THE SPRING ISSUE 2018
C H A M P I O N S: C E L E B R AT I N G T H E F I R S T ARGENTINE WOMEN’S OPEN
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HURLINGHAM THE SPRING ISSUE
CONTENTS 0 9 _ P O N Y L I N E S The latest polo news, including the HPA chief executive’s column 16 _ E A S T M E E T S W E S T Yale Polo’s Leila Chang on the team’s recent Indian adventure 18 _ L I G H T S , C A M E R A , A C T I O N Philip Selkirk talks about the passions behind his latest documentary, The Perfect Match, exploring the history of polo 2 0 _ R O C K ‘ N ’ P O L O Combining music and polo, looking forward to 2018’s Polo Fest Denver 21 _ A F R I C A N P O L O PA R A D I S E Melanie Vere Nicoll discovers South Africa’s splendid Plettenberg Bay 2 2 _ S E A L O F A P P R O VA L
We remember the life of polo legend Steve Orthwein, who passed away on 12 March 2018, pictured here with his wife Ginny (page 44)
Greg Glue explains the impact of the new rules on polo helmets 2 4 _ A N O T H E R L E V E L Charlie Froggatt reports on how an initiative to develop coaching standards using technology has received backing from FIP
COVER: LA DOLFINA BRAVA WIN THE 1ST ARGENTINE WOMEN’S OPEN; CHRISTIAN GROSSO. T H I S PAG E : M U S E U M O F P O LO
HURLIN GHAM MAGAZIN E Publisher Roderick Vere Nicoll
26 _ L I K E FAT H E R , L I K E S O N Tom Gose reminisces on a special team that went from 12 to 26 goals
Executive Editor Peter Howarth
over six years
Editor Gemma Latham
Assistant Editor Jemima Wilson
2 8 _ O P I N I O N: S K E Y J O H N S T O N The former USPA chairman shares his thoughts on the need for reform and the importance of media coverage in polo
Art Director Julia Allen Chief Copy Editor Lucy Frith Deputy Chief Copy Editor Holly Quayle Copy Editors Nick Atkins, Katie Wyartt
3 2 _ L E V E L L I N G T H E F I E L D Theresa Harold explores the ever-growing world of women’s polo
Picture Editor Leo Goddard Contributing Photographer Tony Ramirez
3 8 _ A U S T R A L I A The Australian polo community was out in force for the 11th edition of the FIP World Polo Championships at Sydney Polo Club
S HOW MEDIA Editorial
4 4 _ O N E O F A K I N D
Managing Director Peter Howarth
A family man, businessman, philanthropist and cherished member of
1-2 Ravey Street, London EC2A 4QP
the polo community: Sam Morton remembers Steve Orthwein
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4 9 _ A C T I O N The Triple Crown, APPL 40-goal, Thai Polo Argentina, Women’s Open, Snow Polo Moscow, Florida 26-goal, IPC 20-goal
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Discovering how, thanks to polo, the 1920 Olympic Games came
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FOREWORD There are a couple of interesting themes throughout this issue. Firstly, Theresa Harold looks at why women’s polo is the fastest-growing segment of the game. When I watched the final of the Women’s Open at Palermo, I found it was more exciting than many of the men’s games. Secondly, there are a lot of young players who are performing so well. Henry Porter played in the FIP Championship in Australia, and reached the final of the Ylivsaker and the Sterling Cups, and Tommy Beresford won the first two 26-goal tournaments. As in any issue the name Cambiaso is omnipresent. Adolfo won his fifth consecutive Argentine Open and four tournaments in Florida – Facundo Pieres was his teammate for two of those games. Probably, the dearest for him was winning the 20-goal Stirling Cup alongside his daughter and son. Elsewhere, Skey Johnston tells Sam Morton what he thinks would help the game in the US as well as how to attract media coverage and revenue. Best of all, on page 44, we remember Steve Orthwein, who passed away on 12 March. Steve was a multifaceted man both on and off the polo field who loved being in the saddle more than anything – a true gentleman of our sport who will be greatly missed.
RODERICK VERE NICOLL PUBLISHER
For all the latest polo news and action, visit hurlinghampolo.com
L E I L A C H A N G is a junior at
T H E R E S A H A R O L D was born
C A R O L I N A B E R E S F O R D has
S A M M O R T O N spent 30 years
Yale, where she’s majoring in Ethics,
in Hong Kong, but now lives in
a rich family history of polo and
as a horse trainer in Sheridan,
Politics and Economics. She began
London and works as a journalist.
relishes her part-Irish, part-Chilean
Wyoming, Midland, Texas and
playing polo as a freshman and has
She writes for The Telegraph,
nationality. She’s travelled the globe
Wellington, Florida. He is the author
since travelled to Argentina, India
Prestige Hong Kong and Harper’s
watching her father, uncles and
of three books on horsemen;
and the UK for tournaments and
Bazaar UK. Her love of horses began
brothers play. After graduating from
Where the Rivers Run North, The
training opportunities with her team.
as a child and she escapes to the
Bristol University with First Class
Land of the Horse and The Winged
Leila is currently the president of
stables as often as possible, but
Honours in History of Art, she moved
Spur and has been writing about
the Yale Polo Club.
classes herself as a polo novice.
to Argentina, where she now lives.
polo for more than three decades.
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ONES TO WATCH
MILAGROS AND CANDELARIA FERNÁNDEZ ARAUJO
We’ve got our eyes on a pair of sisters who shot to the centre of the female polo scene after winning the first ever Women’s Open Polo Championship in Palermo last December. Milagros (18) and Candelaria Fernández Araujo (16) are daughters of former 10-goal player and three-time Argentine Open champion Milo Fernández Araujo. He is also the man who coached La Dolfina to Triple Crown glory three times. On 2 December, La Dolfina Brava took on Ellerstina in the Women’s Open final, and Milagros and Candelaria’s performances did not go unnoticed: Milagros went from six to seven goals, while Candelaria went from six to eight (women’s handicap). Candelaria was also named MVP of the final. However, this was not the first time the sisters had played at Palermo. In April, they led Argentina to victory in a female test match against USA, and in May they played an intercollegiate mixed polo tournament, where they claimed the subsidiary Zeus Cup at the Cathedral (both playing off 0 goals). But it’s not all polo for these two. Once Milagros graduates high school, she is keen to study architecture, while Candelaria wants to follow in the footsteps of their mother – Fernanda Rivas, the first woman to ever play on Palermo’s number-one ground – and become a vet. While both sisters are prioritising their studies for now, it surely won’t be long before we see them back out on the field.
Milagros (left) and Candelaria (right) Fernández Araujo
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BRYAN MORRISON TROPHY The Hurlingham Polo Association Bryan Morrison Trophy arena match between USA and England took place on 3 March at Westcroft Park Polo Club in Chobham. Four closely fought chukkas resulted in England defeating USA, 14–10. Both teams played fiercely from the start, with the score tied at 4-4 moving into the second chukka. After half-time, play resumed tied at 8–8, but entering the final period at 10–9, England’s 9-goaler Chris Hyde scored two goals, with two more scored by Eden Ormond, sealing the win for England. USA’s Shane Rice won MVP for his two goals from beyond midfield.
HALL OF FAME Inductees to the Museum of Polo’s Hall of Fame 2018 were recently revealed. The Living Hall of Fame award went to Ruben Gracida to mark his outstanding playing record that included winning the US Open four times and back-to-back Coronation Cups in 1985 and 86. Sunny Hale was honoured for her remarkable record on the field, giving back to polo and breaking down barriers for women. Roy Barry (right) was posthumously awarded the Iglehart award, while Jimmy Newman was this year’s living honouree. In the Horses to Remember category, Lovely Sage, the first winner of the Hartman Award for Best Playing Pony of the US Open in 1965, and Ruifino, the great Tommy Hitchcock’s mount in the 1930s, were honoured.
IMAGESOFPOLOC.COM; MUSEUM OF POLO
During the off-season, teams from England took the logo of their new team sponsor – Flannels – overseas to Barbados, India (twice), New Zealand and Dubai; they’ll hopefully visit Pakistan too. It will be interesting to see how the new rules work this season – in particular the blocking rule, which makes it harder to protect the player taking the hit-in or a penalty, and the replacement of the throw-in with a hit if the ball goes out of play. The feedback from Argentina and Dubai is that players do not hit to the boards or use the boards as they used to, meaning the ball does not go out of play so often. This, along with less time allowed to take a hit-in or penalty, reduces the opportunities to change ponies or have a breather, which speeds up the game and makes it better to watch overall. It will also be interesting to see how the 22-goal teams fare. Historically, teams with two big players in the middle have done well, although the third player has had to be well handicapped for them to be successful. This year, only one team can boast that their best two players add up to 19, and two that their players add up to 18. The rest have 17 goals or fewer for the two best players, creating more balanced teams and, perhaps, better, faster polo. There are quite a few changes and I hope that players will come forward with their own ideas as to how polo can be improved. Other sports have changed the rules for the better, so polo should be no different.
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KING POWER GOLD Cowdray Park Polo Club has announced that luxury duty free business King Power will become title sponsor of the Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship for an initial three-year period. The King Power International Group already has an impressive history with polo, in particular the Cowdray Park Gold Cup for the British Open Championship – the King Power team won from 2015 to 2017. The Draw for the 2018 Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship will take place at Cowdray House on 11 June; the opening date of the tournament is 26 June, with the final on 22 July.
HOOKED ON POLO: HENRY PORTER Henry Porter was born and raised in London, then moved to Dubai when he was nine. He started to play polo at Desert Palm in 2009 and is now a full-time polo player. His ultimate aim is to become a 10-goal player.
J MICHAEL PRINCE USPA Global Licensing Inc. (USPAGL) has announced J Michael Prince has been promoted to CEO. Prince, a veteran executive of iconic global lifestyle brands such as Cole Haan, Nike, Converse, and Guess, was hired as COO of USPA Global Licensing in May 2017, and says of his promotion: “I am honored and humbled by this amazing opportunity to work with a brand and sport that have unlimited potential... We are very excited and optimistic about what the future holds.”
I’d been riding since I was five years old, so I had some understanding of basic horsemanship when I first picked up a mallet, but after my first polo lesson with Martin Valent I’ve had a constant urge to get on a horse and play polo. After that first encounter with the sport, I used to go to the stables every day after school to learn how to play, and later played club chukkas. I love animals, especially horses, and the thrill of galloping down a field at 30mph is a feeling you can’t get playing any other sport. Also, the community around polo is always friendly, and there’s a familiar crowd wherever you go, as it’s a very small world. I’ve played from 4-goal up to 20-goal, and I’m currently playing 20-goal in Florida. The perfect game of polo for me is an open, fast-moving game – I enjoy that much more than a tightly packed rabble. My most memorable polo game in America was winning the East Coast Open in 2017 with GSA. Other memorable games include playing for England when I was 17 and winning a gold medal in the FIP European championships. I also went on to play in the world championships with England in Australia, where we came third. I’m continually trying to improve, learn from those around me and build up as much valuable experience as I can.
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THAI POLO & EQUESTRIAN CLUB Pattaya Thailand
On 8 March, CBS’s Lesley Stahl interviewed Adolfo Cambiaso for a 60 Minutes special on cloning. Cambiaso focused on Cuartetera, a 17-year-old mare, and her 14 clones – seven of which played in the 2017 Triple Crown.
The Argentine government has repealed the Law of Horse Promotion. As of 1 February, any
CZECH POLO OPEN 2018
activity related to horses will be subject to
The first international Czech Polo Open took place in September 2017, with the help of Pepe Santamarina from the Hurlingham Polo Club. Following last year’s successful tournament, which became the highest handicap tournament in Czech polo history, the event will take place this year with a +10 handicap and four competing teams. It will be held at Strahov Stadium in Prague – the largest stadium ever built. The Czech Polo Open 2018 will be a very exclusive occasion, with the opening party on the river Vltava with an enchanting view of Prague Castle, plus a charity gala evening at Prague Castle’s Spanish Hall.
a VAT tax of 21%. The first sale of a horse in Argentina was tax-free but the government has stopped this as well.
Sam Morton has written The Winged Spur, a narrative on a Scottish family clan (Johnston) on the Anglo-Scottish border and in Ireland before 14
they moved to America. They were Reivers warriors, specialising in stealing horses and cattle from the English for 400 years.
Javier Tanoira, founder of APPL, met with Bernie Ecclestone in February to discuss the future of the All Pro Polo League. The F1 legend was enthusiastic about the concept of the league, and plans to attend the high-goal exhibition this summer.
The Nations Cup will be played at Palermo at
10-goaler Guillermo Caset. Other countries are yet to be decided but could include Canada, Colombia, Peru and the US.
C A M B I A S O F A M I LY W I N S T E R L I N G C U P Adolfo Cambiaso won his first tournament at the age of 12 playing with his father. On 24 March, Adolfo repeated history with his daughter Mia, 15, and his son Poroto, 12, by winning the Sterling Cup. It was the kids’ 20-goal debut and the family’s first win together.
For 2019, the USPA has lowered the handicap of
They beat a good team – Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Henry Porter, 2, Nic Roldan, 8, Nico Pieres,
the US Open and other Triple Crown tournaments
8) – 10–4. Mia Cambiaso was named the game’s MVP and her father was named the
from 26 to 22 goals. Bob Jornayvaz and the Ganzis
tournament’s MVP. The proud father said: ‘For kids, the higher goal you play, the easier
are considering holding a 26-goal tournament. No
and safer it is to play, because of the quality of polo. In low-goal they don’t know where to
decision has been made as to whether the 20-goal
go’. The Sterling Cup is one of two historical tournaments that were resurrected by Grand
will be lowered to 18.
Champions Polo Club last year after a 22-year absence.
Juan-Martín Nero (captain) along with fellow
D A N I E L O Y V E T S K Y/ G R A N D C H A M P I O N S P O L O C L U B ,
the end of April. The Argentine team will include
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SADDLE UP WITH... TOMMY BERESFORD COUNTRY: UK HANDICAP: 5 UK AGE: 21
When did you start playing polo? I started stick and balling when I was seven, and played my first tournament aged nine. I inherited the polo gene from my parents, so it was natural to follow in their footsteps.
LOVE OF MY LIFE PONY’S NAME: CUARTETERA B09 SEX: MARE ORIGIN: ARGENTINA Cuartetera, Clone B09, made history as the first clone to be presented an award by the Argentine Polo Association and the Argentine Polo Pony Breeders Association when she
won the Lady Susan Townley Award in December 2017. She also won Best Playing Pony in the US Open in April 2017 before travelling back to Argentina. The original Cuartetera,
What makes polo special for you? I really like how it has given me the opportunity to travel to so many new places and meet new people at such a young age.
by Sportivo and Lambada, joined the Argentine Polo Pony Breeders Association Hall of Fame. Cuartetera B09 played a brilliant seventh chukka, and helped Cambiaso to score twice. He also rode her in the second chukka. ‘Here’s something else that makes me happy,’ said Cambiaso. ‘To those who said that clones would not work, here’s the reply’.
Who do you respect most in polo? My father. He has been the biggest influence in my career by far, and has taught me to give 100 per cent, no matter what.
How many tournaments have you played in the past year, how many did you win? In 2017, I played 18 tournaments, of which we won eight and lost four finals.
Following the move of International Day from Guards Polo Club to the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club, the Hurlingham Polo Association is pleased to announce the USPA will be competing for the Westchester Cup on 28 July 2018. The Cup was first played in 1876, has only been played four times since World War II, and is currently held by England, who won it in 2013 when it replaced the Coronation Cup that year on International Day.
What is it like to play with Facundo Pieres and Adolfo Cambiaso? It’s an unbelievable experience and I am very happy to have been given this opportunity. What is your most memorable polo game? The Queen’s Cup final at Guards in 2017 was amazing! It was my first time winning a major tournament, and it was great to be chosen as MVP.
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TA L K
EAST MEETS WEST Leila Chang describes the enriching experience of the Yale polo team’s Indian adventure
At the beginning of the year, several members of the Yale collegiate team flew to India for 10 days of polo and sightseeing. Our travels took us from New Delhi to Jaipur, and south to Odisha. We visited the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort as well as less frequented but equally delightful palaces and forts in Rajasthan. Peacock, camel and free-roaming cow sightings abounded, providing a constant reminder of the unfamiliar, enigmatic world we had entered. Our hosts in India were Venkatesh Jindal – a former men’s team captain – and his family, to whom we are so grateful for their hospitality and generosity.
Perhaps the most unique experience of the trip was a visit to the Jindal Steel Plant in Angul. A two-hour flight took us from the bustle of New Delhi to a large complex where potted flowers and tree-lined roads belied the noisy, grimy steel production process. Wearing hard hats, eye protection and orange safety jackets, we followed molten metal from the blast furnace as it slowly transformed into final products such as rebar and plates. Something about the heat and the sheer physicality of the plant was otherworldly. When a large rectangle of glowing, red-hot steel passed mere feet
beneath us, I was at once mesmerised and terrified. Though steel is ubiquitous, so few of us come face-to-face with the realities of its production. Our visit to the plant was a rare look into the industry that gives shape to the buildings and bridges surrounding us. Another highlight of the trip was our match against an Indian high-school team at the Mundota Fort grounds. Prior to the game, we had played and practised at the Jindal Polo Farm in Noida, under the eye of six-goaler Simran Shergill. However, as opportunities to play on the grass are few and far between at Yale, the chances of us being
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TA L K
T H E F I E L D S A R E S TA N D I N G R O O M O N LY O N B I G M AT C H D AY S – A T R U E T E S TA M E N T T O T H E A P P R E C I AT I O N O F P O L O I N J A I P U R
Opposite: Leila Chang celebrates Yale’s win against an Indian high-school team. This page: Chang and her teammates explore the wonders of India
beaten by our 14-year-old challengers was not outside the realms of possibility. Our match that day was spirited and made all the more enjoyable by the incredible ponies. After a hotly contested 6–5 win, we had a wonderful time socialising with the hosting team. As it turns out, we’d watched two of them play against each other in an eight-goal match the previous day. The club where we’d watched the match, the Rajasthan Polo Club, has a history just as fascinating as the nearby palaces. Pictures of celebrity visitors such as Princess Diana and Jackie Kennedy adorn its walls. According to the locals, the fields are standing room only on the days of big matches, a true testament to the appreciation of polo that exists in Jaipur. The spring semester has started and we’re all back in New Haven now – back in classes, and back in the arena. But India lingers. We fell in love with paneer and even more in love with naan. We bought way too many pashmina scarves, took an abundance of tourist photos, practiced yoga with a swami and witnessed the marvel of Indian driving. The bravest of us charmed a snake and lived to tell the tale. In India’s unfamiliar settings, polo was one of the few known variables; it was the reason we’d gone there, but not the only thing we took away. In unexpected ways, the sport continues to push all of us out of our comfort zones.
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TA L K
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Film director Philip Selkirk talks about his latest project – The Perfect Match – a documentary exploring the history of polo in the United States
My passion for polo kicked off in 1999, when I was invited by friends to receive my very first lesson, in Fréjus on the Côte d’Azur. With the first chukka, I was hooked. Fast-forward many years and, after having made several films about adrenaline-driven sports, I was convinced a never-before-made film about polo – one of the fastest ball sports in the world – ought to be made. My friend Nicholas Colquhoun-Denvers, current president of the Federation of International Polo, introduced me to the late Steve Orthwein – polo legend, former
president and chairman of the United States Polo Association. Both gentlemen agreed a film about polo in the US was overdue and necessary. The USPA’s board of directors felt the same and commissioned my New York-based film factory, Selkirk Pictures & Enterprises, to produce a comprehensive 80-minute feature documentary on the topic. Entitled The Perfect Match – The History of Polo in the United States, the documentary celebrates the history of the game, champions the passion of its players and entices newcomers to get involved. Charting
polo’s 140-year history – from its origins in Persia to its arrival on New York’s shores via England – the film focuses on the sport’s rich history and strong following in North America, and the families who’ve supported the pastime through the decades. Interweaving anecdotes and images of key players, some of the greatest US polo players – such as Nic Roldan, Jeff Hall, Mike Azzaro and Sunset “Sunny” Hale – as well as the best from Argentina – Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres – explain why, for them, there is nothing better than polo.
CLAUDIA SUICA PHOTOGRAPHY
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TA L K
THE FILM SHOWS THE PASSION OF MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN WHO E N J O Y P L AY I N G T H I S D Y N A M I C S P O R T
The film highlights some fascinating characters, such as a Sue Sally Hale, who was so passionate about the sport that, at a time when women were not welcome except for at minor club matches, she applied mascara to her lip to simulate a moustache, wore oversized shirts, pulled her hair up under her helmet and competed as a man. With women a growing force on the polo circuit, this story is particularly relevant. By unearthing these heartfelt stories of players driven by passion for the game, the documentary seeks to alter previous notions
of the sport. The movie Pretty Woman (1990) really helped to promote polo with its glamorous portrayal of the sport, but, at the same time, there is polo being played across America every weekend, with 344 clubs nationwide making polo more accessible than many people may realise. The film shows the passion of men, women and children, from diverse backgrounds and all corners of the US, who enjoy playing this dynamic sport. In addition to appealing to those already immersed in the polo world, I hope the film will spark a
new curiosity in viewers who have yet to try the sport out for themselves. Hearing these accomplished ladies and gentlemen reveal what drives them towards the polo pitch again and again, chasing that small white ball, is certainly inspiring. My hope is that when one leaves the cinema, they do so with a desire to discover what it feels like for themselves too. The Perfect Match will have private screenings in various cities across the US and internationally beginning this spring. In England, it will be screened at the end of July
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TA L K
ROCK ‘N’ POLO Combining a day of music with the 20-goal Colorado Open Polo Championship, PoloFest Denver is set to be a highlight on the polo calendar once more, says Darlene Ricker
The 12-hour event is a fundraiser for the Equine Partnership Program, a local non-profit organization that uses horses in psychotherapy sessions to help underprivileged children and adults. Last year, a group of EPP staff and clients came to Valiente Polo Farm to watch a match in the Colorado Open. In a separate session, all four players from an all-pro team, Hawaii Polo Life, talked with the children and gave them rides on polo ponies. Robert Jornayvaz is on triple duty as organiser of the festival and the tournament, while also competing in the Colorado Open. ‘If we’re going to expand the reach of polo, raise the sport’s profile and attract new players, we have to show the public how much fun it is. That’s what PoloFest Denver offers people,’ he says.
Above: Curtis Halle of the band The Big Clean performs on stage at 2017’s polo festival
Bob Jornayvaz’s Valiente team won the 2017 championship, headlined by Adolfo Cambiaso, who was playing in the Rocky Mountains for the first time. A rule change allowed teams to bring the ball into play directly after a goal, rather than switching sides and returning to the centre of the field for a throw-in. Players said they enjoyed the rule, because it made the set plays much more important and kept the game rolling, and spectators also found it easier to understand. For more information and for updates on this year’s line-up, visit polofestival.com
MONARCH EVENT PHOTOGRAPHY
The annual PoloFest Denver will return to Denver Polo Club on 25 August 2018. Held in conjunction with the 20-goal Colorado Open Polo Championship, the all-day music festival puts a new spin on the sport. The tournament final is the centerpiece of a series of six concerts by top artists and offers recreational activities including lawn games and riding a polo pony under supervision. The festival also features experiential entertainment, live music, breweries and eateries. The musical line-up for this year’s event has yet to be announced, but in 2017 it was headlined by rock and electronic duo BoomBox, who were joined by Canadian indie rock band Current Swell, Norwegian electronic performer Bearson, and Denver local Zach Heckendorf.
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Aerial view of the Kurland Hotel Below: the Pavillion
THE POLO MECCA OF AFRICA
Melanie Vere Nicoll discovers the delights on offer, both on and off the field, in South Africa’s spectacular Plettenberg Bay
It is a real challenge to try and convey the natural beauty of Plettenberg Bay and the surrounding area. The Plettenberg Polo Club can be found in Kurland, nestled into the foothills of an area known as the Crags. With six fields and a seemingly endless supply of excellent ponies from Buster Mackenzie, the polo is fast, friendly and fun. There are lessons on offer in the mornings, followed by well-subscribed chukkas in the afternoons. The South Africans play four-and a-half-minute chukkas, they do not switch ends after a goal, but have a knock-in from the 60-yard line. This makes the game easier to understand and is better for the ponies. For accommodation, the family-owned Kurland Hotel offers an unparalleled experience. A tranquil oasis located on its own private 700-hectare estate, the hotel is
a stone’s throw from the polo fields and the stables. With the feel of a well-run English country house, the 14 large, antique-filled bedrooms offer wood-burning fireplaces, crisp linen sheets and vases filled with fresh roses. You can enjoy afternoon tea on the sun-splashed veranda and, in the elegant candlelit dining room, some of the best food and wine on offer in Plettenberg Bay.
What sets Plettenberg Bay apart from other family-orientated polo destinations is the sheer amount of things to do once you are off the field. For thrill-seekers there is swimming with seals, kite-surfing and whale watching, while animal lovers will enjoy the huge aviary and excellent game reserve nearby. During our stay, two leopard cubs were spotted near the club, offering an indication of how comfortably humans coexist with animals in the area. Walkers will find a beautiful hike on the Robberg Peninsula, which offers 10km of spectacular coastal trails. Food lovers will also be happy: family-run restaurants serving locally sourced organic food can be found set in nearby vineyards, on the beach front and in town. This is an unmissable polo experience and one that we would do again and again. kurland.co.za
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SEAL OF APPROVAL Greg Glue, director of player and horse equipment purveyors Polo Splice, explains the new rules regarding helmets and looks at the newest models on the market
Following a few serious and fatal accidents involving head injuries, the HPA has taken a stance and changed the ruling on helmet regulations. Introducing a minimum standard for polo helmets, it is following the lead of the British Horseracing Authority, which introduced a new standard in January 2017. As a retailer and supporter of polo, from 2018 onwards, Polo Splice is obliged to sell a credible polo helmet that meets all the standards required by the HPA [see box on the right for a list of the type approvals that
meet the new requirements]. After a confusing start, and many rumours, this is the situation as we see it: You can still wear your old/new Charles Owen, Young Riders, Rider 2000, Palermo or Edition helmet – as long as this was purchased after 1998 with PAS015-1998 and meets the type approval standards – together with a three-point harness. Alternatively, you can enhance your safety (and aesthetics) by purchasing one of the higher-specification helmets that have
recently come onto the market, which offer superior protection and also give players the option to personalise their helmet with bespoke design details. The Armis polo helmet meets all standards and features a carbon fibre shell and a rotational slam inner shell, which revolves slightly on impact. It comes in black, white or grey, with the option of a bespoke design at extra cost. The second new helmet on the market is the Instinct Polo helmet, which also meets
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Opposite: Armis helmet. This page from top: Sarah Wiseman wearing an Instinct Polo helmet. England captain James Beim wearing Armis
POLO MUST PUT SAFET Y FIRST AND MOVE WITH THE TIMES
all the standards required by the HPA. The design of this helmet is based on cricket helmet technology developed over many years. It features a double carbon fibre shell and a honeycomb crush inner, with a detachable, or changeable, peak. Personalisation is offered with the addition of design details such as a logo and initials. Other helmets on the horizon include a new model from Casablanca named Neu, which features a covered carbon fibre shell and D30 Decell material for added impact protection, and the GPA Speed Air Polo 2X, which is manufactured in France (it should, however, be noted that this helmet meets the CE standard, but has no Kitemark or BSI standard). A new helmet is also said to be coming soon from La Martina in Argentina, but the details, specifications
and price are yet to be announced. Many players have commented on how big the helmets look now – and it’s true. But polo must put safety first and should move with the times. Many people don’t realise that a lot of helmets are made from just one pre-cast fibreglass mould, with a bit of foam and rubber padding. That is simply not enough protection for your head – these helmets will not withstand a high-impact 40mph slam onto the ground. With safety helmet prices starting from as little as £150, the best protection is affordable, as well as essential. Of course, aesthetics are a consideration – everyone wants to look good out on the polo field – but helmet designs are improving all the time. In the meantime, at least now everyone will be wearing one. And if that’s not enough to persuade you, perhaps the fact it will make sure your insurance is valid will! polosplice.co.uk; To purchase from within the United States, visit totosmallets.com
SA F E T Y IN NU M BE R S
ARMIS POLO; POLO SPLICE; IMAGESOFPOLO.COM
To meet the minimum standard, as set by the HPA, polo helmets must be type approved to (at least) one of these standards: •PAS015:2011 with CE mark (type approval must be performed by a UK headquartered Noted Body for Personal Protective Equipment)* •SNELL E2001 •VG1 01.040 2014-12 •UTAC/CRITT 04/2015 *PAS015:1998 is the previous version of PAS015:2011. Due to extended lead times retailers often carry high stocks of helmets and there are still helmets available that are labelled PAS015:1998. The HPA will still permit the use of these helmets.
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The Polo Development application will be made available internationally to coaches and players to improve methods and standards across polo
ANOTHER LEVEL At the recent Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, 72 per cent of the medal winners – and their coaches – used the same technology that umpires, high-goal teams and development squads at the United States Polo Association, Hurlingham Polo Association and Argentine Polo Association have been using for the past five years. This technology will now be made available to all polo coaches, in the form of the Polo Development application for iOS and Android devices. Swiss company Dartfish will power the app, which will be managed and populated
by the International Polo Academy, which has customised Dartfish’s technology for polo by analysing over 2,000 games and techniques from the past eight years. The app will harness the latest technology and methods to propagate standards and rules internationally, via a partnership with the Federation of International Polo (FIP). ‘We must move with the times,’ says FIP President Nicholas Colquhoun-Denvers. ‘One of FIP’s goals is to help enhance coaching methods and standards among our 70 member countries around the world.
We are therefore supporting the programme through the FIP Polo Development Fund (PDF), created in 2013 to provide funding assistance to new initiatives and projects within the context of the FIP mission.’ Just as umpires and players at the top level can access analysis of games, coaches and players from every FIP-registered country that joins the programme will now be able to access the latest research on techniques, play and rules, wherever there is a data connection. ‘We have been monitoring the polo analysis programme and getting feedback
I PA P O LO.C O M
A global initiative to develop coaching standards using Olympic-quality technology has received backing from FIP, as Charlie Froggatt reports
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T H E A P P W I L L H A R N E S S T H E L AT E S T T E C H N O L O GY T O P R O PA G AT E S TA N D A R D S
from the major associations, and we believe that it’s now time to share this with all our member countries,’ continues ColquhounDenvers. ‘My vision has always been to share access to knowledge and the latest polo coaching information, and as a new generation of players takes to the field, we need to ensure that the latest technology is available to help them progress.’ The app will include a categorised library of video content that covers a range of topics, including examples of the international rules. Coaches will also have the ability to access the latest research approved by their national association, as
well as to film, analyse and share the results with their clients, who will have private access to their personal assessments. ‘The major associations have paved the way for other member countries to benefit from these advances and the FIP Executive Committee has now unanimously agreed to support this initiative, to enable the technology to be available to all countries,’ Colquhoun-Denvers confirms. Each national association will be given the opportunity to join the programme and connect its own network of coaches and players together. ‘We have worked with International Polo Academy for the past
eight years, to provide the polo industry with video-based feedback and analysis,’ says Dartfish’s Sebastien Dubuis. ‘Thanks to versatile platforms, cutting-edge apps and a fully dedicated service, umpire analysis and team analysis have matured to become second to none. It is a new milestone for the sport that the Federation of International Polo is backing the initiative for the Polo Development application.’ The mobile application will continue to be upgraded and new content will be regularly added, while coaches can request information on specific topics of interest. ‘We are looking forward to working with as many federations as possible to provide the latest research and technology, helping elevate the sport to the next level,’ says International Polo Academy’s lead performance analyst Michael Foster, who will run the programme.
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LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON Tom Gose reminisces on a special team that went from 12 to 26 goals over six years
My father, Steve Gose, was born and raised in Wichita Falls in Texas, but his lifelong love for horses and polo gained steam in San Antonio upon his marriage to my mother in 1950, and his polo career took off in the early 60s. His nearest polo-playing pals were Harold and young Joe Barry, who ranched upstate near Truscott, some 600km north. Plenty of horse trading went on between those three, as well as with Harold’s brother Paul. At that time, green horse polo was played in San Antonio during the winter. A lot of the
greats played there during the week, at the barn and huge dirt field built by George Miller. Many famous names could be found wintering at Miller Field and Breckenridge Park on Sundays – Cecil Smith, Rube Williams, Rube Evans, Little Roy, Ray Harrington, Benny Gutierrez and Wayne Brown, to name but a few. My grandfather, Colonel Tom Hastey, and my uncle, Tom Hastey Jr, provided my father with his first introduction to the fine polo played there. Practices of 30 goals were not uncommon,
and he was fortunate to learn under the watchful eyes of these men. The first season, my father was not allowed to play with shoes on his horses. The second year, Colonel Tom put on front shoes only – my grandfather’s way of teaching my father how to stop straight and maintain control. In 1976, my father was playing some practice games with Hap Sharp in Sotogrande, when he received a call from Joe Barry. Bob Uihlein had entered an Open team with his son Robin, Joe Barry and Johnny
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Opposite: Jimmy Stimmel, Tom Gose, Memo Gracida, Marty Gose, Carlos Gracida, Steve Gose and Tony Veen. This page from top: Gose’s grandfather Colonel Tom Hastey; Gose in action today
D U R I N G T H E T R O P H Y P R E S E N TAT I O N , M Y D A D T O L D M E M O T H A T , O N E D AY, W E W O U L D WIN THE OPEN WITH THIS TEAM
Walker of New Zealand, but due to health problems would not be able to play. My father and Joe had been talking about getting into high-goal together, so he jumped at the chance to step in and they played together in the Open for the next five years, winning in 1977 and 1979. In 1978, I played my first tournament with my father, alongside Memo and Carlos Gracida. It was the Chairman’s Cup – our national 12-goal, played in Midland, Texas. Carlos was 16 years old and rated 4-goal. Memo was rated 6 at the time and my father and I were both 1-goal players. We played the Paradise Lost team in the finals and won 6–2. During the trophy presentation, my dad (the eternal optimist) told Memo that, one day, we would win the Open with this team. Two years later we played together in the Silver Cup 18-goal (Memo 8, Carlos 6, Steve 1 and Tom 3). We made it to the finals at the Willow Bend Club in Dallas against a strong Houston team, and won by a goal, 9–8. Four years later, we played together in the US Open as a 26-goal team (Memo and Carlos at 10, Steve 2, Tom 4). Once again, we made it to the finals and beat Ft Lauderdale 12–9. With our team handicap rising from 12- to 26-goal in six years – my father’s prediction had come true. In 1985, his handicap was raised to 3-goal, making it the last time this foursome would play together. For some time, I thought dad and I were the only father and son combination to win the Open together, until it was pointed out to me that Harold and Joe Barry also won it together in 1970, playing with Hap Sharp and Rube Williams. It seems to me a fitting correction to my earlier misconception; I am certainly proud to be associated in this way with those two greats.
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skey johnston The former USPA chairman on the need for reform and how credibility is key to attracting media coverage, and its much needed revenue, to the sport
I L L U S T R AT I O N : P H I L D I S L E Y
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The second of a four-generation polo-playing family, Skey Johnston has a 70-year history as a player at all levels. He currently sponsors the Coca-Cola team at Everglades Polo facility in Wellington, Florida and owns the Flying H Polo club in Big Horn Wyoming, which hosts the largest number of summer players in the United States. He was CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises from 1991–2001, and in 2001 he was inducted into the National Polo Hall of Fame in Lake Worth, Florida. This January, he sat down with Sam Morton to share his thoughts on the current state of play: SM: What do you see as the biggest problem in polo today? SJ: The United States Polo Association (USPA) is essentially a sports organisation to govern and to promote the sport. I don’t think you’ll find any sports organisation with as many board members as the USPA. I’ve spent most of my career managing organisations, and it is difficult to run any kind of business or organisation with more than 10 directors. I don’t know how they run it at all. Back in the early days there was only one employee in the association office, and there were a lot of things that you needed
help with. Before my time, somebody had the idea to let the chairman select six governorsat-large to help him run the association, who were approved by a small board. But now you have so many governors that they argue over issues incessantly and nobody ever makes a decision. You can’t run an organisation like that.
Look at all the sports on TV – the networks are anxious to film (and pay for) everything from basketball and soccer to wiffle ball. But they are not anxious to pay for polo, because it’s not seen as a legitimate sport. The rules by which it is played allow rank amateurs to play alongside skilled professionals, and this makes it almost impossible to sell.
Is prize money something that could benefit polo? One of the problems in promoting polo is the expense. An average 10-goaler makes more than a million dollars per tournament, but right now there is no legitimate way to write off team expenses. At the moment, polo is not looked on as a legitimate sport because all the money goes out and nothing comes in – it’s not feasible to start a polo team to make money, as it’s not a business. The IRS doesn’t allow a team owner to offset any expenses, because there’s no revenue coming in. You can put the prize money up at any level, but legitimatising the sport to the point that the media will pay to broadcast the games would be better – polo as a sport would prosper and the money generated can then come into the USPA.
How would you fix that? At tournament level – the Open, for instance – nobody should be able to play in the 26-goal unless they have a handicap of at least two or three goals, and a high-goal committee has approved them to have the skill to play at that level and speed. At the moment, a patron can come in with enough money to hire two 10-goal players and a 6-goal player. People who do not have the horsemanship or playing skills should not be able to play at that level – it’s unsafe, if nothing else. Despite the fact that some of these patrons are paying a million dollars apiece for their top two pros, they shouldn’t be out there. But this is what’s supporting higher goal polo now – people with egos that pay to play. This culture denies polo any chance of securing a broad group of spectators that like to watch legitimate sport. Everybody is suspicious of the sport, like it’s fixed. They look at a game and say ‘why is that guy out there? What’s he doing?’ But polo can’t get over this hump, because of money. There needs to be some degree of professionalism to establish the top level as a legitimate sport. We do not do that. With the exception of Argentina in the Argentine
T H E U S PA H A S S O M A N Y G O V E R N O R S T H AT T H E Y A R G U E O V E R I S S U E S I N C E S S A N T LY AND NOBODY E VER MAKES A DECISION
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Open, our top level is filled with amateurs that should not be playing at that level. Nothing against amateurs – there used to be a lot of them at the top level, but the top ones all get paid now. This does not bode well for people starting teams, and bringing in good players to play in the high-goal tournaments. In the 2002 US Open, there were 15 teams in total and 13 of the American players were 6-goals and above, and we had to win seven games to win the tournament. That would break you in horses today. Back then you could hire the best pro for half a million; now it’s three million. Today we are having a tough time getting two teams into it because the expenses are astronomical. Under the tax rules, none of the teams can charge any of that off, so those of us who want to be legitimate and are paying the taxes are being punished, and are therefore not competing on a level playing field.
We are trying to get endorsements – we want to be known, we want to be seen on television so we can get big companies to come and endorse our teams and the USPA could get sponsors to come in. Then we’d have a chance to break even, or make a little money. We have no shot whatsoever with the way things are today, and nobody is doing anything about it. So we need to make polo legitimate and then sell it to the media? You’ve got to have a real sport – the rest will fall into place below that. You can still have pro-amateurs and less expensive tournaments that will work, but you’ve got to have the glitter at the top for the light to shine on the bottom. Kids want to become soccer players, not just because they like the sport – they want to be like the top players. They are drawn to it by watching the professionals. If you do not have the quality
at the centre of the sport, you’re not going to attract the grass roots. We have to look after the top, and that will bring the bottom along. If the top is getting skewed and the top is doing a lot of things wrong then the bottom is never going to develop anybody. The only thing that makes people want to play polo is watching good players, so we need to create a scene out there that gives young players a hunger to get involved. Look at all the horse sports you have now – show jumping, racing, rodeo, team penning. The horse-show people have done a much better job than the polo people; they have money coming in. IPC isn’t building a fan base for players; it’s a social scene now. With horse racing the owners and breeders of race horses went to congress and got a special bill passed –they said ‘this is a legitimate sport, we should be able to write it off’, and they passed a law. It all comes
This page: Sugar Erskine in action. Opposite: Julio Arellano taps the ball
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YO U C A N S T I L L H AV E P R O -A M AT E U R S , BU T YO U ’ V E GO T T O H AV E T HE G L I T T E R AT T H E T O P F O R T H E LIGHT TO SHINE ON THE BOTTOM
down to governing – having people that run the thing right, and run it with a strong hand. The problem is management. Unfortunately, the USPA is in terrible shape trying to do everything for everybody, so the current leadership is trying to shore up the association and put some teeth in it. Chip Campbell, the USPA’s chairman, is a smart guy. He will try to sort it out, but with so many pieces that need to be straightened out, I don’t know if anybody can save it. The only thing the USPA has going for it is that it has money coming in through selling merchandise. But it is used foolishly.
It’s spent in many directions rather than being funnelled into something that makes sense. I think the association should use that money to promote the sport and help it grow and prosper. It is not going to bring enough money into the sport to make it profitable to run a polo team, but it could, at least, bring in enough money to make a profit and cover some of the expenses. The problem is that the USPA is not willing to put up prize money for its tournaments* and we can’t get money from television. It has to be governed better. These are my thoughts, gathered from my experience. These problems in polo are
unique; they have been allowed to grow and fester for a long time, and we’ve got in the habit of doing things a certain way. It’s very difficult to change people, but somebody needs to solve the problems in an easy manner. The sport needs cleaning up. Sam Morton is the author of Where the Rivers Run North, Land of the Horse and, more recently, The Winged Spur about the fighting horsemen on the Scottish-English border. He has been writing about polo for 35 years. *Since this article was written, the USPA has announced $1m in prize money for the 2019 Triple Crown
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LEVELLING THE FIELD With nearly 800 female polo members registered with the Hurlingham Polo Association, women's polo is now the fastest-growing sector of the sport, as Theresa Harold discovers
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Right: Sunny Hale, who was often described as history's best female player, died last year of cancer
When women first started playing polo – back in the late 1880s – most were still riding sidesaddle. They wore restrictive clothing, and were expected to conform to the Victorian era’s unwritten codes of conduct. Fast-forward to the 1950s and 60s, and one of the most prominent figures in women’s polo, Sue Sally Hale, was pretending to be a man. For nearly 20 years, she would apply mascara to her lip as a fake moustache, wear oversized shirts and tuck her hair under her helmet to compete in polo tournaments. Years later, Hale revealed to the Los Angeles Times that ‘After a game, it was a kick to clean up for the parties and mingle unrecognised with the guys I’d just played on the field with’. Eventually, the United States Polo Association admitted Hale as its first female member in 1972. A true trailblazer to the end, she was 53 when she went on to win the first US Women’s Open in 1990 with her daughters Sunny and Stormie. As anyone with a foot in the polo world will know, Sunny (often described as history’s greatest female player) died at the age of 48 last year, due to complications from cancer. But the legacy that she left behind is inspiring, to say the least. Not only did Hale found the Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT) and help revive the US Women’s Open, she also won the 26-goal US Open in 2000 on a five-goal handicap rating – the highest handicap a woman has ever received among male players. ‘It is fantastic how far women have come in polo,’ remarked Hale in her final months. ‘In polo we have one of the most unique opportunities that women can play on an equal basis as men.’ In 2015, the HPA introduced a ladies’ handicap system to reduce the issue of compression. ‘Of the 765 female polo members registered with the HPA in the UK, only 20 have a handicap of one or above,
POLO IS A SPORT WHERE MEN AND W O M E N P L AY T O G E T H E R A S E Q U A L S A N D T H AT I S U N D I S P U T E D
32 36 Feature Women in PoloNALF.indd 33
which leads to huge variations between players rated the same,’ explains the HPA. The new system brings the English players in line with the ladies handicap system already established in America, Canada, Italy, France, Singapore and Argentina. The world’s foremost female player, Nina Clarkin, currently has the highest Hurlingham women’s handicap of 10. She says, ‘With the introduction of women’s handicaps, the sport has continued to flourish and enjoyed greater exposure and coverage, allowing it to develop and grow’. Under this new system, players retain their regular handicap but also hold
a specific handicap for playing in womenonly tournaments. This means more evenly matched games and more competitive women’s polo. ‘Polo is a sport where men and women play together as equals and that is undisputed,’ continues Clarkin. ‘We are rated together on the same handicap system and play together. However, the top male player has ten goals and the top female player historically had five goals. ‘This is due to the physiological differences between men and women: men are stronger and this is an obvious advantage for the sport. Women can play competitively
at any level, but we will never be as strong as the men. We have different strengths and I hope that there will be more young women playing to higher levels in the future. The joy of the [regular] handicap system means we can compete evenly with the men and enjoy this wonderful, unique sport.’ As a whole, women’s polo is rapidly gaining popularity around the world, with international ladies tournaments in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, America, Argentina and Australia. Lila Pearson is vice president of Cowdray Park Polo Club, the home of the British Ladies Polo Championship, which takes
Lila Pearson (second from left), vice president of Cowdray Park Polo Club with her team, Cowdray Vikings
CLIVE BENNETT; TONY RAMIREZ/IMAGESOFPOLO.COM
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place in July. A leading player herself, her team Cowdray Vikings has won the championship at Cowdray Park three times in the past four years. On the subject of women’s polo, Pearson is effusive. ‘I think the UK has done as much as any other country to encourage women to take up polo, especially through The Pony Club, where there is a level playing field for girls and boys,’ she says. ‘Most clubs now have a ladies tournament on their fixture list and I’m pleased to say that Cowdray Park Polo Club was at the forefront with the British Ladies Polo Championship, which is going from strength to strength.’ But why are we seeing such an increase in interest now? Maureen Brennan, founder of Virginia International Polo Club, puts it down to one woman. ‘In my opinion, the primary reason women’s polo has taken off in the past 10 to 12 years is Sunny Hale’s formation of the WCT. [It] began in the US, but is now found in several countries around the world. ‘The WCT provided a path where women could be involved in a year-long series of qualifying matches that made them eligible for the finals in Wellington during the US Open. […] It raised the level of the quality of women’s polo games and, in turn, the level of female players has improved across the board. Over the past few years, the WCT Finals (as well as qualifiers around the country) has had a junior invitational and now many of those juniors are playing in the regular WCT Finals. We are still waiting for our next Sunny, but I see a few prospects in our midst.’ Brennan goes on to cite other trends, such as individual players and women’s teams working with coaches, which indicates a higher level of organisation. ‘The UK and Argentina, over the past few years, have been developing genuine women’s seasons,’ she adds. ‘A season being a contiguous series of tournaments in a centralised location, allowing teams to stay together and practise together, which all leads towards improved teamwork, individual skills and higher quality strings, as well as a sense of working towards something. ‘And finally, there is real potential for women to have a professional career in
Right: Milagros Fernández Araujo won the first Women’s Open Polo Championship last December. Below: Hazel Jackson playing for the USA at Guards Polo Club in 2017
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women’s polo. There are women fully employed year-round as professionals and there are many more who want to follow in those footsteps. Another reason women’s polo has gained popularity is that many people find the more classic traditional style more enjoyable to play and watch; women’s games are very straightforward… up and down the field without much intentional stopping and slowing of the flow of play.’ Of course, increased popularity means a more distinguished breed of sponsors. Last year, Swarovski became the first exclusive partner of the England Ladies Polo Team, supporting them for the 2017 season in two international test matches against the USA: the Cirencester Ladies International in June and the Coronation Cup at Guards in July. It was the first time that an all-ladies team competed at the Coronation Cup – one of the biggest fixtures in the British polo calendar. And in June 2017, Nadja Swarovski presented the inaugural Most Outstanding Lady Player award to Hazel Jackson at the Polo Awards. ‘In general, corporate sponsors tend to gravitate towards high-goal and women’s polo,’ explains Brennan. ‘I believe they find women’s polo appealing for two reasons: it is more unique and there is a lot of buying power. Women tend to be the decision makers and make most of the household purchases.’ One of the things that almost all of the top female players have in common seems to be a polo ancestry. Aside from the illustrious Hales, there are the Cambiasos, the Clarkins and the Tomlinsons. When asked if a polo pedigree was necessary for a career in the sport, Milagros Fernández Araujo (who won the first ever Women’s Open Polo Championship in Palermo last December)
replies, ‘I’ve ridden horses since I was very young. At first, I didn’t like polo. When I was 11 years old, I started playing with my dad [the former 10-goal player and three-time Argentine Open champion, Milo Fernández Araujo] and my sister, and every time, I liked it more. As time went by we played more and more tournaments, and so we improved every time. ‘Although it is true that it is better to start as a child, I believe that if you fight for what you really want, with effort you can reach it,’ concludes Fernández Araujo. So why, when we hear the words “polo player” do we still think of the strapping, Argentine male stereotype? Well, it’s certainly true that the sport has historically
been dominated by men. And the top five players in the world are all from Argentina and carry a Y chromosome. But, according to the latest survey by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), women represent 74 per cent of the riding population. In 2015, there were an estimated 962,000 female regular riders compared with 348,000 males. At a time when gender equality is at the top of every sports governing body’s agenda (here’s looking at you, FIA Formula One) doesn’t it seem only right to celebrate a sport like polo? A sport where a woman can compete alongside and against a man, knowing that her worth is based solely on her skill, passion, and determination. Oh, and her ponies, of course.
T H E S P O R T H A S H I S T O R I C A L LY B E E N D O M I N AT E D B Y M E N B U T W O M E N R E P R E S E N T 74 P E R C E N T O F T H E R I D I N G P O P U L AT I O N
Nina Clarkin (below, right) currently has the highest women’s handicap of 10
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A G'DAY FOR POLO Nicholas Colquhoun-Denvers recalls the resounding success of the 11th FIP World Polo Championship, and pays tribute to the hospitality of the Australian polo community
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n 2015 the owners of Sydney Polo Club, Peter and Rebecca Higgins, enthused delegates at the FIP Annual General Assembly in Buenos Aires with a presentation about what might be on offer for a second Australian World Polo Championships. The pair were accompanied by Ian McDuie, representing the Australian Polo Federation, and supported by the Australian ambassador to Argentina, and there has been great anticipation in the world of polo since, as we waited to see if they could live up to the hype. Held every three years in different locations around the world, the FIP Championships are known for encouraging up-and-coming young players to compete for their country against other nations who have battled through to the finals in the five zone play-offs. For the 2017 edition, these had been held in France, Iran, Thailand, the US & Uruguay. FIP’s October 2017 event was to be the culmination of three years of planning and decision-making to showcase FIP, Australia, the impressive ponies and the stunning surroundings of Sydney Polo Club, located some 45 minutes from Sydney in the beautiful Richmond region on the banks of the Hawkesbury River. The event was also well supported by Tim Clarke, the president of the APF, and its partner Destination NSW, the state government tourism board. A week of excellent polo on the impressive polo grounds at Sydney Polo Club had been promised, and spectators were not disappointed. The NSW government declared the Championship an Event of Special Sporting Significance to overcome some of the minor planning problems. Over the six days, some 60,000 people came from all over Australia, as well as many other parts of the world, to enjoy the spectacle. From a social viewpoint all were well catered for, from the players and their support teams to followers and the general public, not to mention the young. Many of the local schools organised visits to the event for youngsters who had not seen anything like this before. There were
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shows, rodeos, jousting, art exhibitions, commercial outlets, live music, lessons, lectures and petting zoos. Children and adults alike were entertained, and suitably impressed with the variety of options. The quintessentially Australian brand RM Williams, together with the Outback Outfitters, stockists of all known riding gear, were in residence with a very swanky shop-cum-articulated truck. And the food and drink choices were plentiful too. The spring weather was perfect; it rained enough overnight to keep the grounds in excellent shape throughout the tournament and the sun shone each day. There were a lot of compliments on just how good the grounds were – perfect for both the teams and the spectators. The efficiency of the SPC organisation was extremely impressive from the moment guests arrived, with volunteers from all over Australia assisting with traffic direction, grooming and welcome guides. Naturally, the Australian polo community turned out in force to support the event, from an ebullient Sinclair
Hill, Australia’s only 10-goal player, who was there to watch his nephew play in the Australian team, to more recent international players such as Glen Gilmore, who made everyone smile with his wonderfully amusing commentary, ably supported by Ian McDuie and several others. However, for many of the visitors the most remarkable thing was the way the Australian polo community united in true antipodean style to ensure the success of the event through donating what has to be by far the best pony power ever provided for a World Championships. FIP had dispatched its senior horsemaster, Jose Lartirigoyen, some months previously, to organise the grading of the ponies on offer for the event. Traditionally, FIP grades them into A, B and C categories and each team is given a selection from each category to ensure fairness in mounting the teams. Jose confided that it was extremely difficult for him to find ponies to put into the C-category group. Working closely with the excellent Australian horsemasters Anto White,
Previous page: USA (in blue) versus Spain in a league game. This page: England’s Peter Webb (black helmet) between India’s Siddhant Sharma (blue helmet) and Padmanabh Singh Opposite, from top: Argentina’s Hector Guerrero (blue helmet) and Australia’s George Hill; Chile and Argentina in the final
W P C S Y D N E Y. C O M
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S O ME 210 P O NIE S H A D B EEN F R E E LY L E N T B Y O W N E R S F R O M ALL OVER AUSTRALIA
Jim Gilmore, Pat MacGuinley and several others, who had worked tirelessly to encourage owners to lend ponies, it still proved to be a mammoth task. Some 210 ponies had been freely lent by owners from all over Australia – some, such as those from Peter Prendiville, having been transported from Perth, around 4,000km away. FIP would like to thank the Australian polo community for their generosity and love of the sport. There were many well-known polo-playing names and families that came to support and generously lent ponies – too many to name but thanks go to all for having such overriding faith in the event. It is not an easy thing to allow beloved ponies to be played by unfamiliar riders, and it shows a generosity of spirit that can seldom be found outside the Australian polo world. There was one recipient who stated that even his best ponies at home were nowhere near as good as the C-grade pony he played in the tournament – accolade indeed to the lenders and what a fantastic compliment.
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The Australian love of polo and enthusiasm for sport in general was greatly evident. Abundantly clear too was the pride in their great sporting nation, and being able to share it with so many nationalities. Much love and dedication went into creating a truly memorable experience. For FIP it was, as always, a learning curve and each subsequent World Championship gets more professional in the way it is handled. Unfortunately, due to a local planning dispute, the organisers were deprived of the luxury of time to market the commercial side of the event as fully as they had hoped. Very few commercial sponsors are willing to invest in an event such as this when the planning permission comes so late in the day. That said, one has to congratulate the Higgins family (owners of the Sydney Polo Club), Tim Clarke and the APF, and the NSW, Queensland, South Australian, Victorian and Western Australian Polo Associations for their tenacity and determination in ensuring that the event was such an outstanding success. Few, if any, who attended will ever forget the XI FIP World Polo Championship.
M U C H L O V E A N D D E D I C AT I O N W E N T I N T O C R E AT I N G A T R U LY MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE
W P C S Y D N E Y. C O M
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ALEX WEBBE REPORTS ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP The 11th edition of the FIP World Polo Championship was a blend of old and new as teams vied for top honours in the coordinated 14-goal international polo competition. Earning their place in the field through regional competition, eight teams qualified to play for the World Championship title at Sydney Polo Club in Australia. Returning to defend their 2015 title was a realigned team from Chile, with Argentina arriving as a pre-tournament favourite. The United States were expected to make a strong showing after their final appearance in the 10th FIP World Championship in Chile in 2015 and England could always be counted on to be well represented. Spain, India, New Zealand and the host country, Australia, joined the top four pre-tournament favourites. Argentina had two years to stew about their fifth-place finish in the 2015 World Championship in Chile – not terribly impressive in a field of just six
teams from a country known worldwide as the top polo-playing country in the world – and appeared to be ready to redeem themselves in Australia. Argentina got off on the right foot by dashing the hopes of a highly-touted USA entry 12–9½ on the first day of competition. They followed up with wins over Spain, 12–3½, and Australia, 9–5½, for a perfect 3–0 record and a berth in the final. Chile recorded wins over New Zealand, 9–2, and India, 11–2, before losing to England, 8–5. Chile only made it into the final on the strength of an English loss. The highlight of the tournament had to be when the title game between Argentina and Chile and the match for third place between England and the USA both went into sudden-death extra time. For Argentina, it was a winning goal from Lucio Fernández Ocampo that gave them their third World Championship title. For England, a penalty conversion in overtime by Peter Webb gave them a 6–5 win over the USA and a third-place finish.
Opposite, from top: The USA’s Kenneth Wright with a textbook backhand; Argentina’s Lucio Fernandez Ocampo (green helmet) rides off Chile’s José Miguel Pereira (black helmet). This page: Champions Argentina celebrate their third World Championship title
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Heart of Gold Sam Morton pays tribute to Steve Orthwein, one of the most generous and passionate figures in the sport, whose energy, tenacity and grit will continue to inspire players of all ages around the world
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Opposite: Steve Orthwein at Palm Beach Polo, 1981. This page, from top: Stephen riding Grey Shadow at Oakbrook in the late 60s; Steve and Stevie Jr at Palm Beach Polo, 1982
MUSEUM OF POLO
here are many facets to Stevie Orthwein: family man, businessman, volunteer and philanthropist, he contributed to almost every aspect of polo. From serving as chairman of the United States Polo Association to being a committee member of various polo organisations, he was the most passionately industrious sponsor and player the game has ever known. Indeed, as a promoter of polo, Stevie was unequalled in the sport. He served on rules committees, organised more than a dozen polo venues nationally and internationally, and was a prime force behind the National Hall of Fame, Collegiate Polo and Youth Polo. What’s more, he brought back the once famous Westchester Cup between England and the US, and when the old boots and saddles club Gulfstream Polo was sold to developers, Stevie used his own money to recreate it on the shores of Lake Okeechobee, Florida, naming the
club Port Mayaca. The club flourishes as a medium- and low-goal venue, succeeding Gulfstream Polo Club with a family-oriented, sponsor-friendly atmosphere. Stevie was famous for playing polo on a shoestring, meaning there was nothing fancy about his tack, rigs or organisation, but he was the most generous and hospitable person you would ever come across in the sport. As a student at Yale University he won national back-to-back collegiate indoor championships, which started a career that went on to span 50 years, and more than half a dozen countries. At six goals he was the top amateur player during that time and he played in every venue, from Pakistan to Palm Beach Polo and Gulfstream. His father Dolph was one of the original shareholding families of the old Gulfstream Polo Club, where players, grooms, owners and pros were all one happy family. At Gulfstream, Stevie was among the last of the hard riding amateur athletes featuring playing families including Armour, Bostwick, Johnston, Butterworth, Armstrong and Kraml. He competed in the US Open, won the National 16-goal, and facilitated the careers of several up-and-coming players such as Hamish Bray, James Armstrong and JJ Celis, to name a few. A true gentleman to play with or against, he played hard on horses that he raised and trained at his home base in St Louis, Missouri, and, to his delight, he was able to play on teams alongside two of his sons, Robert and Stevie Jr, in tournaments later in his life.
T H E M O S T PA S S I O N AT E LY I N D U S T R I O U S S P O N S O R A N D P L AY E R THE GAME HAS E VER KNOWN
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As far as St Louis went, Stevie was St Louis Polo, spreading his energy throughout the city to unite players and offer hospitality to newcomers. I was one of many people who received Stevie’s generosity when passing through St Louis with horses. The Orthwein’s polo field in the suburb of Huntleigh is one of the most pristine facilities in the US – a deck built into a hillside that overlooks a field surrounded by hardwoods. For viewing a polo match, it rivals any setting in the United States. What impressed me most about Stevie was his ability and passion as a horseman. During a cold rainy spring season, I was travelling through St Louis with six horses and was staying over for the night. Stevie had come home from the office and was riding his young horses. I’d like to remember that he was riding in business pants and loafers. Maybe he had boots on, but he was definitely wearing business pants. What made this unusual was not only his attire, but what he was riding. They were nice young homebred thoroughbreds, but that day they resembled something like a cross between a bobcat and
a razorback hog. I’m not talking about their build or pedigree, but their demeanour. Most people in polo would never throw a leg over something so wild. Not only was Stevie riding in business clothes on a cold windy day, he had to navigate these colts from the barn up a narrow strip of land that was between a paved road and a steep hill down to the polo field – all this to reach a muddy outdoor area. Most horse trainers I know would neither have the gumption nor the savvy to pull this off, but up the road came Stevie – step,
W H AT I M P R E S S E D M E M O S T ABOUT STE VIE WAS HIS ABILIT Y AND PASSION AS A HORSEMAN
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balk, kick, jump on the road, off the road, stop, jump ahead. These were the type of horses that most people in polo have never ridden. Not racetrack broke, but young thoroughbreds that had minimal halter breaking or handling, and if they had more than 10 rides on them in their life I would be surprised. Stevie was middle-aged then, and when I asked him why he didn’t get someone to put some miles on them until they lined out, he told me he enjoyed it, and that afternoon in the cold windy rain he rode at least four more of them. That, more than anything, was what impressed me about the man’s energy and passion for horses. He was as tough as they come and knew horses from the ground up, and he could play horses that other players could not, because he was such a strong rider. If he hit the ground, he would shake it off, get back on and continue in that same wide-open style that he was known for. I’ve known saddle bronc riders and college football players that would be envious of how tough Stevie was. In addition to homebred horses, he bought horses from the sale ring that other people gave up on and trained them to become useful polo ponies. At the height of it, Stevie owned between 100 and 150 horses.
Opposite, from left: Alan Scherer, Taio Novillo Astrada, Bill Ylvisaker, twin brothers Peter and Steve. This page, left: Steve and Stevie Jr umpiring on a horse called Nipper in 1992. Below: The Orthwein family at Hall of Fame 2011, from left, Stevie Jr, Ginny, Danny, Steve and Robert
MUSEUM OF POLO
After a fall on a horse last year, he was confined to a wheelchair, but it didn’t prevent him from staying in the game. A devout fan of the sport and a proud father to the last, he enjoyed watching his sons’ games and the horses that he had raised over the years. This March, I inquired about Stevie, who had recently been hospitalised and Ginny, his wife, pointed to the field speaker where she had put her phone with an open line to the hospital so he could listen to the commentary of his son Stevie Jr’s game. He passed away at home in his sleep on 11 March. Appropriately, the celebration of Stephen August Orthwein’s life was in the facility in which he was enshrined, and on Saturday 17 March, several hundred flooded into the National Polo Hall of Fame to say goodbye to a kind-hearted soul with a huge engine that gave so much to the sport of polo. To his wife Ginny, his sons Stevie Jr, Robert, Danny and Peter, and the rest of his family, my deepest condolences. Sam Morton is an author of three books on horsemen; The Winged Spur, Land of the Horse and Where the Rivers Run North
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What about playing polo in Switzerland ?
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Facundo Pieres (left) and Adolfo Cambiaso in the final of the Argentine Open
THE ACTION TONY RAMIREZ/IMAGESOFPOLO.COM
5 0 _T H E T R I P L E C R O W N Closely fought action decided the Tortugas Open, the Hurlingham Open and the Argentine Polo Open Championships, with Adolfo Cambiaso on particularly fine form 54_APPL 40-GOAL The best players in the world gathered to play by APPL rules, resulting in fast, exciting and competitive polo 5 6 _T H A I P O L O C U P A R G E N T I N A The charity competition of 16 teams competing at a 14-goal level culminated
in a thrilling final that kept everyone guessing until the end 58_WOMEN’S OPEN The world’s top female players, including 10-goaler Nina Clarkin, put on a spectacular show at the world-first competition in the Cathedral of Polo, Palermo 5 9 _T H A I P O L O O P E N Six 12-goal teams battled it out in Southeast Asia’s most prestigious tournament, in the most competitive edition of the event to date
60_SNOW POLO MOSCOW Players and spectators braved the icy conditions to enjoy some stiff competition and Russian hospitality 62_FLORIDA 26-GOAL Fans were treated to the spectacle of top players Facundo Pieres and Adolfo Cambiaso playing as teammates in Florida 64_IPC 20-GOAL Six different teams appeared in the three tournament finals of the season, indicating the even quality of the 20-goal sides
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THE TRIPLE CROWN The Tortugas Open, the Hurlingham Open and the Argentine Open Polo Championship were all decided by hard-fought matches, says Hector Martelli
There were several remarkable changes this year. It’s been the first Triple Crown held under the new board of directors of the AAP, led by the professional player Eduardo Novillo Astrada Jr. The other big news is that the Hurlingham Open and the Argentine Open featured two more teams – the four who were to play the classification joined the six highest-rated teams to make it 10. As a result, a new ranking was established for the two most important competitions that would award points
for the 2018 season. In addition, a new set of rules was applied, aimed at creating more dynamic polo and limiting dead time to make it more attractive to spectators. Also, discipline improved significantly, due to more strict measures, with important cooperation from the players. The opening tournament at the Tortugas Country Club had to be delayed because of the heavy rain, but fortunately play commenced on ground number one at Palermo, thanks to the Argentine Polo
Association, so the championship game was played in due time. La Dolfina and Ellerstina met in the final – business as usual. La Dolfina had no trouble at all winning their two previous matches, while Ellerstina earned their spot in the championship game following a hard-fought win against Alegría. Cambiaso’s team overwhelmed Ellerstina, to win by an impressive 12–5 score. The second leg of the Triple Crown is the Hurlingham Open, for the legendary
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Ayrshire Cup. The tournament featured 10 teams, broken down into two leagues. We should remember that four of those teams are rated between 32 and 40 goals (La Dolfina, Ellerstina, Alegría and La Aguada), while the remaining six foursomes go from 29 to 31 goals (Cría Yatay, La Irenita, Chapaleufú, La Albertina, La Esquina and La Dolfina II). Of the 20 games played during the qualifying stage, seven ended by a single goal, and three were decided in the last chukka. As a result, the qualifying stage
was very interesting, despite the fact that the highest-rated teams always won easily. However, with the exception of the final, the best matches were the two league deciders, in the clash of the undefeated. In the first, Ellerstina had to fight hard until the last second of play to defeat a brilliant La Aguada by a single goal. But the biggest surprise would come in the second league decider. Alegría displayed their best polo to beat the dream team, La Dolfina, by a close 10–9. We should remember that La Dolfina
holds the unique record of winning the most matches over the past decade. They have played in all the finals of the Triple Crown since 2010. In addition, this is the first time they haven’t reached a final with the current line-up (Cambiaso, Stirling, Mac Donough and Nero), who hold a 69–5 record. The championship match of the 124th Hurlingham Open was definitely one to remember. The first half belonged to Alegría, who managed to take a four goal lead; they dominated the scoreboard from the first
Opposite: La Dolfina take the trophy at the Argentine Open; This page: Juan Martin Nero (left) confronts Polito Pieres in the Tortugas Open at Palermo
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Right: Hilario Ulloa (left) out of the saddle in the Hurlingham Open Final against Polito Pieres Below: Gonzalito Pieres (left) hooks Inaki Laprida of Cria Yatay in the Argentine Open
T H E S E A R E T H E 10 H I G H E S T- R AT E D TEAMS IN THE WORLD. NO OTHER COMPETITION REACHES SUCH A LEVEL
final. There’s not much to say about these games; only a bunch of them showcased the so-called best polo in the world. It’s a level of excellence, because these are the 10 highest-rated teams in the world, in line-ups comprising players between 6 and 10 goals. No other competition reaches such a level. To be very analytical and strict, the only good matches were held within League B: Ellerstina vs Cría Yatay, and the league decider, Ellerstina vs Alegría. Both were great matches that featured fast polo, several good goals and a very close score. There were a couple of other good matches, but more because of the balanced scores than the overall play. The rest weren’t good enough. Meanwhile, La Dolfina overwhelmed all their rivals. They scored a total of 84 goals and received only 17 in four games. They played the polo everybody expects from a first-class
chukka until halfway through the fifth chukka, based on high speed and powerful plays, overwhelming a somewhat confused Ellerstina. But halfway in the fifth chukka (Facundo Pieres suffered a heavy fall, fortunately with no serious consequences; he had to leave the match and was replaced by Lucas James), the confusion was Alegría’s: the Pieres played brilliantly, a great comeback that secured them the 16–14 win. Finally, the icing on the cake: the most awaited polo competition in the world arrived: the 124th Argentine Open Polo Championship, that also showcased 10 teams between 29 and 40 goals, broken down into two leagues, led by the title holders, La Dolfina, and Ellerstina. It’s worth noting that Adolfo Cambiaso played his 25th Open. He also reached 100 matches and scored his 900th goal. This fantastic player keeps breaking records. With regards to the competition, the tournament had 10 qualifying games and the
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team – always focused, at high speed, never missing a play, not to mention a perfect combination within the positions. Based on the same parameters, Ellerstina scored 61 goals and received 37. The third team, Alegría, scored 63 goals and received 48. As usual, the most important teams, La Dolfina and Ellerstina, met in the championship match. La Dolfina had no trouble at all defeating all their opponents within an easy league, while Ellerstina had to fight really hard in two games. But the finals are another story, and this was no exception. Ellerstina dominated the first chukka and a half, with attitude, speed and strength in the marks. Polito Pieres was very focused, and played like he used to in his Alegría days back in 2013. In addition, Facundo Pieres showcased a more aggressive version of
himself. So, it was no surprise that the Z boys took a 4–1 lead. La Dolfina seemed nervous, confused, under a lot of pressure, and weak in stick-and-ball. That was until they started to play their game, balanced the scores and took advantage of many mistakes from their rivals. The match was very balanced until the fifth chukka, when La Dolfina retained the ball under Cambiaso’s leadership. On their side, Ellerstina’s performance declined; as a result, La Dolfina widened their advantage, always with Cambiaso leading the charge. They had a three-goal advantage by the start of the last chukka, quite a strange gap in a very close game. But suddenly, a determined Ellerstina made a remarkable comeback, tied the game and forced an extra chukka. The Pieres missed an opportunity to win in that extra chukka through a run by
Gonzalito. La Dolfina replied quickly – Cambiaso picked the ball and passed it to Nero, who scored the winning goal to seal their fifth consecutive Argentine Open. I will finish this article as I did in 2016. La Dolfina remains on top of this imaginary 10-step ladder. Ellerstina stepped up to ninth place. Alegría (who broke up for 2018) would have stepped up two to stay in eighth position. La Aguada is in sixth place, and the rest are all below the fifth place. Last but not least, it should be considered that 2017 world polo was dominated by two players: Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres. Cambiaso played for winning sides in the US Open, Queen’s Cup, Tortugas and Argentine Opens, and Pieres did so in the UK Gold Cup, the Sotogrande Gold Cup and the Hurlingham Open.
Juan Martin Nero was named MVP at Palermo
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ACTION APPL 40-GOAL MATCH, PILAR CHICO POLO CLUB, ARGENTINA, NOVEMBER 2017
ALL PRO POLO LEAGUE November saw a fast and exciting 40-goal exhibition match featuring the best players in the world following APPL rules, writes Carolina Beresford
While change is on the lips of many in the polo community, it is only the action that speaks volumes. Javier Tanoira’s All Pro Polo League is one of the few entities that really works to benefit polo as a whole. The aim: to create a dynamic spectator sport free from the economic constraints that plague polo today. The method: modernising the rules to increase speed and decrease costs. This past year has seen the APPL host tournaments and exhibitions around the
world, spreading its ethos over America and Europe. The simplification of the rules proposed by the league caught the attention of the Argentine Association of Polo (AAP), and many of the rule changes seen in the 2017 Argentine Triple Crown stem from the APPL. But real validation came in November, when the best players in the world gathered at Pilar Chico Polo Club in Argentina to play a historic 40-goal match with APPL rules. ‘The players have realised that the only way
to transform polo into a spectator sport is to get good players to play among themselves,’ says Tanoira. ‘All eight 10-goal players have agreed to be a part of the APPL. They see the potential it has, and that is the most important thing.’ The exhibition saw Pampas – Adolfo Cambiaso, Hilario Ulloa, Pablo Mac Donough and Nico Pieres – take on Eagles – Juan-Martín Nero, David ‘Pelón’ Stirling, Gonzalo Pieres and Polito Pieres. Facundo Pieres, although injured and unable to play
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Opposite: The eight 10-goal players agreed to be a part of the APPL, including Facundo Pieres This page: Nico (in white) chases his cousin Polito Pieres
THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF A NEW ERA. ALL THE P L AY E R S A G R E E T H AT I T HAS A BRIGHT FUTURE
(after his spectacular fall in the Hurlingham Open final), watched the match avidly from the pony lines. All eight high-goalers played competitive, open polo. The match was fast, exciting and included a golden goal by Cambiaso in extra time. ‘We had fun, and it is always positive to come and play,’ said La Dolfina’s number one, who recently played his 100th match in his 25th Argentine Open. ‘This is an initiative put together by Javier that is working to bring about change in polo. I think it would be good to do a full tournament, so we can get a better understanding of the
positives and what needs more work. This has already made an impact in the Triple Crown, where we no longer use throw-ins when the ball goes over the boards. That in itself is a big step.’ Alegria frontman Hilario Ulloa also voiced his opinion: ‘The APPL was fun to play. I think the initiative is great, and I like that it promotes dynamic, open polo. There are many things that can be taken from this. It is a step in the right direction, and we can see the positive effect it has had so far in the Argentine high-goal.’ The objective of the match was to show the polo world what our
sport could look like. No chaos, no foul play, no shouting – just speed and skill. And it worked. ‘They interpreted the concept perfectly, playing fast, open polo, and never letting the rhythm of the game drop,’ says Tanoira. ‘I think this is the beginning of a new era. All the players agree that it has a bright future. We hope to work with them more often and invite them to be a part of the APPL. This continues to be an open project, meaning that everyone with ideas or suggestions is welcome – from players and clubs to teams and organisations. We want to get everyone in the polo world involved.’
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ACTION THAI POLO CUP ARGENTINA, THAI POLO CLUB, PILAR, NOVEMBER 2017
A gripping and closely fought final capped off a fantastic competition in the name of a good cause, writes Carolina Beresford
M AT T I A S C A L L E J O
THAI POLO CUP ARGENTINA hurlinghampolo.com
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Harald Link’s Thai Polo Cup Argentina lit up the season once again with competitive polo, charity matches, dance shows and fireworks. The tournament, which was first played in 2014 with six teams, has now grown to include 16 teams competing at a 14-goal level. The Cup has made a name for itself as the most important patron-based tournament of the Argentine season. However, the attention to detail off the field is the competition’s most notable aspect. Last year, an exhibition match in aid of Centro de Vida, a non-profit organisation that provides treatment for those suffering from drug addiction, took place before the main final. Ten-goalers Gonzalo and Nicolas Pieres, Pablo Mac Donough and Juan Martín
T H E M AT C H WA S E V E N A N D E XC I T I N G A N D K E P T T H E S P E C TAT O R S O N T H E I R T O E S Nero took turns playing with several patrons, such as Harald Link, Ernesto Gutiérrez, Ricardo Jara and Adriano Agosti. Up next was the Thai Polo Cup Argentina final between Real Time and Altamira. The match was even and exciting, and kept the spectators on their toes. In the end, Ricardo Jara’s Real Time claimed the win. ‘This is the first time we are playing the tournament,’ says Chilean patron Jara. ‘The team is made up of a group of friends who wanted to come and
have fun, even though everyone wants to win. We worked hard on every game. The organisation has been fantastic – superior to anything I’ve seen before.’ ‘We are very happy, and want to thank Harald for such a great tournament,’ said Real Time’s Matías Vial. ‘I have been following the tournament for a while, and I wanted to see how everything worked. The fields were great, as was the organisation, and everyone had a good time.’
Opposite: Winning team Real Time. This page: Altamira’s Mariano Aguirre Paz and Real Time’s Manuel Crespo in the final of the Thai Polo Cup Argentina 57
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ACTION ALFREDO LALOR DE PILAR HEADQUARTERS, PALERMO, ARGENTINA, NOVEMBER 2017
WOMEN’S OPEN The best female players from around the world flocked to Argentina to take part in the first women’s competition of its kind, writes Carolina Beresford
paper, Ellerstina were the favourites, with a team handicap of 30 over Brava’s 27. But La Dolfina Brava, captained by the only 10-goal female player in history, Nina Clarkin, fought tooth and nail to dominate the game. After two tight chukkas, La Dolfina Brava pulled away, going one-up in the third (4–3). Mía Cambiaso, and sisters Milagros and Candelaria Fernández Araujo, kept their momentum over the next two chukkas (5–3, 6–3), but it came crashing down in the sixth. Ellerstina’s Hazel Jackson and Sarah Wiseman managed to control their opponents and win back possession. Three quick goals by Lía Salvo gave Ellerstina the tie just as the
Lía Salvo (in black) on the ball pursued by Nina Clarkin (right)
final bell rang. Extra chukka: no one could quite believe the comeback Jackson, Salvo, Wiseman and Clara Cassino had pulled off. The stands roared as the players came back out onto the field for the last. The chukka gained intensity by the minute, until Clarkin won a foul to get a 30-yard penalty. As cool as ever, the British player scored to give La Dolfina Brava the first Women’s Open Championship title.
Last year saw the rise of women across all spheres of the professional and sporting world, and polo was not exempt from this revolution. Our sport finally gave women a place in the Cathedral of Polo: Palermo. The first Women’s Open Championship saw six teams from 23–30 goals (women’s handicaps) compete for the most prestigious title in female polo. With the Ellerstina organisation backing one team, and La Dolfina supporting three others, the championship promised to show a side of women’s polo few had seen before. After several intense matches, La Dolfina Brava and Ellerstina qualified for the final. On
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ACTION T H A I P O L O O P E N , T H A I P O L O & E Q U E S T R I A N C L U B , P A T T A Y A , T H A I L A N D , J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 8
HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana (left) and Colonel Vithai Laithomya
THAI POLO OPEN
The contest displayed the beauty and competitiveness of polo, and ended with a bang – and a few cocktails, says Carolina Beresford
The most prestigious polo tournament in Southeast Asia, the Thai Polo Open, saw six 12-goal teams, from Thailand, Malaysia and China, battle it out for the title at Thai Polo & Equestrian Club in Pattaya, Thailand. The edition was the most competitive to date, with many high-goal players fighting for their teams, and a penalty shootout necessary to set the semi-finals. Surprisingly, 2016 winners 22BR and locals Thai Polo failed to qualify for the semis. After beating Winson Rao’s Fast Fish, Brian Xu’s team Axus, captained by Dario Musso, qualified for the final undefeated. Malaysian team Royal Pahang managed to
conquer La Familia and reach the last match with one loss, suffered against Axus. Royal Pahang, formed of HH Tengku Muhammad, HH Tengku Amir Nasser and Argentine professionals Tomás Gandara and Tomás Fernández Llorente, were not in a position to repeat their mistakes. They came out with full force in the final, gaining a 4–1.5 advantage over Axus by halftime. MVP Gandara and 7-goal Fernández Llorente complemented each other perfectly, as Royal Pahang continued to dominate the play and increased their lead in the fourth. Axus made a slight comeback in the fifth and final chukka, but it was too late: Royal Pahang
claimed the 6–4.5 win and a new Thai Polo Open champion was crowned. The Subsidiary Final also added to the excitement of the day, as Dato’ Mohamed Moiz’s La Familia left no doubt that they were the superior team, beating Fast Fish by four goals and securing third place. In usual Thai Polo fashion, the Open not only highlighted the beauty of the sport, but also gave spectators a delicious offering of dishes from around the world. Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana of Thailand was among the guests who enjoyed the post-match cocktail party hosted by Thai Polo owners Harald Link and Nunthinee Tanner.
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ACTION MOSCOW SNOW POLO SEASON, MOSCOW POLO CLUB, FEBRUARY 2018
SNOW POLO MOSCOW A warm reception and some fiery play broke the ice at Moscow Polo Club, writes Olivia Mehm
Simon Luginbuhl at the back, Robert Mehm in the middle, and Mani Radjai in the forward position – take on Team Russia led by Boris Asoev. Despite the cold, Team Switzerland catch fire as Luginbuhl scores some crafty goals, and the Swiss come from behind in the second half to clinch the win. We admire the ponies as they gracefully speed, twist, stop and pirouette on the snow. Russian players increasingly ride Akhal-teke horses, a 3,000-year-old breed from the former Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan. An early thoroughbred descendant, the breed is naturally athletic, handsome and tough. Alexander the Great famously conquered
Ancient Persia on an Akhal-teke. Today, the Akhal-teke ride into battle beneath Russian polo warriors. The final match takes on a fast-paced, open passing style of play, as the Swiss play Moscow Polo Club, led by Alexis Rodzianko and his son, Misha, Russia’s highesthandicapped player (3). Misha Rodzianko scores several beautiful goals from long range, assisted by his father. As the fifth chukka commences, Simon Luginbuhl and Robert Mehm find the uprights for the Swiss, and teammate Mani Radjai breaks the ice with a 40-yard drive. Team Switzerland was heading to the winner’s podium.
There might have been a record low of six minutes of daylight in Moscow in December, but when January arrived, the darkness was replaced by a steely blue sky, and the Moscow Polo Club’s annual snow polo season was in full swing. This weekend featured Team Switzerland from Veytay Polo Club Geneva versus two Moscow teams. Being an irresponsible imminent University graduate, I boarded the red-eye flight from New York to discover the splendour of Moscow and to chronicle the matches. The impressive Siberian chill is quickly thawed upon entering the Moscow Polo Club’s igloo-like, field-side tent, the warmth inside fuelled by furred Muscovite spectators, Russian borscht soup, a caviar bar and a DJ. The excitement for the match builds, and with extreme outdoor temperatures, players resort to the local anti-freeze secret – vodka – generously provided by sponsors. Alexis Rodzianko, Moscow Polo Club founder, kindly educates me on Russian polo. His great-great-great-uncle, Colonel Paul Rodzianko, pioneered polo in St Petersburg, circa 1890. Polo was a military affair for the Russian Cavalry, until the First World War. In 2003, after a 113-year hiatus, the Rodzianko family established Moscow Polo Club. Unlike ski resorts that stage snow polo over one long weekend, the Moscow season runs all winter and hosts international teams on weekends. The club prepares a superb snow pitch with a 30cm-deep base with an extremely compact and resistant surface having the consistency of sticky sand – perfect for the roll of a leather polo ball. The clock strikes noon and it’s match time. Team Switzerland – represented by
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Opposite, from left: Alexis Rodzianko, Boris Asoev, Misha Rodzianko, Gleb Fetisov. This page, from left: Mani Radjai, Simon Luginbühl, Alexander Patyutko
The event moves into the igloo tent for prize giving, more ‘anti-freeze’, and dancing. Top scorer for the day is Simon Luginbuhl, and Robert Mehm takes the MVP honours for the Swiss (go Pops!). Best Playing Pony is Azteca, an impressive mare owned by Alexandra Rodzianko. On Saturday, Moscow Polo Club hosted a lavish Polo Banquet at the world famous Hotel Metropol, of bestseller A Gentleman in Moscow (a must read). Sadly, I was on the return flight to New York, tucked into my new fur Chapka hat, and glowing thanks to my exhilarating Moscow Snow Polo assignment.
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ACTION 2 6 - G O A L C V W H I T N E Y C U P A N D B U T L E R C U P, F LO R I D A , F E B R U A RY- M A R C H 2 0 1 8
26-GOAL FLORIDA CUPS The deadly combination of Facundo Pieres and Adolfo Cambiaso proved successful in Florida, writes PoloChannel’s Darlene Ricker
The first two 26-goal tournaments of the 2018 high-goal season at International Polo Club Palm Beach put Valiente’s ‘Cambieres’ experiment – the 20-goal combo of Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres – to a successful test. Valiente took both titles over Colorado: the CV Whitney Cup (9–4) and the Butler Handicap (11–8). The finalists in both tournaments were Jornayvaz teams. In the Butler, Bob Jornayvaz played for Valiente, and his son Robert for Colorado. The two swapped jerseys for the CV Whitney, with Bob switching onto the team
Robert created last summer for the inaugural 20-goal Colorado Open in Denver (which also ended with a Valiente victory over Colorado). The 2018 season marked Colorado’s first foray into 26-goal play. Both tournaments were singleelimination among four teams, with the opening games the virtual semi-finals. In the Butler semis, Valiente defeated Grand Champions Polo Club 9–6, and Colorado took Daily Racing Form/DRF Bets 14–11. In the CV Whitney semis it was Valiente over Daily Racing Form (13–10) and Colorado over
Grand Champions (14–13). Valiente only had time for two team practices before their first game in the CV Whitney. On 23 February, long-standing arch-rivals Cambiaso and Pieres rode onto the Valiente practice field for the first time ever as teammates in the United States (they represented Argentina together twice in the Nations Cup). Five days later, the pair made their debut in the 26-goal season. Meanwhile, Pieres was still playing for Pilot, a new team in the 20-goal series. He dashed back and forth between teams and tournaments from start to finish of the CV
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Whitney and the Butler Handicap. He didn’t get a breather for two solid weeks until Pilot won the Iglehart final on 15 March. The USPA Gold Cup opened the next day. Pilot reconfigured their 20-goal roster for the rest of the season so Pieres could focus on the Gold Cup and the US Open. The Cambieres experiment turned out to be a lethal combination and a more amicable pairing than one might have imagined, given their history as fierce opponents. In their first 26-goal game together (CV Whitney), Cambiaso seemed content to let Pieres shine. High scorer on the day, Pieres made 10 goals and Cambiaso one. Their spread narrowed after that, but Pieres continued to outscore Cambiaso (6–5 in the Butler final and 5–2 in the CV Whitney final) and took the majority of the penalty shots. Did Pieres find any surprises playing with Cambiaso? ‘No, no surprises,’ he said. ‘I know how he plays.’ Cambiaso said: ‘It was easy for [Pieres] to adapt to our team. We’ve been continually working on a system that makes us play a bit better every day.’ Combined with the Pieres string, which included several horses from the Argentine Open, Valiente’s horsepower made them unstoppable. Pieres played several J5 horses,
CAMBIASO AND PIERES RODE ONTO T HE VA LIEN T E PR AC T ICE FIELD FOR T H E F I R S T T I M E E V E R A S T E A M M AT E S
Opposite: Robert Jornayvaz (yellow) with the world’s two top players in the Butler Handicap; This page, from top: Robert (left) and Bob (right) Jornayvaz; Airborne, Facundo Pieres hooks Magoo Laprida at CV Whitney
among them Kenga and Romana, and Cambiaso’s Lufthansa. Cambieres swept the awards in both tournaments. Pieres was Most Valuable Player in the CV Whitney and Cambiaso in the Butler. Best Playing Pony went to Tanita (Butler) and Mentolada (CV Whitney), both J5 Equestrian horses played by Cambiaso. Tanita, a seven-year-old mare, had never played at the 26-goal level, but she did so well in the 20 that Cambiaso decided to put her in. Bob Jornayvaz was effervescent about Valiente’s performance in the CV Whitney and Butler cups. ‘People got to see the best polo ever,’ he said. ‘It was played the way the sport should be: open, flat-out and clean. Some chukkas had no fouls by either team. The way Adolfo and Facundo played together was just amazing. I hope people enjoyed watching as much as we did playing.’
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ACTION IPC 20-GOAL, INTERNATIONAL POLO CLUB, WELLINGTON, MARCH 2018
IPC 20-GOAL The 20-goal season in Wellington was up for grabs, says Alex Webbe
Nothing could be more conclusive regarding the parity of the 20-goal teams competing at the International Polo Club in Wellington than having six different teams appearing in the three tournament finals. A field of familiar names and faces were peppered with a bevy of young, talented players whose handicaps belied their performances on the playing field. Jared Zenni’s (Modere and Carillon) meteoric rise to a 5-goal rating was a bright spot for his team this year, as was the
appearance of 18-year-old Peke Gonzalez (son of 7-goaler Mariano and grandson of former 10-goaler Daniel Gonzalez) in the Goose Creek line-up, but the teams weren’t without their veteran players. Former 10-goalers Mariano Aguerre (Postage Stamp Farm), Mike Azzaro (Grand Champions), Matias Magrini (GSA) and Sebastian Merlos (Travieso) balanced the experience gap. Jeff Hildebrand’s Tonkawa team fused together with Sapo Caset carrying the heavy water for the team with a talented Julian
de Lusarreta at back and 24-year-old Sterling Giannico at number 2 in the season-opening Joe Barry Memorial Cup. Tonkawa edged Grand Champions in their first match of the tournament before galloping past Coca-Cola and Travieso. Tonkawa trashed La Indiana in semi-final action, setting the stage for the final. Tonkawa jumped out to a 6-2 halftime lead, but a Modere rally tied the game at 9-9 to end the fifth. Tonkawa outscored Modere 3-0 in the sixth for the 12-9 win.
Jared Zenni turns the ball on the nearside in the final of the Joe Barry
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From top: Mariano Gonzalez’s BPP Macarena in the Ylvisaker final; Timmy Dutta (in black) ahead of Jeff Hall in the Igelhart final
Caset earned MVP honors, with Hilario Ulloa’s La Vina Castellana named Best Playing Pony. CAMBIASO LEADS VALIENTE TO Y LV I S A K E R C U P T I T L E Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Adolfo Cambiaso, Santi Torres and Bautista Panelo) joined 12 more teams for the second 20-goal tournament of the season, the Ylvisaker Cup. The Pilot team with brothers Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres, opened the competition with a 13-11 win over Audi, before going ﬂat. A loss in the quarterfinals knocked them out of the competition. Henry Porter, who appeared on the English team in last autumn’s FIP World Championships, made in impressive debut, with his GSA entry in spite of opening losses to Tonkawa, 12-7, and Valiente, 7-6. GSA edged past Postage Stamp Farm and Pilot in quarterfinal play for a semifinal berth against Pilot. After trailing 5-2 at the half, Mariano Gonzalez scored six second half goals to sneak past the Pieres brothers, 10-9. Valiente beat Coca-Cola and GSA before falling to Travieso. Wins over SD Farms and
Tonkawa, sent them through to the final of the tournament Valiente was confident, but veterans Matias Magrini and Mariano Gonzalez led GSA to a 4-3 halftime lead. Cambiaso outscored GSA, 4-1 in the fourth and fifth chukkas carrying them to the 8-6 win. Cambiaso scored six times and was named MVP while Gonzalez’s six-yearold gray American Thoroughbred, Macarena earned Best Playing Pony honours. P I L O T G O E S U N D E F E AT E D T O WIN IGLEHART CUP Six teams lined up for the Iglehart Cup, and it was here that the Pieres brothers found their groove. Pilot beat La Indiana and Postage Stamp Farm and downed Coca-Cola in semifinal play. La Indiana notched wins over Postage Stamp Farm and Goose Creek to make their way to the final. The Pieres boys started to click, showing some of the brilliant teamplay that made a champion out of King Power in England as they rode past La Indiana, 11-9. Eighteenyear-old Toro Ruiz earned MVP honors and
Gonzalito Pieres’s So Easy was named Best Playing Pony. With the USPA lowering the handicap of the US Open to 22 goals in 2019, this year’s two-goal tournaments give a strong indication of the level of competition that will be on the fields next year.
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With the absence of suitable post-war polo fields in Antwerp, polo matches at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games were held in the city of Ostend
HIGH MORALE It was a polo player who was instrumental in bringing the Olympic Games to Antwerp in 1920. Alfred Grisar, the father of Belgian polo, was part of a small committee focused on bringing the international sporting event to Belgium, in order to boost the spirits of the country following the end of the First World War. Grisar was adamant that polo be featured in this edition of the Olympics, as it had been played previously when the Games were held in Paris in 1900 and London in 1904, and he believed it to be an excellent sport to foster the Olympic spirit. But there was one small problem – the actual polo matches were not played
in Antwerp. In 1913, Grisar had started a new club in the Kapellen district of northern Antwerp, with an intention to form the Antwerp Polo Club. However, during the German occupation, the grounds were used as vegetable gardens. Fortunately, before the war, Grisar had also taken over the presidency of the Ostend Polo Club. The coastal city of Ostend was, in those days, a fashionable holiday resort for European high society and a polo club had been started there at the beginning of the 20th century. With polo games planned in the 1920 schedule, there was only one solution: to use the Ostend field, which had been less damaged by the war.
Four teams entered the competition: England, Spain, USA and Belgium. The tournament began on Sunday 25 July, with Spain easily defeating the United States by 13–3. The next day was windy and rainy, but the match between England and Belgium still took place, with the British winning 8–3. Two days later, the United States defeated the Belgians for third place. The 35-goal English team, led by Lord Wodehouse, won the Olympic championship on 29 July, defeating Spain 13–11 in a very closely fought match. In 2020, Belgian Polo will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Antwerp Olympic Games, with a unique event commemorating this part of its polo history.
DAVID AGIE DE SELSAETEN
David Agie explores why Belgium has polo to thank for the opportunity to host the post-war Olympic Games in 1920
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