another 15 days of isolation. In that case, I guess it’s best to remain in the US, then go directly to England and stay in isolation there.”


“I have seen Andrey Borodin [the patron of Park Place, Facundo’s team for the 2020 British season] a couple of times, but we haven’t been able to speak that much, as I was with Pilot, and he was with his own team. But everything is OK, we had everything ready, we sent all the horses with enough time. All that was left was to go and play.”


“Obviously not to be able to win in Argentina upsets me. It has been seven or eight years since we won the Argentine Open at Palermo. But, apart from that, over the last years, I have done very well overseas. I was lucky to win important tournaments in England, the US,  and Spain. But I do know that I need to win in Argentina a lot more – I will have my mind set on it until I retire and I will do my best to win as much as I can. I feel a bit guilty, because I know we could have won much more at Palermo, but everything takes time, so I am looking forward to this new stage.”


“We spoke to Polito early in the season and told him that if we weren’t able to win, perhaps it could be our last season together; and everything came naturally, which was very important. We are cousins, we are friends, we spent 5 years together and we wanted to split the best way possible.”


“Hilario was the first one we thought of. I think that it is obvious why we chose him – he is one of the best players in the world, and has a powerful organisation in Argentina. We spoke to him and he was enthusiastic about the opportunity.”


“We decided to start all over again with something that’s ours, us three including Hilario, have him in the organisation, making decisions. We are currently talking about how to play, determining the positions. I think it would be best to have Hilario at 2, because is his natural position, and he is very powerful there. The most important thing of all is that he is very well mounted, and he has a great string in Argentina; that will help the team a lot, as will his experience. I know he is hungry for glory, he wants to win Palermo as much as we do, and that’s what I like the most.”


“The first time I watched the Castagnola brothers play closely and played against them was last year, in England. They took me by surprise, their evolution from the start of the season to the way they played the Gold Cup, the last 2 or 3 games. They have turned into very different players. I then played the Xtreme Polo League with them, and I wasn’t that surprised. I enjoyed playing with them, it was one of the nicest experiences of my life. I mean, to play in a team without having spoken much and having everything work out very well – something that does not usually happen. After that, no one was surprised at all about what they did at Palermo. We all already knew what they were capable of, we saw that during the qualification, and then they had a spectacular Palermo.”


“I never agreed to playing the Triple Crown on handicap, that would be a great damage to the high goal in Argentina. The greatest thing of the Triple Crown and Palermo is that you play against the best in the world. Otherwise, we will depend on those who set the handicaps; that way, the history of Palermo will be lost because even the smallest teams want to play against the best. When I first played the Open, in 2003, I was a 6-goaler and I didn’t have that level. But playing against the best made me a better player. I hope they don’t do it; in fact, I think it won’t be done.”


“I think is a good idea to determine the order of play in accordance with the dates. As an example, most of the games La Natividad played last year were very level, and it could be more interesting to see them on ground 1 rather than ground 2. I agree, as long it is done with criteria, respect, and if it is better for the sport.”


“Unfortunately, both grounds at Palermo have not been in good conditions to compete at the highest level in the last years. There were talks about to changing the grass, make the whole field again, but that never happened; I think it would have been good to do. I am well aware that concerts do help the AAP in order to earn a bigger income, and the money is well used to help small clubs around Argentina. But I also understand that Palermo, the final and semifinals at Palermo, are the most important of all; Palermo’s ground 1 is the most important field and polo depends on that field. So it should be kept in the best conditions in order to have the best matches. Otherwise, it is a detriment for everybody.”


“The idea was to play the San Jorge Open and the Jockey Club Open, but we still don’t know what will happen. Curtis Pilot enjoyed Argentina last year, he had a great time. In addition, we won the Jockey Club Open, and it was spectacular for him – he played at Palermo, Ellerstina, and many other places. So we wanted to do it again. We don’t know whether there will be a San Jorge Open or just the Jockey, or both. We are not sure what will happen with the virus. We have to wait and see.”


“It is very difficult to pick the best horses I’ve ridden throughout my career. In England, I choose Moscú and Open Galáctica, who passed away last year. I had her for several years in England; I played her with King Power, Zacara, La Indiana. She helped me to win many tournaments. She won BPP several times, like seven or eight blankets. In the US, I choose an American thoroughbred, Corcha, that I purchased it from Lyndon Lea. Last year, Cucho [Patricio Garrahan] sold me Mega Chistosa, a Simpatia x Sportivo. I rode her last year, and she was named the best mare of the season and helped me to win several games. In terms of Argentina, Mecha was the best mare I had for 3 or 4 years and, of course, Open Chequera. I still couldn’t win Palermo with her, I owe Palermo to her. I am looking forward to making it.”


“To me, Adolfito was always the best, since his days with Ellerstina until now, when I play against him. If you aim to win a tournament, you have to beat him first. He has defeated me a lot of times, but I also was able to beat him many times as well. And one of the things I enjoy most in my career is playing against him. I really like the challenge. Perhaps I have lost more than I have won, but it is one of the best things of my career – challenging Adolfo Cambiaso. Clearly, he is the best player I’ve ever seen.”


“Unfortunately, the last match we played together (2017 US Open final) broke the season. We lost a terrific game, a trophy we thought we had already won because we were the favourites. We had won the CV Whitney Cup and the USPA Gold Cup and we were working very well as a team. But we played a weak game that day and Hilario was at his best. However, it was a positive experience. Obviously, the ideal situation is to play against the best, it’s a lot of fun. And people enjoyed it, the games were always really good. Fate brought us together and we did it. And I loved it – I loved to see his organisation so closely, see how they managed his horses, his people, everything. I was lucky to meet people who I didn’t know before and learned a lot. Basically, I had a great time, which is the most important thing.”


“I speak a lot to Mariano Aguerre. He has been one of my closest friends since we started playing together, and he is my daughter’s godfather. We always talk, and give each other advice, we help each other. He asked me about his comeback to the Open, which really took me by surprise, because I had no idea that he wanted to play Palermo again. So I told him to go ahead with it, if he really wanted to play polo, because he’s got the conditions to do it. I also think it is important for his own breed to play Palermo – he’s got a very large and important string. And his lineup has four great players. They only need a couple of practices to work well. And that is what Mariano does, make his teams work well.”


“I am happy to be a dad. It is my greatest achievement so far. My daughter is amazing, she is growing up, she just started talking and she walks around everywhere, she is getting more and more fun. I enjoy every minute of it. Now, Agustina is pregnant again, and it seems it will be a boy. We are very happy.”


“In terms of the future stars of the sport, I like all the Panelo brothers – Tomás, Benjamín, they both play well. Pancho Bensadon’s son, Rufino, has a great future ahead. I saw him playing the Camara last year, and he really plays well. I see a powerful new generation is coming up, because all of them are the sons of great players, and will have their fathers’ organisations, such as Poroto Cambiaso, Lukin Monteverde, Matias McDonough’s sons, Ruso’s and Pepe’s sons, Santos Merlos… and there’s Mackenzie Weisz, as well, who is amazing.”


“There were talks about the leagues for Palermo. I hope they don’t change because we have been in the hardest brackets for many seasons – we had to play the semifinals against Las Monjitas or Alegria. And this year it won’t be the same again, because the most difficult League will be League A; I don’t mean League B will be easier, because La Dolfina Polo Ranch is improving every year and they are better mounted. I guess La Natividad and the new lineup with Facu Sola, Sapo Caset, Alfre Cappella and Fran Elizalde will be really tough. Not having those teams in the league will be an advantage. I hope it could be something that helps us in the next season, in order to get to Palermo in a better shape.”