Polo’s Top Players
There is no more talented athlete in sport than the highest rated polo player. Understanding that he must be a top horseman, having the ability to move his mount from one place to another with the sheer movement of his legs; that his hand-eye coordination must be capable of pinpointing the stroke of a fifty-three inch bamboo mallet at blink of an eye, sending a small plastic ball through the goal posts of down the field to an awaiting teammate. His knowledge of the game must be such that he is capable of playing the game of chess on horseback at a blistering speed, knowing full well where each and every other player on the field is located or will be located. His stamina must be that of a long-distance runner, as he is in constant motion throughout every chukker of every match, while spending endless hours in the saddle every day of every week to keep both his horses and himself fit.
These amazing athletes are few and far between, and should be acknowledged for their accomplishments. Below are some of the worlds’ best players.
Adolfo Cambiaso (10)- Universally recognized by his peers as the best player in the game today, and possibly all-time, Adolfo Cambiaso has captured major trophies on four different continents. He has led his teams to six Argentine Open Championships, five United States Open Championships, four British Open titles and the prestigious Gold Cup at Deauville.
Born in Buenos Aires Adolfo and his wife Maria make their home in Canuelas in Buenos Aires Province. Maria Vazquez was one of South America’s top fashion models. She now travels from tournament to tournament with her husband and their two children, Mia , and Adolfo Jr.
At the age of 17, Adolfo became the youngest 10-goal player in history, and has held that coveted honor for the last 16 years. A consummate horseman and field tactician, Adolfo Cambiaso is the yardstick by which all others polo players are measured.
Facundo Pieres (10)- Twenty-three-year-old Facundo Pieres carries the same 10-goal handicap that his Hall of Fame father did, and came within a goal of winning the triple crown of polo last year in Argentine. The Ellerstina team he and brother Gonzalito play on captured the Argentine, US, British and French Opens in the last year.
His success in the United States can be seen in championships in the Mercedes-Benz Challenge Cup, the Hall of Fame Cup and the C. V. Whitney Cup.
Gonzalito Pieres (10)- the eldest son of polo legend Gonzalo Pieres, Sr., Gonzalo Jr., affectionately referred to as Gonzalito, also reach the pinnacle of polo professionalism by attaining the rare 10-goal rating. “He has great speed and quickness,” said his father, “he is constantly working and has all of the shots.”
A good assessment by the Hall of Fame player who watches his two sons score wins in the first two legs of the Argentine Triple Crown of polo with wins in the Tortugas Open and the Hurlingham Open.
Gonzalito has already scored wins in the Queens Cup, the Pacific Coast Open and the Argentine Open in 2008. In 2009, he has won the US and British Opens as well as the Sotogrande Gold Cup.
Juan Martin Nero (10)- , In 2008, Juama joined Ellerstina and was the MVP in the Argentine Open final. He also won the British Open in 2008 and the Queens Cup in 2007 both with Loro Piana.
His experience with the game in Spain garnered him wins in the Sotogrande Silver Cup in 2004 and 2007 and the prestigious Sotogrande Gold Cup in 2001 and again in 2006. In 2005, he won the British Open with Azurra.
Always well mounted, Juan Martin is a solid hitter who can play defense as aggressively as he plays offense.
Juan Martin is 27-years-old, married and lives in Trenque Lauquen in Argentina.
Nacho Figueras (6)- Figueras grew up in a small town outside Buenos Aires with Mariano Aguerre, Lucas Monteverde and Lucas Criado. He began playing professionally when he was seventeen-years-old. His first year as a professional polo player took him to France. The following year found him in England. He returned to France where he played for two more years before being selected to play on the Argentine national team in the FIP World Cup in St. Moritz.
Deauville and Sotogrande (Spain) were next for Nacho. In 1999 while playing in Spain, he received a call from New York and asked to replace an injured player at Bridgehampton, New York. He’s been playing in the US ever since.
I’ve played for Black Watch year round for three years (before that for White Birch). Neil [Hirsch] was part of White Birch. Then he and Peter [Brant] decided to have separate organizations.
Probably the most remarkable fact might be that although Nacho plays with and against the best players in the world, he is probably better know as the face of Ralph Lauren fragrances, with ads and posters around the world showing a rugged Argentine polo player fitting right into the lifestyle mold created by the Polo trademark.
Nacho lives in Argentina with his wife Delfina, and children Hilario and Aurora
David Stirling (9)- One of polo’s rising stars is Uruguayan David Stirling, Jr. “Pelon” as he is called, has been a fixture on the European scene. Born in Montevideo, Pelon makes his home in Sotogrande, Spain. A running and gunning kind of player, Pelon hit his stride when he arrived in the United States as a teammate of Adolfo Cambiaso in 2007.
Cambiaso selected Stirling for his defensive prowess, but it was his ability to break loose and carry the ball that made a name for him in America. His play was so spectacular that his handicap was moved from 7 to 8 goals in the middle of the season. Stirling’s team won the U. S. Open, the USPA Gold Cup. Following his win in the British Open in 2007 he found himself carrying a 9-goal rating. This year in Argentina, he is playing in the Triple Crown with Chap II
Sugar Erskine (7)- The smiling South African 7-goaler is a favorite on the polo circuit in the United States and a regular on the Isla Carroll teams that compete in both Houston, Texas and Wellington, Florida.
Stuart “Sugar” Erskine played on winning U. S. Open teams in 1998 with Escue and again in 2004 with Isla Carroll. In 1999 Sugar played for the Palm Restaurant Locust team that won the Monty Waterbury Cup. For the last two years he has won the Pacific Coast Open , in 2008 with Audi and 2009 with Grants Farm.
A flashy player on the field, Sugar is always a crowd favorite, but his sense of the ball and intuitive team play make him an important ingredient to any team.
Jose Donoso (7)- As captain of the Chilean national polo team, Jose Donoso has led it to victory in the prestigious Coronation Cup on Cartier International Day in Great Britain in 2007 in a tribute to his brother, the late Gabriel, who died from a polo fall while training in 2006.
Jose has appeared on a number of teams in England and Spain scoring success in the Coronation Cup but also with a number of strong showings at the Santa Maria Polo Club at Sotogrande in Spain including the prestigious Sotogrande Gold Cup in 2007 as a member of the Ayala polo team.
Nachi Heguy (9)- In 2007 the former 10-goaler became the first member of his family to play on a winning United States Open Championship team. Add that to his four Argentine Open titles, three Tortugas Open Championships his British Open Championship and his Prince of Wales Trophy and you might have some idea of the talent of Ignacio Heguy.
A natural forward, powerful hitter and an accurate penalty shooter, Nachi is an asset to any team on which he competes.
Agustin Merlos (10)- born in Buenos Aires in 1976, the youngest of the Merlos brothers, Agustin, or “Tincho”, as he is called, reserves most of his playing to Argentina, the United States and Venezuela. The son of former 9-goaler Cacho Merlos, Tincho arrives on the scene with a good pedigree. Both older brothers, Pite and Sebastian, also attained the rare 10-goal rating that he carries, but have a little more international experience under their belts than does Tincho.
While scoring wins in the Pacific Coast Open in 2005 and 2006 with Michael Hakan’s Duende team, He played on the winning Mercedes-Benz Challenge Cup team in Bridgehampton, New York in 2002 before traveling to Houston where he won the Silver Cup with Scott Wood’s ERG team.
A great running forward, Tincho has a great eye for the ball and a natural swing with the mallet.
Agustin and his wife Celina live in the Buenos Aires suburban polo community of Pilar.
Alejandro “Negro” Astrada (7)- The youngest of Argentina’s talented Novillo Astrada brothers, 29-year-old Alejandro Novillo Astrada has played in high-goal tournaments around the world. Relegated to the sidelines as his brothers took to the field at Palermo in 2003 on their way to the Argentine Open Championship, Negro continued to work his way up the ladder competing in Argentina, England and the United States. A staple with his brother Miguel on the Bendabout team in high-goal competition in the United States, Negro has racked up wins in two British Opens while making it to the finals in the USPA Gold Cup and the Queens Cup.
His aggressive style of play is tempered by the patented Astrada defense and synchronized team play that seems to put another player on the field. A consummate horseman, Negro can be counted on to get the most out of his horses while making individual sacrifices for the good of his team.
Jack “Ruki” Baillieu (7)- A native of Dorrinallum, a small rural village in Victoria’s Western District, Australia’s highest rated player, Jack “Ruki” Baillieu is probably more comfortable in the country than in the urban settings of some of the more popular polo clubs in the world. Born into an old moneyed family, Ruki did his fair share of chores around the farm. His younger days were spent doing everything from shearing sheep to herding cattle. Boasting more of the physical aspects of a rugby player than a polo star, Ruki spends 46 weeks a year chasing the polo ball around the world. One of the highlights of his young career was scoring the winning goal in overtime as Australia defeated England in 2005 in the Coronation Cup; another was when he became only the third Australian polo player in history to qualify for the Argentine Open as a member of the Centauros Beaufort team.
Whether it’s playing on the sands of South Beach in the Miami Beach Polo World Cup, or on the frozen lake in Switzerland’s St. Moritz Snow Polo Cup, this hard-riding player from down under is sure to draw a crowd.
Jeff Hall (7)- Born in Arizona and brought up between Santa Barbara, California and Houston, Texas, the 28-year-old 7-goaler is hoping to become America’s next 10-goal player. The son of an avid player, Jeff began playing polo at the age of four, spending every waking moment either at the barns with the horses or hitting the ball from the back of one. Jeff was playing actively at age seven and turned professional at the age of 13. A stay on a polo ranch in Argentina jump-started his career, and the hard-hitting Texan has been improving ever since. Wins in the US Open, the America Cup, the East Coast Open and several USPA Silver Cups had firmly established Jeff as a player to be reckoned with, and his desire to improve as a rider and player increases with the competition. In 2009, Jeff was MVP and won the Pacfic Coast Open with Grants Farm.