Faces of Polo
It’s winter here in sunny South Florida — the time of year where world-famous athletes come from all corners of the globe to play polo here in Wellington. After a subdued season last year, where crowds were thin due to the pandemic, polo fans can expect a much more upbeat, celebratory season in 2022. All of the amazing action will be back on the field, with horse-and-rider pairs flying down the emerald-green canvas, all eyes on the goal posts. And along with the action, there’s a whole other set of entertainment to enjoy, whether it is people watching, high fashion, tailgating, the halftime divot stomp, extravagant Sunday brunches and much more. The International Polo Club Palm Beach attracts the best of the best, playing in its annual winter high-goal season, including the illustrious Gauntlet of Polo series. This all culminates with the U.S. Open Polo Championships, the coveted top prize in American polo. Once again, IPC is the place to be to see the action. As we do each year, Wellington The Magazine is highlighting just a small handful of the amazing athletes you will see flying down the polo field this season, eyes on the ball. Turn the page and enjoy Faces of Polo 2022.
Originally from San Antonio, Texas, and coming from a polo-playing family, Stewart Armstrong reached the status of a 7-goal handicap while competing in tournaments worldwide. Today, he continues to play while also serving as chairman of the United States Polo Association, a role he took over in 2019 and has used to continue his lifelong work to grow the sport in the United States. He received the Hugo Dalmar Trophy in 2019, awarded to the player who best exemplifies the sportsmanship characteristics of polo. Now rated as a 3-goaler, he played on the Aspen team during the 2021 Ylvisaker Cup at IPC in Wellington, joined Keko Magrini, Ignacio Arlbervide and Lucas James. When it came time for last year’s Gauntlet of Polo series, Armstrong played on the Aspen/Dutta Corp team with Timmy Dutta, Lucas Diaz Alberdi and Gringo Colombres.
Lucas Diaz Alberdi
Lucas Diaz Alberdi, one of the many Argentine players who winter in Wellington, is currently rated as a 6-goaler. He follows in the footsteps of his father, Alejandro “Piki” Diaz Alberdi. The younger Diaz Alberdi won the Joe Barry Memorial Cup and the Ylvisaker Cup with Dutta Corp in 2019. He won the Joe Barry Memorial Cup again with Palm Beach Equine in 2020. He began the 2021 season playing on Beverly Polo alongside Bill Ballhaus, Hilario Figueras and Tolito Ocampo. Working tirelessly in the middle of the game, Diaz Alberdi was a key figure for the offense, which made it to the final of the Joe Barry Memorial Cup and won the Ylvisaker Cup. Diaz Alberdi played in the 2021 Gauntlet of Polo series on Aspen/Dutta Corp with Timmy Dutta, Gringo Colombres and Stewart Armstrong. This past fall, he made it to the final of the East Coast Open in Connecticut with Palm Beach Equine.
Julian de Lusarreta
Argentine 7-goaler Julian “Negro” de Lusarreta has won major tournaments around the world. He started playing polo at six years old, taking part in many Argentine children’s tournaments. Aside from Argentina, he has played throughout Europe and here in the U.S. 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. For the past several years, he has played on the Coca-Cola team during the Gauntlet of Polo series. In 2021, he was on the field with Nico Pieres, Mackenzie Weisz and patron Gillian Johnston. The team claimed several impressive victories in 2021 but not the top titles.
Kristos “Keko” Magrini, a 3-goaler from Argentina, began 2021 playing in the opening tournaments at IPC with Santa Clara, made up of two father-son duos — Matias and Keko Magrini, along with Luis and Lucas Escobar. Santa Clara won the first event of the season, defeating Beverly Polo to win the Joe Barry Memorial Cup. Magrini managed to score back-to-back goals in the final minutes, completing the impressive performance in Santa Clara’s 10-7 victory, which won him the MVP award. Magrini switched to Aspen for the Ylvisaker Cup, scoring five goals to help his team defeat Palm Beach Equine early in the tournament. His impressive play won him the MVP award in that match as well. Magrini capped the 2021 season at IPC with Pilot, joined by patron Curtis Pilot and legendary 10-goalers Gonzalito and Facundo Pieres. The team made it all the way to the semifinals of the U.S. Open.
Mariano “Peke” Gonzalez Jr., 22, represents the latest generation in a polo-playing dynasty. The son of 6-goaler Mariano Gonzalez Sr., he currently also sports a 6-goal handicap and is rising quickly through the ranks. Gonzalez has a wealth of experience in some of the most competitive tournaments here and in Argentina, as well as representing Team USA in the 2018 Westchester Cup. Gonzalez won the 2017 Copa Provincia in Argentina, playing alongside his father in a tournament that had been won by his grandfather back in 1958. On the Iconica team during the Gauntlet of Polo series in 2019, he was a part of the Postage Stamp Farm team in 2020. Gonzalez played on the victorious Scone team in 2021 at IPC, claiming the U.S. Open title alongside the father-son duo of Adolfo and Poroto Cambiaso, along with David Paradice. Look for him to be back in action this season at IPC.
Argentine 9-goaler Diego Cavanagh is ranked as one of the top players in the sport today. Polo fans may remember him from his amazing 2017 season at the International Polo Club as part of the Valiente team. Along with Adolfo Cambiaso, Matias Torres Zavaleta and Bob Jornayvaz, Cavanagh captured the three top tournaments, winning the C.V. Whitney Cup, the USPA Gold Cup and the U.S. Open Polo Championship — including making the overtime goal that ended the season, giving Valiente a 13-12 victory in the U.S. Open final. Cavanagh has played on top teams at tournaments around the world. In 2020, he won the British Open with Next Generation and the Founders Cup with Scone. In 2021, he made it to the Tortugas Open final with La Dolfina and won the Harrison Cup with Green Gates. He played on the Coca-Cola team during the 2021 Gauntlet of Polo series here in Wellington.
Argentine polo player Raul “Gringo” Colombres is hard to miss in his bright red helmet. Rated as an 8-goaler, Colombres returned to high-goal play at IPC in 2019. He wasted no time making his presence known, leading Dutta Corp to a string of early season victories, including the Herbie Pennell Cup, the Joe Barry Memorial Cup and the Ylvisaker Cup — and along the way capturing consecutive MVP awards for himself. Colombres returned in 2020 to play on the Palm Beach Equine team with Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Gonzalo Ferrari and Scott Swerdlin, again winning the Joe Barry Memorial Cup. In 2021, Colombres was back in action with Palm Beach Equine, making it to the Ylvisaker Cup final before falling to Beverly Polo. When it came time for last year’s Gauntlet of Polo series, Colombres played on the Aspen/Dutta Corp team with Timmy Dutta, Lucas Diaz Alberdi and Stewart Armstrong.
Roberto “Robi” Bilbao, a 5-goaler from Argentina, has been a newcomer at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in recent years. He began 2021 on the Palm Beach Equine team with Gringo Colombres, Costi Caset and patron Dr. Scott Swerdlin. Bilbao was a key workhorse for the team, scoring when needed but focused on pressuring the opposing team on the ball. With Palm Beach Equine, Bilbao won the 2021 Bobby Barry Cup. The team made it all the way to the final of the Ylvisaker Cup before falling to Beverly Polo. This past fall, Bilbao played in the East Coast Open at the Greenwich Polo Club in Connecticut with Ellipse Polo, joined by Hilario Ulloa, Matt Coppola and Louis Devaleix. The team defeated Palm Beach Equine 11-9 in the final to take the tournament crown.
Jorge “Tolito” Fernandez Ocampo Jr. is a 6-goaler from Argentina. Ocampo began last season playing with Bill Ballhaus’s Beverly Polo team. Ocampo proved to be a standout player for Beverly Polo. After venturing into the arena at the Great Meadow Polo Club in Virginia, where he won Most Valuable Player in his first USPA arena tournament, Ocampo returned to outdoor play at the start of 2021 in Wellington in remarkable fashion, leading the team to victory in his first game out. The team made it to the final of the Joe Barry Memorial Cup before winning the coveted Ylvisaker Cup last season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington. Hilario Figueras and Ocampo scored five goals each to lead Beverly Polo to the 15-11 victory over Palm Beach Equine in the Ylvisaker Cup final.
A native of Argentina, Constancio “Costi” Caset grew up in California. Currently sporting a 5-goal handicap, he is the cousin of 10-goaler Guillermo “Sapo” Caset. Costi Caset can frequently be found playing in Wellington during the winter season, as well as in Argentina and Santa Barbara. A graduate of Team USPA, Caset entered the 2021 season after capturing the prestigious Provincia Cup in Argentina with La Cañada. Last year, he was on the Palm Beach Equine team with Robi Bilbao, Gringo Colombres and patron Scott Swerdlin. The team made it all the way to the Ylvisaker Cup final before falling to Beverly Polo. In 2020, he played on the Daily Racing Form team in the Gauntlet of Polo series. That team made it to the final of the UPSA Gold Cup before falling to La Indiana in a finale that was postponed a year due to the pandemic and was not concluded until February 2021.