Grab your champagne glasses and get your best outfits ready — Wellington’s world-renown winter polo season is underway. If you listen carefully, perhaps you can hear the thundering sound of hoofs galloping at full speed across the field, led by some of the world’s best polo players. Watching the “sport of kings” on Sundays at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington is a tradition to be enjoyed by everyone, from jet-setting– socialites to year-round residents, polo experts to those new to the sport. Perhaps you enjoy a sumptuous brunch with all the amenities, or perhaps tailgating is more your style. Others prefer cheering from the grandstands. Either way, IPC is the place to be. As we do each year, Wellington The Magazine is highlighting just a small handful of the many amazing athletes you will see vying for polo glory this season. Turn the page and meet the Faces of Polo 2020.
Lucas Diaz Alberdi is a rising star on the polo scene, splitting his time between Argentina and the United States. Playing since age 5, he is the son of the legendary Alejandro “Piki” Diaz Alberdi. The younger Diaz Alberdi had a fabulous season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach last year, helping Dutta Corp rack up several early season victories, including the Ylvisaker Cup. His strong performance saw him named MVP of that tournament. Now rated at 6 goals, Diaz Alberdi will be playing this year on the Palm Beach Equine team during the 18-goal season at IPC with Gonzalo Ferrari, Gringo Colombres and Scott Swerdlin. During the Gauntlet of Polo series, he’ll be on the Dutta Corp team with Timmy Dutta, Mariano Obregon and Facundo Obregon.
Argentine polo player Raul “Gringo” Colombres is hard to miss in his bright red helmet. Colombres returned to high-goal play at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington in 2019 after last appearing with La Indiana in 2017. He wasted no time making his presence known, leading Dutta Corp to a string of early season victories, including the 2019 Herbie Pennell Cup, the Joe Barry Memorial Cup and the Ylvisaker Cup — and along the way capturing consecutive MVP awards for himself. Rated at 8 goals, Colombres will be playing this year on the Palm Beach Equine team during the 18-goal season at IPC with Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Gonzalo Ferrari and Scott Swerdlin.
Born and raised in Wellington, Matt Coppola has been immersed in the sport from the time he could walk. He is the son of United States Polo Association President Tony Coppola, who is also owner of the Tackeria and known as the “Voice of Polo” for his play-by-play commentary of matches. Matt Coppola has traveled around the world to play, most notably spending time in polo hotspot Argentina, learning from top players and coaches. He had a great season in 2019 with Las Montijas, making it to the final of both the C.V. Whitney Cup and U.S. Open polo tournaments in Wellington. Currently rated at 4 goals, look for Coppola in action during this year’s Gauntlet of Polo series on the Tonkawa team with Jeff Hildebrand, Sapo Caset, Ignacio Toccalino and Matias Gonzalez.
The Argentine-born Francisco Elizalde competes around the world in high-goal polo tournaments. He began playing polo at a young age in Argentina’s La Pampa region. Elizalde had a strong season last year at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington. Then rated at 8 goals, he helped lead Las Montijas to the final match of the U.S. Open Polo Championships before falling to Gauntlet of Polo winner Pilot. His strong season continued over the summer with a victory in the Deauville Gold Cup on the Talandracas team. Now rated at 9 goals, look for Elizalde back on Las Montijas during the Gauntlet of Polo series at IPC teamed up with Camilo Bautista and Hilario Ulloa.
Luis Escobar, a Costa Rica native, has been a Wellington resident since 1989. After going pro at age 15, he quickly shot up to an 8-goal handicap, playing with polo legends such as Hector Barrantes and Carlos Gracida. Currently rated at 4 goals, Escobar has been a regular on the Wellington circuit for three decades, based out of his family’s Santa Clara Polo Club. Nowadays, Luis is not the only Escobar to be found on the Santa Clara team. Sons Lucas and Nicolas Escobar have followed their father’s footsteps onto the polo field. Look for Luis Escobar to be leading his Santa Clara team in the 2020 Gauntlet of Polo series at the International Polo Club Palm Beach alongside Matias Magrini, Sebastian Merlos and Henry Porter.
Polo patron and former show jumper Annabelle Gundlach started her polo career with a lesson from a charity auction in 2013 and quickly made a name for herself in the traditionally male-dominated sport. She has credited frequent teammate Brandon Phillips with helping her along the way. Gundlach and her Postage Stamp Farm team had a great summer season in 2019, capturing the first-ever American Cup in July and winning the East Coast Open in September at the Greenwich Polo Club. With a 0-goal handicap, Gundlach will be leading Postage Stamp Farm during the 2020 Gauntlet of Polo series at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington alongside Mariano Aguerre, Valerio “Lerin” Zubiaurre and Mariano “Peke” Gonzalez.
Argentine 8-goaler Julian “Negro” de Lusarreta has won major tournaments around the world. Local fans may remember him from 2016’s thrilling U.S. Open Final when de Lusarreta and his Orchard Hill teammates stunned Dubai, powered by polo legend Adolfo Cambiaso, to take a 13-12 victory. He was back in action the next year, helping Coca-Cola win the Ylvisaker Cup and making it to the USPA Gold Cup final. He was also a key member of the 2018 Tonkawa team that won the Joe Barry Memorial Cup. He played on the Coca-Cola team during last year’s Gauntlet of Polo series, and de Lusarreta will be back in action at IPC this season for the Gauntlet of Polo on Coca-Cola with patron Gillian Johnston, Nico Pieres and Steve Krueger.
Pablo “Polito” Pieres is a key member of the famous Pieres polo family. Now rated at 10 goals — the highest rating available in the sport — he plays in Wellington alongside his cousins, Facundo, Gonzalito and Nico Pieres. Born in the United States, Polito Pieres has played on winning teams in the British Open, the Deauville Gold Cup in France, and the USPA C.V. Whitney Cup and the UPSA Gold Cup at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. He had a great run during the 2019 USPA Gold Cup, advancing to the final match with team Aspen, falling to eventual Gauntlet of Polo winner Pilot 12-11 in overtime. This season, look for Pieres during the Gauntlet of Polo Series at IPC on La Indiana with Michael Bickford and Jeff Hall.
British polo player Henry Porter began riding horses at age five and has been playing polo since age nine. Born in London, Porter had his first polo lesson in Dubai with Martin Valent, who remains his manager today. He commutes between homes in Florida and England. Now 20 and rated at 3 goals, Porter recently won the Copa Presidente (20 goal) trophy in Argentina. Porter was named in November as a U.S. Polo Assn. global brand ambassador with a focus on the United Kingdom, Europe and the Middle East. Look for him in Wellington this season playing with Stable Door Polo in the 18-goal season and on Santa Clara during the second annual Gauntlet of Polo alongside Luis Escobar, Matias Magrini and Sebastian Merlos.