Polito Pieres opens up about polo

The first player to receive an outdoor 10-goal handicap in the U.S. in a dozen years, Polito Pieres talks about his meteoric rise in polo, his equine partners and the future.

Born in Connecticut, Polito Pieres was, until recently, a lesser-known part of the famous Pieres dynasty. All of a sudden, with his recent explosion onto the high-goal scene, he has become the one to watch.

Polito is not only an extremely talented player with awe-inspiring ball skills that keep you on the edge of your seat, he also has a charisma and passion that captures the entire crowd. The atmosphere was electric at the 2013 Argentine Open final when he played for Alegría who took on La Dolfina after an unexpected win against the mighty Ellerstina in the semifinals. Acknowledging his onlookers and involving them with the game has already gained him a huge following of supporters.

2015 is an important landmark for Polito: not only was he raised to 10 goals by the USPA, this is the year he has finally joined his cousins Facundo, Gonzalo and Nico at the Ellerstina organization to compete in the Argentine Triple crown. It is a long-awaited dream that is now a reality.

Here is a look at his rapid rise to success after his first introduction to the high goal in the USA just five years ago.

PPE: At what age did you start playing high goal and where?

PP: I started in 2010 in America. Guillermo Fernandes Llanos took me to Palm Beach as a [rider] for Las Monjitas and I ended up playing a 20 goal with Javier Novillo Astrada. In 2011, I returned to play with Nacho and Miguel Novillo for Valiente, my first proper highgoal season. So, it was not long ago.

Following that, I came to England for the 2011 high-goal season just to help Facundo and Gonzalito’s team by playing the practices. JP Clarkin got injured with Cortium, so I played two games for him in the high goal. The following year Cortium invited me to play for the whole 2012 season and we won the Gold Cup. I was very lucky to be in the right place, not in Argentina doing nothing [like] the year before.

You are the first American to be rated at 10 goals (outdoors) since Adam Snow in 2003. Is going to 10 goals the highlight of your career so far or does winning important tournaments have more significance for you?

I would have preferred to have won the U.S. Open than going to 10 goals. It was a great season but I wasn’t happy with the last final where we lost in overtime. We had bad luck.

Is there anything you would have changed if you had the opportunity again?

Yes of course, a lot of things. From the day we lost the two finals, every day for one month I was wondering what I could have done different. Now I realize it’s over and I have to keep going, improve, come back better and learn from my mistakes.

What would you improve on?

For sure a lot of things, the plays in the last chukkers I would change for sure.

Did you make any big transitions yourself to go to 10 goals? Training? Horses?

No, nothing that significant. I’m training much better anyway, trying to eat healthier. I improved a lot of those things but it doesn’t change my way of playing. I’m doing it so I can play without any pain and for many more years and not get injured. The way I play at this age isn’t a big difference.

Which is your best pony in the USA?

It is Machitos Serpico. It’s a 12-yearold gelding I brought to the UK and now he is going back to the U.S. [He was] bred in America.

Who travels with you throughout the polo seasons abroad? Do you have a personal trainer?

My personal trainer Kekur comes with me all year round. I have a lot of people helping me but not a specific manager. My grooms travel with me, Adolfo, Tigre, Carlitos and Rollo.

What are your plans for the next season in the U.S?

Luckily we are playing with Orchard Hill. Facundo chose me again to play.

Is joining Ellerstina in Argentina what you have been aiming for so far?

Yes, that is a huge thing for me. I have had two great seasons with Alegría. The only team I would have left Alegría for is Ellerstina. It was a really difficult choice for me. I had the chance and I was waiting for it a long time but it was kind of sad as there are a lot of special people in Alegría with big hearts, not only polo players, but they have something different so it was quite hard for me to leave.

When did Ellerstina invite you to play?

They invited me after the 2014 Open. It only took me a week to think about it.

Is it more or less pressure to play with your cousins?

Of course, much more pressure. The easiest thing for me would have been to stay in Alegría and keep being the third team. We didn’t have much pressure, although we would like to win, if we lost we were still happy. Ellerstina is another thing. I hope to take my spirit and my happiness and try to put my little grain of sand into Ellerstina and play well.

Have you played with all of your cousins many times before?

One tournament with Nico in France, one season in the UK with Gonza and my first time in America with Facundo. It was really good to play with Facundo. He really supports the way I play which gives me a lot of confidence and I will play at No. 1 for Ellerstina.

What will be your horse power for the Argentine Open?

I have everything I had last year and I took one from America that came from Mariano Aguerre and Nick Manifold. Mariano is helping me a lot. He is going to lend six and I also have a lot of help from Nacho Figueras. It’s a good combination. I show Nacho’s horses in the Open and I like his organization and all the people he has there. I spend a lot of time in their barn, they make me feel part of the organization.

Which is your best horse out there?

Yatay Feature. That is the best and then Yatay Fernet con Coka.

What are your future plans with Ellerstina?

They said they want to do it long term. If we have fun I think we will play Polito says his stallion, Don Urbano Rolinga, has a different spirit than other horses. He always gives you everything no matter how much you play him. for a lot of years but if we don’t do well then maybe not.

Out of the U.S., Argentina and the UK, where are you best mounted?

Now in England it’s the first time I’ve got an excellent string that I really like them all.

How many do you have in total?

I have 15 horses in the UK, I give some to the 4 goaler on our team and I play the others. They are different kinds of horses. In Argentina I have more speed and power to play No.1. In England they are more handy and easy. Now I’m looking to have more of these kinds of horses than running so much. I’m getting more spoiled through the years playing small and handy horses.

Tell us about Don Urbano Rolinga, the famous stallion you have won numerous Best Playing Pony awards with in the UK. What are his best traits?

This was his best year so far. He’s 9 years old. He never loses his mouth which is very important to me. He has a different spirit than the other horses. First, he is a stallion but he never quits. You can play him as many minutes as you like and he will always give everything.

Is there anything you would change about him?

To change, no nothing ... I cannot make a complaint about him, he will get angry, [but] he gave me a lot of things.

Rolinga is available for [stud] services in Europe but have you used him in your own breeding program?

Unfortunately not yet because he stays in Europe all the time.

Any plans to use him in the future?

I would like to take him to Argentina and finish his career there. Hernan Pieres owns the breeding part and I own the playing part. It’s a good combination. Rolinga has won seven best playing Pony Awards in the high goal so far.

Which is the most memorable?

Definitely the final of the British Open Gold Cup in 2012. That year I only had three really good horses out of all my string so he had a long season. I would play him the third chukker and then the last chukker for many of the games. In the final I brought him out in the third chukker and he was a little bit tired but in the sixth chukker he did two amazing plays. That is when you can really call a horse a champion when he does that. He deserved the award.

What are your favorite hobbies outside of polo?

I like to do a lot of different sports such as tennis and football. Other times I prefer to rest and take care of my body. I would love to do more tennis, football and skiing but sometimes I have to be a little boring!

Photos and words by Alice Gipps


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