The 2023 winter season heralds a new era in the sport of polo, both here in Wellington and across the United States. Over the summer, the United States Polo Association took control of Wellington’s signature polo destination, the International Polo Club Palm Beach, which has now been rebranded the National Polo Center-Wellington, or NPC. After its debut by hosting the prestigious XII FIP World Polo Championship in November, NPC is ready for its first winter high-goal season as the nation’s “Sunday Field” for polo. Watching the “sport of kings” on Sunday is a tradition to be enjoyed by everyone, from jet-setting socialites to year-round residents, polo experts to those new to the sport. 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 and start enjoying Faces of Polo 2023.
A long-time legend in the sport, Adolfo Cambiaso grew up playing polo in Argentina. Quickly rising in handicap, he obtained the illustrious 10-goal status at just 19 years old, the youngest player to achieve the sport’s top rating. In 2000, he founded La Dolfina with Bartolomé Castagnola, one of the most successful Argentine teams in history. That same year, he began his own breeding business from scratch. He went on to become a pioneer in horse cloning, producing the first clone in 2010 with Alan Meeker of Crestview Genetics. In his decorated career, Cambiaso has triumphed in a wide array of prestigious tournaments, many of them on multiple occasions. These include the Argentine Open, the Hurlingham Open, the USPA Gold Cup, the U.S. Open Polo Championship and more. He has played with Scone in the Gauntlet of Polo for the past two years alongside his son, Poroto Cambiaso.
Finding early success much like his father, 16-year-old Poroto Cambiaso emerged on the high-goal scene in 2020, when he captured the King Power Gold Cup in England as well as the Copa Cámara de Diputados, the Copa Pilar and the Repechaje Clasificación in Argentina. He played in the Gauntlet of Polo for the first time in 2021 with Scone, during which Scone won the USPA Gold Cup. He played with Scone again in 2022. Over the summer, he triumphed in the NetJets Pacific Coast Open with L.I.N.Y. Donning the same helmet as his father, which features the signature Argentine flag, 9-goaler Poroto is racing toward a 10-goal handicap and shows no signs of slowing down.
Currently the No. 1-ranked polo player in the world, 10-goaler extraordinaire Facundo Pieres is fresh off a successful Gauntlet of Polo season in 2022, winning both the USPA Gold Cup and the U.S. Open Polo Championship with Pilot alongside teammates Curtis Pilot, Mackenzie Weisz and Matias Torres Zavaleta. Pieres grew up playing with his brothers Gonzalito and Nicolas Pieres in Argentina. He became a professional player in 1997 when he won the Copa Potrillos with the Ellerstina Jr. team. He continues to travel the world playing in the most prestigious tournaments, often finding his way to the podium in the process.
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, played on the Aspen team during the 2021 Ylvisaker Cup, played in the 2021 Gauntlet of Polo series with Aspen/Dutta Corp, and competed again in the Gauntlet of Polo in 2022 with La Indiana alongside Jeff Hall, Lucas Criado Jr. and Mariano Aguerre.
Born in New York but raised in Argentina, Pablo “Polito” Pieres is among the few polo greats who have achieved a 10-goal handicap. Becoming a professional in 1997 at age 18, Pieres was introduced to the sport by his father, Paul Pieres. Pieres has played on winning teams in the British Open, the Deauville Gold Cup in France, and the USPA C.V. Whitney Cup and USPA Gold Cup here in Wellington. He played with Santa Rita Polo Farm in the 2022 Gauntlet of Polo and found success in 2020 with La Indiana in the USPA Gold Cup. Most recently, Pieres triumphed in the 2022 Tortugas Open, and the 2021 Argentine Open, Hurlingham Open and Queens Cup.
Achieving the elusive 10-goal status in 2017, Hilario Ulloa has remained among the top players in the world, competing in the United States, England and Argentina. Playing with Park Place for the last two years in the Gauntlet of Polo, Ulloa has experienced great success, winning the 2021 and 2022 C.V. Whitney Cup, as well as making it to the U.S. Open Polo Championship Final in 2021 and the USPA Gold Cup Final in 2022. He is a three-time winner of the U.S. Open Polo Championship, a three-time winner of the C.V. Whitney Cup and a one-time winner of the USPA Gold Cup. Outside of the U.S., this polo prodigy has triumphed in the Hurlingham Open, the Tortugas Open, the Ellerstina Gold Cup and more.
Mariano “Peke’’ Gonzalez Jr., 23, represents the latest generation in a polo-playing dynasty. The son of Mariano Gonzalez Sr., he currently sports a 6-goal handicap. 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 won by his grandfather back in 1958. On the Iconic team during the Gauntlet of Polo in 2019, he was a part of the Postage Stamp Farm team in 2020. Gonzalez played on the victorious Scone team in 2021, claiming the U.S. Open title alongside Adolfo and Poroto Cambiaso, along with David Paradice. This summer, he played with Farmers & Merchants Bank in both the Farmers & Merchants Bank Silver Cup and the NetJets Pacific Coast Open, making it to the final of the latter before falling to L.I.N.Y.
American Jeff Hall was raised in Santa Barbara, California, and Houston, Texas. He began riding when he was just four years old. He became a professional at the young age of 12. Still one of the highest-rated American players at 7 goals, Hall has won every high-goal trophy in U.S. polo, including the U.S. Open Polo Championship in 2003. He most recently won the USPA Gold Cup with La Indiana in 2020. Over the summer, he also competed with BenSoleimani.com and won the Farmers & Merchants Bank Silver Cup, marking his 10th win in that prestigious competition. While he travels for polo frequently, he calls New Pueblo, his Houston ranch, home. He also lives in Wellington during the winter season.
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 in Wellington 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 for the Ylvisaker Cup, and he competed with Aspen/Dutta Corp in the Gauntlet of Polo series. In 2022, he played with Cessna alongside Miguel Novillo Astrada, Camp Campbell and Will Johnston.
Fourth-generation polo player Hope Arellano comes from a long line of polo players — with her father Julio Arellano achieving a 9-goal handicap at the peak of his career. Picking up the sport at a young age, Arellano played in her first adult tournament at age 11 and won her first 12-goal tournament alongside her father and two older brothers, Lucas and Agustin, at age 12. At 14, Arellano became the youngest player ever to win the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship. Now 19 years old, Arellano hasn’t slowed down a bit, recently competing for the United States in the FIP World Polo Championship, becoming the first woman to ever compete for the U.S. in that prestigious international contest.