Professional Polo Underway
By Ron Allen
There is only one country where the King of Sports is truly king: Argentina. With the start of Tortugas this week it’s the beginning of polo’s Triple Crown, the only all-pro polo in the world.
This South American nation has the worlds only polo club near the heart of a bustling, cosmopolitan, downtown. Every fall Palermo packs em in during the “Abierto” with over 15,000 knowledgeable and passionate fans jammed into the world’s most monumental polo stadium. Thirty-two of the best players on eight, all pro teams, battling it out for the most prestigious trophy title in the world. Argentina has produced the majority of the world’s best 10 goal players.
The downtown polo cathedral
Thirty five miles northwest of downtown Buenos Aires, via the Pan Am highway, you’ll find the city of Pilar with more polo fields than restaurants. At last count there were 100 manicured polo fields within a ten-mile radius on the flat, plush plains of the Pampas. Many with familiar names like: Ellerstina, Lechuza, Alegria, Polo One, Centaurus, Pilar Chico, Chapa Uno, La Indiana, and La Baronesa are all based here with a polo pony population of over 6,000. Property sells for $5,000. an acre compared to over $300,000. per acre in Florida or California. There are state-of-the-art stables in a third world country, which has become an equine polo paradise. The game of polo in Argentina is not elitist like the cachet of Cowdray Park in England or the glam of Greenwich in the states.
The Triple Crown games have been broadcast live on ESPN for several years and sponsorship dollars are readily available to support Argentina’s second most popular sport. The media commitment is so successful that the games are replayed during the week and ESPN also carries a weekly polo show during the high goal season. With such outstanding media success 20 goal polo has now become a year round sport in Argentina.
ESPN: professional polo coverage
Family dynasties are at the heart of polo’s popularity in South America. Names like Pieres, Heguy and Astrada are just part of a long list of third and fourth generation Argentines who continue to carry on the heritage of their high goal success at polo fields around the world.
The Astrada brothers
The game has also proven to be very resilient in the midst of high inflation and a long history of economic strife and government corruption. There are over 600 polo pony breeders operating in Argentina and exporting horses is still a thriving industry with over 2,000 horses shipped out to other countries every year. Prices for nice horses are still within the five to ten thousand dollar range. However, Gonzalo Pieres’ best mare, Fina Pepa, recently sold at auction for close to $500,000.
This country’s passion for polo is unequaled in the rest of the world as evidenced by the annual migration of hundreds of polo fans from around the world as they converge to worship at the cathedral of polo known as “Campo Argentino de Polo” to witness the final leg of the Triple Crown.