American Superstar Polo Player Hope Arellano Will Rise To 10-Goal Status By The End Of 2023
Polo superstar Hope Arellano just completed a stellar season in Wellington that featured her being named Most Valuable Player of the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship held at the United States Polo Association’s National Polo Center-Wellington. It’s safe to say that the 20-year-old Arellano has taken the world of polo by storm — and she’s just getting started.
With a myriad of titles, championships and notable victories on her trophy shelf, Arellano’s dominance and dedication to the sport is an inspiration, especially for other young women.
The Arellano family has deep connections to Wellington, and she can often be found here when not at her home base in Aiken, South Carolina.
A fourth-generation polo player, Arellano knew at just nine years old that she wanted to be a polo professional like her father, Hall of Famer Julio Arellano. Her first adult tournament at the age of 11 served as the catalyst for her polo career, and since then, this phenom has yet to slow down.
“My dad was a professional polo player,” Arellano said. “So, ever since I can remember, I have been riding and been around the sport.”
At age 14, Arellano was rated as a 3-goaler in Women’s Outdoor. Now, six years later, she will achieve the ultimate mark of a professional with the coveted 10-goal handicap in both women’s outdoor and arena polo.
Set to rise to 9 goals in May and 10 goals in December, Arellano’s achievement also marks a significant accomplishment for American polo. She will be the first American woman to achieve a 10-goal Women’s Outdoor handicap since the legendary Sunny Hale, and the first American to achieve any 10-goal status since Polito Pieres in 2015. She is also the youngest American to reach a 10-goal women’s handicap.
It is an achievement that comes as a surprise, even to Arellano.
“I truly couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I definitely think I have a lot of work to do to be at that level.”
Arellano’s handicap raise comes fresh off her win in the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship. Competing with La Fe alongside Winifred Branscum, Pamela Flanagan and Hazel Jackson, Arellano’s stellar performance contributed six goals in the final and earned her recognition as the MVP.
“I was very fortunate to play with La Fe in this year’s Women’s Open,” she said. “They are a great organization. I loved every moment playing with Pam, Hazel and Winnie!”
That feeling was mutual. Praising Arellano’s skill after the match, Jackson noted, “For me right now, she’s the best player in the world. I feel like she’s got much more talent than myself. I think Nina [Clarkin]’s incredible, but I think Hope has got some things that I haven’t seen in other young girls. It’s amazing.”
Arellano was very proud of how her team worked together during the final.
“We really wanted to open it up,” Arellano said after their big victory. “It’s really kind of me and Hazel’s style to hit and run. So going into this game, we were like, ‘Let’s hit, let’s run, let’s spread the field.’ Playing on Field One, we really got to open it up — play our game. When we got our runs, the plan was for one of us to always stay back. We didn’t really do that so well in the first two [chukkers], but we got it together.”
She also thanked Flanagan’s efforts in organizing the team, and the La Fe organization’s continued support. “Pam has put so much work into this. Since last year, she has been working really, really hard,” Arellano said. “To win with Pam and this whole organization… to all the boys that helped out, it took a village! It all wouldn’t have been possible without the organization, so thank you to all of them.”
Aside from her own MVP honor, Arellano’s second chukker spare and sixth chukker horse, 9-year-old Macumba, got Best Playing Pony honors. Like any good polo player, it’s all about the horses for Arellano.
“Macumba is a mare that I purchased from Matias Magrini. He actually sent her to me to play her and sell her. I ended up falling in love with her,” Arellano said. “At the moment I bought her, she wasn’t one of my best horses, and now she has turned into one of my top five. Every time she goes onto the field, she gives me her whole heart and more. Anything I ask her, she goes into. She never second guesses me, even probably when I should be second guessed. I love her heart. She won me over with her heart.”
Arellano previously won the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship in 2017 with San Saba. Just age 14 at the time, she is still the youngest player to ever win the tournament.
Aside from the Women’s Polo Championship, Arellano played in a number of other tournaments in Wellington this season.
“I had a wonderful winter season in Wellington,” she said. “Fortunately, I was able to play in many mixed tournaments, including a few 6 goal, 8 goal, 12 goal and 18 goal.”
Arellano also made headlines last fall with her participation in the XII FIP World Polo Championship, also held at NPC in Wellington, making history as the first woman to compete for the United States in the international contest.
Her addition to the starting lineup continued Team USA’s forward momentum, allowing the red, white and blue to emerge with an electrifying 9-8 overtime win against defending champions and competition favorites, Argentina, to advance to the final. Hope’s contributions also helped Team USA put forth a strong effort in the final, forcing the game into overtime. While they fell in a narrow 11-10 loss to Spain, Team USA’s silver medal finish offered a great deal of hope for the future of American polo on the global scene.
From Wellington, Arellano heads west this spring and across the pond this summer.
“I will be playing in Santa Barbara this spring then head to England in the summer,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the upcoming seasons and focusing on just trying to improve as much as possible!”
Meanwhile, Arellano is also quickly becoming a mainstay in the Women’s Argentine Open, competing the last two years in that prestigious competition. In 2021, she played with La Irenita Libra Seguros, placing third and receiving the Revelation Award for her performance. In 2022, she played with La Irenita E-Movility and advanced to the final, falling to La Dolfina in a hard-fought match. This year, she will compete with El Overo Z7 UAE, one of the strongest women’s polo organizations in the world.
A shining beacon of hope for the advancement of American polo, Arellano’s accomplishments pave the way for many other young professionals, showing that hard work and determination can flourish into a successful career in the sport. Now, with her soon-to-be 10-goal handicap, Arellano is set to continue breaking barriers and records in the years to come.