The world’s top polo players have galloped into Wellington for the 2019 winter season. Once again, the sport’s best athletes from around the world will compete in “the sport of kings” at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, home to North America’s most prestigious tournaments. With exciting new competitions to watch, such as the Gauntlet of Polo and Gladiator Polo, IPC is the place to see the action while being seen on the sidelines. Whether it’s grandstand seating, tailgate parties or the luxurious Sunday brunch, make plans to attend all that is planned from now until the end of April. We look forward to seeing you at the divot stomp! As is our annual tradition, Wellington The Magazine this month highlights just a few of the elite players who will power their horses down the fields, mallet in hand, in pursuit of glory. We invite you to turn the page to start enjoying Faces of Polo 2019.
Part of a large, polo-playing family, Facundo Obregon has been riding since age five and playing polo since he was eight years old. Son of Mariano Obregon Sr., he learned the sport alongside his three brothers, Mariano Jr., Juan Martin and Geronimo. The 32-year-old Argentine is rated as a 6-goaler in the U.S. He was featured on Team Priscus in the Gladiator Polo arena league in 2017 in Wellington and Team Charlotte in Tryon, N.C. Highlights from his 2018 season included the Pacific Coast Open Final and USPA America Cup Final. He was in action with La Indiana last year at the International Polo Club Palm Beach with some success. Look for Obregon this season at IPC back on La Indiana with Michael Bickford, Jeff Hall and Tomas Garcia del Rio.
From a well-known polo family, 10-goaler Facundo Pieres is currently the top-ranked player in the world, according to Polo World Tour. The 32-year-old Argentine is known to dazzle the crowd with his expert stickwork. In 2017, Pieres won the British Open, the Sotogrande Gold Cup and the Hurlingham Open. He was on the Valiente team last season at the International Polo Club, claiming the Ylvisaker Cup, the C.V. Whitney Cup and the USPA Gold Cup before falling in the U.S. Open final by one goal. Other 2018 highlights include the Hurlingham Open, Tortugas Open Final, Sotogrande Gold Cup High Goal, Sotogrande Silver Cup High Goal Final and the Queens Cup. Look for him on the Pilot team this season at IPC with Gonzalito Pieres, Matias Gonzalez and Curtis Pilot.
Polo patron Gillian Johnston, sporting a 2-goal handicap, will once again be leading her Coca-Cola team in action at IPC this season. Heir to a Coca-Cola bottling fortune, Johnston is carrying on a long family polo tradition. Her grandfather played polo, and her father is a former high-goal player. When not in Wellington, she can often be found at Bendabout Farm, outside of Chattanooga, Tenn., where she grew up and the family has long hosted polo tournaments and exhibition matches for charity. Through the years, her team has won just about every U.S. title available, including the U.S. Open in 2002. Johnston is one of a growing handful of women playing on high-goal teams, and she is also active in promoting the sport to the rising generation as vice president of the Polo Training Foundation.
Hilario Ulloa grew up in Argentina, watching his father and expert horse breeder Carlos “Polito” Ulloa train and breed polo horses. He was always surrounded by horses and polo players and dreamed of one day playing in the prestigious Argentine Open. He got that wish in 2013, and in 2014, he won the U.S. Open with Alegria at IPC. Ulloa, who earned his 10-goal ranking from the USPA in 2017, has been visiting Wellington to play at IPC since 2010. His top highlight from last year is certainly leading his team Daily Racing Form to a 10-9 upset victory in the U.S. Open final against favored powerhouse Valiente. Look for Ulloa this season on Las Monjitas with Camilo Bautista, Francisco Elizalde and Matthew Coppola.
One of the top American-born polo stars, 7-goaler Jeff Hall hails from Houston. He has played professionally since he was just 12 years old and has won just about every high-goal trophy available in the sport here in the United States. Also a pilot and an avid golfer, he splits his time between Wellington during the polo season and his ranch in Texas. After winning the Joe Barry Memorial Cup with La Indiana at IPC in 2017, Hall was back in action with the same team last season. He also made waves in Santa Barbara with Lucchese in the Pacific Coast Open and the USPA America Cup before heading to England to represent the U.S. at the Westchester Cup. Hall will be back in action with La Indiana at IPC this season with Michael Bickford, Facundo Obregon and Tomas Garcia del Rio.
Originally from Argentina, 7-goaler Mariano Gonzalez Sr. is now a U.S. citizen. He started riding at age four and has been active on the polo field since age nine. He is the father of 19-year-old Mariano “Peke” Gonzalez Jr., who can also hold his own in the sport, rated as a 5-goaler. In recent years, they can often be found playing together on the same team. Highlights from 2018 include the East Coast Open Final at the Greenwich Polo Club and the Ylvisaker Cup Final at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, where Gonzalez’s team GSA narrowly fell to powerhouse Valiente 8-6. Look for him back in action on the Equuleus team this season at IPC with Joe DiMenna, Iñaki Laprida and Magoo Laprida.
Mariano “Peke” Gonzalez Jr., now 19, is a rising polo star and the latest generation in a polo-playing dynasty. The son of 7-goaler Mariano Gonzalez Sr., the younger Gonzalez currently sports a 5-goal handicap. He has been quickly rising through the ranks of the sport. Following a season that included action here in Wellington and at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in California, Gonzalez was given the high honor of representing the United States in the Westchester Cup last summer at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club in England with Julio Arellano, Jeff Hall and Nic Roldan. Look for him this season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach playing on Maureen Brennan’s Iconica team alongside Sebastian Merlos and Matias Magrini.
Polo runs in the family for Argentine 10-goaler Guillermo “Sapo” Caset Jr., who was in the saddle by age five, hitting a ball around the field. As a teen, he quickly soared from a 1-goal handicap to a 6-goal handicap. By 2011, Caset had established himself as one of the best players in the world, reaching the coveted 10-goal rating, which he maintains to this day. Last season at IPC, Caset was named MVP of the Joe Barry Memorial Cup tournament final, which his team Tonkawa won with a 12-9 victory over Villa del Lago/Modere. When not in Wellington, Caset can be found competing with Las Monjitas Polo in Argentina and RH Polo in the United Kingdom. Caset will be back in action with Tonkawa in 2019, alongside Jeff Hildebrand, Agustin “Tincho” Merlos and Sterling Giannico.
Nigerian oil and gas billionaire Sayyu Dantata will be playing on the field at the International Polo Club Palm Beach this season with his SD Farms team alongside Peco Polledo, Juan “Tito” Ruiz Guiñazu and Jesse Bray. An American-educated mechanical engineer, Dantata returned home to his native Nigeria to begin the energy conglomerate that became MRS Holdings, growing it into one of the nation’s largest companies. Polo has long been a passion for Dantata, who is known to be low-key despite his wealth. However, he is revered in the growing Nigerian polo community as a patron and also ranks as a strong player. Rated as a 2-goaler in the U.S., he saw some action on the field at IPC last season. Expect to see much more of him this year.