By Donna Washington
It has been 24 years since top American polo player Nic Roldan became the youngest person ever to win the U.S. Open Polo Championship when he did so at age 15 in 1998. More than two decades later, the star’s trajectory only continues to evolve and grow — and he’ll be back at the U.S. Open this season on the fields of the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Wellington is known as the “Winter Equestrian Capital,” and in many ways, Roldan stands out as one of its truest ambassadors. He’s no transient visitor, but someone who calls Wellington home, since his early years attending New Horizons Elementary School, and later Cardinal Newman High School.
We recently caught up with him early one morning outside of Starbucks, a favorite morning haunt. It’s a great spot for people watching, Roldan explained. He loves his hometown, and despite being fortunate enough to have played all over the world, nothing makes Roldan happier than being back home in Wellington.
He’s often asked in interviews where his favorite place to go for dinner is. Perhaps writers expect him to rattle off a list of the latest, coolest restaurants, not the iconic Wellington eatery Park Avenue BBQ Grill. His repertoire of dining faves in Wellington also includes breakfast at Cilantro’s, Gabriel’s Café or First Watch; brunch at Oli’s; lunch at Field of Greens, Bolay or his parents’ favorite Lemongrass Asian Bistro; dinner at Sushi Moto, the Clubhouse at Palm Beach Polo or Kaluz. For a quick meal, a visit to PDQ hits the spot.
Roldan appeared on the cover of the March 2009 issue of Wellington The Magazine wearing a Pony Express team shirt. He explained how the now late Pony Express patron Bob Daniels was such a key person in his career, to his own family’s life and how today he actually has his horses in the same barn featured back then.
Roldan is palpably excited for the upcoming 2022 high-goal polo season in Wellington.
He’s a stalwart of Marc and Melissa Ganzi’s Grand Champions organization with its 2022 World Polo League season set to be bigger than ever. Additionally, after a three-year absence, Roldan will be back playing in the U.S. Open at IPC.
He is a man comfortable in his skin and at peace with dancing to his own beat. Rather than working with big fashionable organizations, he prefers to work with local charities that he is genuinely passionate about, particularly helping kids. Locally, he works with the Kids Cancer Foundation and the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club. Each year, he takes part in the Kids Cancer Foundation’s 5K run. In normal times, the foundation hosts monthly Parents Night Out evenings, and on occasion, Roldan has been known to visit in full black tie prior to going on to a glitzy social event, making sure to see the kids first. He’s also not scared of having little girls bedazzle his nails and still have it on two days later!
Roldan is fervently passionate about his sport. True to his millennial status, he has his finger on the pulse, wanting to promote the equestrian lifestyle. Not only to more brands, but to a wider audience. Roldan feels it’s key for all disciplines to work together for the collective greater good of equestrianism and the horses in it. Wellington is the perfect spot to make this a reality. “Horses clearly are the common factor here,” he explained. “Although in polo, we deal in much larger numbers of horses, but that does not mean they are looked after any less.”
In Roldan’s case, his horses are part of the family. Not being in the business of selling horses, he will have them as his companions for many years. “The bond between horses and humans is something very special, and it’s great to be able to share that with more people,” he said.
His philosophy of going local shines through in other aspects of his ever-growing brand. He has formed allegiances with a number of local brands, such as Provident Jewelry. He has long been friends with Geoff Fear, owner of the Wellington boutique, and since the start of 2020, Roldan has had a formal partnership with them. Fear is an enthusiastic polo fan, and Roldan may be partial to a dapper timepiece or two. Add to that the fact that polo has a long heritage with watch brands, and it’s a no brainer.
Roldan also explained how fitness is such a vital part of his sport, and that he and his peers spend at least three mornings a week doing extreme workouts. As a man on a mission, he been made an ambassador for Technogym, gym equipment supplier to the latest Olympic games, which is developing an equestrian-specific curriculum. It makes total sense. If you can tone your muscles correctly, you can give better, more controlled signals to your horse, and thus perform better. Maintaining that intensity and longevity is a key for Roldan. He was also keen to add cryotherapy to his repertoire, and he is now working with Revive Wellington to spread the word. Roldan also works with Therabody, the leading percussive therapy device creator, and another key component to his daily routine.
Regarding other business ventures, Roldan enthuses about having formed R Polo Holdings a year ago. His company not only covers everything pertinent to his brand and polo, but a large section is real estate related. Not only has Roldan flipped six properties, but he has also built a high-end horse barn and is now endeavoring on his second elevated spec house, all right here in Wellington.
Each morning, Roldan scours the real estate listings and has an inbuilt radar, identifying each local property for sale and assessing its potential. The properties he has flipped were gutted and then transformed. With the spec house, his involvement is hands on and very visual, from the shape of the roof to the shade of the wooden floor, right through to the plates on the table. Roldan has a touch in all, and nothing has been left to chance.
In 2020, Roldan co-founded High Goal Luxury Gin, which is setting a new, ultra-premium standard for the market. High Goal is American gin reimagined, and Roldan sees it as a gin for everyone, including people who usually don’t drink gin. It’s based on Meyer lemon and mint, making it very smooth.
In October 2021, he launched “Roldan Lifestyle” with his first mini clothing collection. It blends timeless traditions with the modern age in the form of gorgeously soft hoodies and crew sweaters, t-shirts and kids clothing bearing iconic imagery. Again, Roldan’s details are evident throughout, from the design to the quality of the product.
Roldan encompasses all that’s best of Wellington and embraces Wellington at every opportunity he gets — clearly spreading a little Roldan magic wherever he goes and whoever he meets.
Visit www.nicroldan.com to learn more about Nic Roldan and his many ventures.