By Mike May
Juan Britos Jr. is one of the great international stars on the international polo stage — at home in Argentina, in Europe, and here in Wellington during the winter season.
Listed as an 8-goaler here in the U.S. and a 9-goaler in Argentina, Britos is continually ranked among the top echelon of players in the world. Now in his late 20s, he is not your typical polo player because he did not grow up in a polo-playing family back in Argentina.
He took up the sport at age 13, which is fairly late for many top stars. However, Britos tried polo, liked polo, became good at polo and continues to excel in the sport of kings.
In recent years, Britos has emerged as one of the world’s top players, thanks, in part, to his tutelage from former Argentine 10-goaler Lolo Castagnola. To be one of the best in polo, it’s a great idea to learn from one of the best in polo.
As is the case with all top-flight athletes, they earn their top-billing by performing well on the big stage, which means competing for and winning titles in the premier events. In 2017, Britos won notable tournament victories in the Municipalidad de Pilar and Royal Windsor Cup. Those two wins catapulted him into polo’s global spotlight. He also reached the Cartier Queen’s Cup final in 2018 and 2019. In 2019, he won the Coronation Cup and reached the semifinals of the British Open.
In 2021, he won the C.V. Whitney Cup here in Wellington with Park Place, defeating tournament favorite Scone, led by polo legend Adolfo Cambiaso. Along with his Park Place teammates, Britos blazed through last year’s U.S. Open Polo Championship, making it to the final against Scone. In the season’s thrilling finale at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, Scone edged Park Place 14-13, denying Britos a U.S. Open victory to add to his list of accolades. He is expected to be back in action at IPC this season.
In 2019, Britos moved from a 7-goal to an 8-goal handicap. It didn’t take him much time to justify his improved rating.
In the 2019 edition of the Gauntlet of Polo, he scored 3.6 goals per game and averaged 2.5 assists per game, which was fourth among all players. Britos is comfortable playing a supporting role or a leading role while on the polo field. In 2019, he placed in the top 10 in throw-in wins.
Britos has gained the reputation for being cool, calm and collected on the polo field, especially when the pace of play gets fast and furious. His quick and accurate decision making has generated many scoring chances for his team, either from him passing the ball or running with the ball. Britos has an innate sense of where he needs to be at any given time for his team to win.
If you want to know the real Britos — who often goes by the nickname Juano — just ask a fellow player who has competed with him and those who have observed his behavior both on and off the field. Two of those eyewitnesses are Wellington native and Britos teammate Matt Coppola and veteran polo television host/presenter Karl Ude-Martinez.
“Juano is a great player and one of the favorite guys I’ve had the opportunity of playing with,” Coppola said. “He’s very dedicated and has an incredible work ethic. I really enjoyed being his teammate last year with Park Place. He’s strong, and you can see his presence on the field at all times. As a teammate, he’s very positive and will always have your back.”
Ude-Martinez has observed, written about, and commented on Britos’ polo career.
“Juano is a rapidly rising star,” Ude-Martinez said. “He has represented his country, Argentina, many times. His career, so far, has taken him all over the world and playing the main circuits — the United Kingdom, Spain, Argentina and the USA. He has flown up the ladder for his age more quickly than some of his fellow colleagues, and that is down to a huge amount of talent, but also to how professional he is.”
According to Ude-Martinez, Britos is in a unique category as a polo player.
“I find his style of riding quite unique for an Argentine polo player,” he said. “You can spot him easily from his form without knowing it’s him first. It’s actually very classical and English, if anything. The trademark lime green helmet and that gorgeous-chiseled action-man face makes him stand out from the crowd.”
Ude-Martinez is also impressed by Britos’ work ethic.
“He’s a workhorse out there,” he added. “He’s often the central cog in the larger wheel of the team. He’s an attacker. He’s a doer. He makes the plays and gets it done. Juan is such a physical player. I love the way he throws everything at each game. He is quick, and he manages to lean on his horse at impossible angles… And he can equally play as well in defense as he can in attack.”
Britos has all the necessary mental and physical attributes to be a world-class polo player.
“Juan is clever, focused and passionate,” Ude-Martinez said. “He knows what he wants, and he has been incredibly lucky with the chances he’s had, but he was born to be a polo player.”
Ude-Martinez said that one of Britos’ strongest qualities is that he makes himself accessible to fans, spectators and members of the media. This has helped make him a fan-favorite within the polo community.
“He takes time to make conversation, and he shows interest in everyone around him,” Ude-Martinez said. “He’s enjoying the huge opportunities his career is bringing him, but he always remains grounded. For me, Juano is one of the nicest people on the pitch, as well as off the pitch. I can’t wait to see what a great future he’s going to have.”
Polo fans and enthusiasts here in Wellington are fortunate to have front-row seats as Juan Britos Jr. continues his rise as a global star in the global sport of polo.