“I HAD ALMOST GIVEN UP ON THE DREAM OF PLAYING PALERMO, BUT I DON’T WRITE IT OFF YET”

Jota Chavanne is now in Deauville, ready to play the Silver and Gold Cups, but he has spent the last month in Saint Tropez, where he had a great season with Antelope. The team qualified for two finals, battling it out in both categories of the International Polo Cup and the Polo Masters/Open de Gassin. Chavanne, a much loved figure in the polo community, is enjoying his achievements and the opportunities presented to him primarily over the past two years. PoloLine caught up with Jota in Deauville.

“I am lucky that things started really picking up over the past three years; I think it has to do with the jobs I got, and it helps that I am better mounted,” says Chavanne. “I regained confidence in myself, and that helped me play better. These last few years have been my most successful in terms of achievements.”

On his relationship with polo in France: Five years ago, my friend Vizcacha Benoit recommended me to Martincito [Aguerre] for a team in France with Tomi Rinderknecht. That is when I started to organise myself again in terms of horses and I closed up everything I had in Argentina – I only kept a few recipient mares. It was tough in the beginning, but several friends really helped me out, particularly Lucas Monteverde, Guillermo Terrera and Pablo Mac Donough.

On his history with Antelope: I have now been playing with Geoffrey Palmer in July for four years. He always plays in Santa Bárbara with Santi Trotz, and my name came up through Carolina Anier; Santi also recommended me. We have always done well, and Geoffrey is a great guy, who is fun to play with. He doesn’t say a lot, but he is positive. He always has a smile on his face and he takes the losses on the chin.

On his time in Saint Tropez: I had come over once to play with Marquard Media; we stayed fifteen days the last year that Franck Dubarry played the 15-goal. We did 15 with Tomi [Rinderknecht] and 15 with Franck. I love the beach; if I don’t have a game, I will be at the beach all day long. There is also a great amusement park, and the port has nice restaurants. The organisation is fantastic and we have a lot of fun.

On his first time playing abroad: My first trip was to England in 2003; I went with Lolo and Adolfito as a groom, and ended up playing my first 2-goal tournament. I then played the Archie David with Les Lions and we won. I went from 2 to 4 and never played in England again! It was great fun.

On the place which has impacted him the most: I found India to be incredible. I was young, around 20 years old, and I remember calling my mother saying that I couldn’t handle the culture clash or the poverty I saw. I don’t know what happened the following week, but I remember staying for three months and being very happy out there. One of the Indian guys, Vicky Nihalani, became a great friend of mine; he was a 2-goal player. I am now god-father to his daughter. India is a magical place.

On playing the 26-goal with Orchard Hill: It was the best thing ever. I was lucky to get to play with two great friends, Facu and Polito [Pieres]. I wasn’t going to play at the beginning, but they were great. Polito invited me to stay at his house. They then decided to play with me and it was the funnest thing in the world. The level was spectacular and the organisation was impecable. Lucas Criado, all the grooms, Chris, the manager – everyone was amazing. We had fun everyday. We lost it at the end; I remember the game and can’t believe that it didn’t go our way.

On ten teams playing the Open: I think the change is great because we will no doubt see a lot of fantastic games. We know that Ellerstina and La Dolfina are a step ahead of the rest, but this Palermo is going to be amazing. The fact that the winner of the Cámara now has the chance of qualifying for the Open is a great motivation. I also like that the last placed team in the Open will be relegated, because it means that every game is important. I had almost given up on the dream of playing Palermo, but after having played the 26-goal in the States this year, something I never thought would happen, then, who knows? I am realistic about how long it takes to get organised, but I don’t write it off yet.

On Deauville: We are playing with Martín Joaquín and Martincito [Aguerre], whom I understand very well on the field as we have been playing together for five years. He trusts me and makes me play better, and I know what game he needs to play well. Deauville is always a lot of fun; I have played here three times and lost the Gold Cup final twice. I want to make this time count.

On his objectives in polo: I am not going to limit myself in the years I have left. After what happened in Palm Beach, I believe that I can get anything. So I am going to continue working hard in Europe, getting organised, making friends and being positive. It would be great to play the high-goal in Sotogrande, or even the high-goal England, which I have not done. I want to continue working on our breed with my brother Juan Pablo, too; we sometimes help our brother Santiago out, as well. Juan Pablo is great with new horses. All in all, I want to carry on working so that I can continue to live off polo and horses.