Road ends
Canada eliminates USA in FIP bid.
By Gwen Rizzo

Team USA lost its place in the FIP Polo World Championships in Mexico after losing a 7-4 match to a tough Team Canada in the Zone A playoffs in early May. Aside from Canada and USA, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala also competed at Mexico’s Costa Careyes Polo Club in the Jalisco province.

For professional player Jeff Hall, a 10-goal handicap is so close he can almost taste it. Hall holds an 8-goal handicap and is making a concerted effort to reach the top of the sport.

Hall’s father, John, is a player who got his start in the sport years ago in Tucson, Arizona. He later moved to California for a few years, playing at Eldorado Polo Club in Indio and the Santa Barbara Polo Club in Carpinteria. Eventually he moved to Texas, where he now lives.

Jeff Hall grew up around horses. Hall says: “I basically grew up around the barn. I always wanted to go to the barn. The horses, the whole lifestyle, it has just been a part of my life since day one. I love the game but the horses, barn and lifestyle is what drew me to it.”

He started riding by the time he was 4 or 5. At that point his father was playing in California with players like Mike Conant, Tommy Wayman and Corky Linfoot. Whomever his father hired as a pro would often give young Jeff a hand, helping him stick and ball and ride. By the time he was 7 he was playing in his first tournament game. “I played the 12-goal in Santa Barbara and the 12-goal in Indio,” says Hall. He had a string of really good, old horses his father and his father’s wife, LeeAnn, passed on to him back then, including Jaws, Helen, Laura, Moro and his favorite, Celina. Hall says: “[These horses] had played for my father in high goal-polo and were like 14 or 15 years old. He would pass them on to me. I was fortunate to have really good horses like that.”

With these nice horses, polo was always fun. “I got to excel maybe a little bit faster than some of the other kids because of the horses. It is the same thing now—whoever’s got the better horses is going to excel more.” Hall says he knew he wanted to be a 10- goal player from the time he first started playing. “I knew 100 percent [I was going to be a high-goal player]. You know when you are like in the third or fourth grade, you have to write what you want to be. I still have those books, where I wrote I want to be a professional polo player, 10 goals. I had it mapped out from day one.”

Over the past several years Hall has counted numerous victories in many of the most important polo tournaments. His biggest win was the 2003 U.S. Open with CSpear’s Carlos Gracida, Tommy Boyle and Matias Magrini. He came close again in 2006 as a member of Steve Van Andel’s Orchard Hill team, making it to the final. He also won almost every 22-goal tournament played in Florida at least once, including the Sterling and Challenge Cups. He has won the Texas Open, the East Coast Open, the Monty Waterbury, the Americas Cup and the Silver Cup seven times. He has also had success abroad, reaching the final of the Camara de Diputados in Argentina. One tournament that has escaped Hall is the Pacific Coast Open, even though he has reached the final three times. “That one I would like to win because my father and brother have won it, so they’re hanging it over my head,” says Hall.

Hall won a distinction of another sort in 2005, when People magazine named him one of America’s 50 hottest bachelors.

Hall spoke frankly about his talent and his plans for reaching 10 goals. “To be honest with you, I thought I [had the talent to be 10 goals] since the beginning. I still think that 10 goals is in my reach in the next couple of years ... First it was a dream, and then it became more of a reality as I started going up and up. At 8 goals now, I know it’s there. I’ve been on the verge. I feel like last year I probably would have been raised to 9 goals if I won the U.S. Open ... or the Pacific Coast Open.”

Hall admits he has to do a lot of things to For professional player Jeff Hall, a 10-goal handicap is so close he can almost taste it. Hall holds an 8-goal handicap and is making a concerted effort to reach the top of the sport.

Hall’s father, John, is a player who got his start in the sport years ago in Tucson, Arizona. He later moved to California for a few years, playing at Eldorado Polo Club in Indio and the Santa Barbara Polo Club in Carpinteria. Eventually he moved to Texas, where he now lives.

Jeff Hall grew up around horses. Hall says: “I basically grew up around the barn. I always wanted to go to the barn. The horses, the whole lifestyle, it has just been a part of my life since day one. I love the game but the horses, barn and lifestyle is what drew me to it.”

He started riding by the time he was 4 or 5. At that point his father was playing in California with players like Mike Conant, Tommy Wayman and Corky Linfoot. Whomever his father hired as a pro would often give young Jeff a hand, helping him stick and ball and ride. By the time he was 7 he was playing in his first tournament game. “I played the 12-goal in Santa Barbara and the 12-goal in Indio,” says Hall. He had a string of really good, old horses his father and his father’s wife, LeeAnn, passed on to him back then, including Jaws, Helen, Laura, Moro and his favorite, Celina. Hall says: “[These horses] had played for my father in high goal-polo and were like 14 or 15 years old. He would pass them on to me. I was fortunate to have really good horses like that.”

With these nice horses, polo was always fun. “I got to excel maybe a little bit faster than some of the other kids because of the horses. It is the same thing now—whoever’s got the better horses is going to excel more.” Hall says he knew he wanted to be a 10- goal player from the time he first started playing. “I knew 100 percent [I was going to be a high-goal player]. You know when you are like in the third or fourth grade, you have to write what you want to be. I still have those books, where I wrote I want to be a professional polo player, 10 goals. I had it mapped out from day one.”

Over the past several years Hall has counted numerous victories in many of the most important polo tournaments. His biggest win was the 2003 U.S. Open with CSpear’s Carlos Gracida, Tommy Boyle and Matias Magrini. He came close again in 2006 as a member of Steve Van Andel’s Orchard Hill team, making it to the final. He also won almost every 22-goal tournament played in Florida at least once, including the Sterling and Challenge Cups. He has won the Texas Open, the East Coast Open, the Monty Waterbury, the Americas Cup and the Silver Cup seven times. He has also had success abroad, reaching the final of the Camara de Diputados in Argentina. One tournament that has escaped Hall is the Pacific Coast Open, even though he has reached the final three times. “That one I would like to win because my father and brother have won it, so they’re hanging it over my head,” says Hall.

Hall won a distinction of another sort in 2005, when People magazine named him one of America’s 50 hottest bachelors. Hall spoke frankly about his talent and his plans for reaching 10 goals. “To be honest with you, I thought I [had the talent to be 10 goals] since the beginning. I still think that 10 goals is in my reach in the next couple of years ... First it was a dream, and then it became more of a reality as I started going up and up. At 8 goals now, I know it’s there. I’ve been on the verge. I feel like last year I probably would have been raised to 9 goals if I won the U.S. Open ... or the Pacific Coast Open.”

Hall admits he has to do a lot of things to Hall first went to Argentina when he was 12. His father sent him to stay with the Caset family. He played with Guillermo and Marcelo Caset for about six months, living on their farm in Lobos. Cristian Laprida saw him playing there and invited him to play with him in Greenwich, Connecticut. “Argentina is definitely part of my year and it has been for a long time.”

Hall has also gone to Argentina to buy horses, but he says he buys them from everywhere. He is also starting his own breed and is beginning to work with embryos with the New Bridge embryo center in Aiken, South Carolina. “Hopefully by August I should have about 30 embryos, and I’ll be pulling them from all my top horses.” As for breeding, Hall believes embryos are the way to go because you can get so many more babies that way. “I’m only going to use horses that are completely proven, having played many years in highgoal polo. I’m hoping if I take the best of what I have, the babies should be good.”

Hall’s favorite horses include Maple Leaf, which he purchased a long time ago in a package deal with other horses from Wyoming; Harrah, which he bought from Mike Conant; and Dede, a homebred.

Though going from 8 to 10 goals can be big steps, Hall says he feels ready for 9 goals now. “From 8 to 9 goals and from 9 to 10 goals are huge leaps. They are the same as going from 2 to 5 goals and from 5 to 8 goals, maybe even greater … I’m ready to make the move to 9 goals. The only thing holding me back is whether or not I win a big tournament or not.”

To help him improve further, Hall is playing in Argentina, in an effort to qualify for the Argentine Open. “I’m going to play with Frederick Mannix in Canada for the next couple of years. And we are also going to play together in Argentina with Nick Roldan and Ruki Baillieu. We are going with four players who are sacrificing a lot to [try to qualify].” Over the next several years he will try to build a good quality string in Argentina to compete, despite the expense and difficulties of having organizations in two countries.

Hall counts himself very fortunate so far. “I’m really happy ... with the opportunities I’ve had. Up to now, I’ve had a great career. I’m just looking to improve it.”

Though polo is his No. 1 interest, he enjoys many other things, including racecars and flying. He has his pilot’s license and is working to get his helicopter license. He also enjoys riding motorcycles, mountain biking and surfing, but he has put all that on hold so he can focus on polo and to keep from getting hurt. He stays fit by working out in the gym and playing polo regularly.

He also makes sure his horses are well cared for, but says once you are on the field you just have to play. “You take your horses, prepare them, take care of them, almost ridiculously pamper them. But once you are on the field you can’t worry about hurting them. You just have to play as hard as you can. After the game you take them back to the barn and pamper them again and get them ready for their next game.” Hall’s head groom, Dario Arabena, has been running Hall’s barn for almost 10 years now. “If you grade them, he is a 10-goal groom. It is important to have a top guy like that in your barn. The rest of the guys are very, very good. If there is a problem, we discuss it and make decisions together. They know the horses best.”

Hall says a typical day includes going to the gym to work out, then coming to the barn until midday, when he leaves for lunch. After, he may watch polo before coming back to the barn until dinner. Then he goes to bed and starts all over the next day. With the up-and-coming players today, Hall has probably one of the best, if not the best, shots of getting to 10 goals next. With the time and effort he is willing to put into the sport, he should be there soon. Only time will tell.

Zone A Teams

Canada
Brandon Phillips 5
Marcelo Abbiati 5
Cody Offen 2
Rob Stenzel 2
Kyle Fargey 2

USA
Steve Orthwein Jr. 4
Chris Nevins 4
Miguel Torres 4
Santi Torres 2
Joseph Stuart 3
Nick Cifuni 3

 

Guatemala
Antonio Aycinena 2
Juan Aguilar 3
Emmanuel Seidner 3
Mario Estrada 3
Jose Aguilar 1
Alfredo Aycinena 3

Dominican Republic

Dennis Santana 4
Johnny Alvarez 4
Engelberto Maldonado 4
Roberto Jimenez 2
Alexander Schad 2
Luis Carbuccia 1

Dominican Replacement team
Giorgio Brignone 1
Roberto Gonzalez 6
Miguel Pareda 3
Luis Olazabal 3

Zone C Teams

Spain
Mario Gomez 3
P. Sainz Vicuña 4
Ignacio Domecq 4
N. Alvarez 3

England
George Meyrick 3
Nina Vestey 3
Tom Morley 5
Ed Hitchman 3

 

Italy
S. Chiarella 1
M. Toccalino 3
Juan Ambroggio 5
Martin Espain Gastaldi 5

France

J. Wirth 1
T. Vetois 4
B. Rigaux 5
P. Henry N’Goumou 3

Holland

N. Grooss 3
E. De Kroes 2
A. Van Andel 3
P. Van den Brink 3

 

Zone D Teams

South Africa
Nachi du Plessis
Tom de Bruin
David du Plessis
Gareth Evans

New Zealanders
Tom Hunt 1
Robert Watson
Craig Wilson
David Miller
Lochie Hunter

Australia

TBA
TBA
TBA
TBA

Pakistan

TBA
Raja Samiullah
TBA
TBA

India

Angad Kalaan
Manupal Godara
TBA
TBA

 
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