Four-time winner of the most prestigious polo tournament in the world, the Argentine Open, talks to Carolina Beresford.
My brother, Pepe. We have played together our whole lives. We are ten months apart in age and it’s almost as if we are twins. He has played with me the 29 years that I’ve played Palermo. I’ve played in France, England and the US with him; he’s the person I get on best with and understand most on the field.
I love a challenge so I enjoy playing against the best – Adolfo Cambiaso, Bautista Heguy in his time, Facundo Pieres. It’s like playing against Roger Federer or Tiger Woods. It’s playing against the greatest players in the history of our sport – and it’s a lot of fun.
Best mare you ever had?
Polo Bailanta, a chestnut mare with a white face. Her grandmother [Polo Pulita] was my father’s best mare ever and her mother [Polo Puresa] was Pepe’s best playing mare – so there is history there. She was strong, sensitive and had stamina. I have her in my farm in La Pampa now and use her for breeding. I have lots of mares that I’ve played in the past on the farm, some well over 20 years old. They are almost like relics.
Most embarrassing moment?
The worst thing that has happened to me in polo was getting sent off in the final of the Palermo Open in 2002. I was playing against La Dolfina, got two yellow cards and got sent off in the fifth chukka, right in the middle of the game. The worst thing about it is that I didn’t deserve to be sent off. But things like that happen. I must be the first person to have been sent off in the final of Palermo.
Favourite position to play in?
I have played my whole life at number 4 [back]. I’ve played at 3 at times but it’s the position that most bores me. You have to be very disciplined; polo teams are formed from back to front, so the number 3 is charge of keeping the team’s formation and keeping order. When I was a kid I preferred playing at number 1 or 2 because you feel like you have more freedom on the pitch. But the position I play best is number 4.
Favourite polo shot?
Penalties. I think they are a lot of fun. Throughout my polo career I’ve always taken the penalties. I practice them often, they are fun to take, but also very important. Over half of the goals scored in a match are from penalties.
Best piece of advice you would give an aspiring polo player?
You have to have fun on the field. Polo is a dangerous sport but if it’s played responsibly, looking after the horses and being conscious, it loses that danger. The most important thing is to have fun and be a good team-mate.
Best polo memory?
Having played with my brothers [Pepe and Ignacio] and my father [Alberto Pedro Heguy] at the highest possible level of the sport: The Argentine Open.
Is there a tournament you wish you had won?
I never won the Queen’s Cup or the US Open. I didn’t play the US Open many times but I lost a few finals. I also lost the final of the Queen’s Cup on more than one occasion. I would have loved to win them.
Do you have a pre-match routine?
Of course. I always arrive 90 minutes before the game and concentrate on physical and mental preparation. Every player has their own routine.
Who has influenced your polo career the most?
My father, by far; he taught us not to be selfish on the field, play as a team, and never give up. And the great Coronel Suarez team, composed of my father, my uncle [Horacio Heguy] and the two Harriott brothers. Juan Carlos Harriott won the Open 20 times, Horacio won it 19 times, my father won it 17 times and Alfredo Harriott won it 15 times. They were a champion team and they made polo history.
What does it take to win the final of the Argentine Open?
Sixty per cent horsepower and 40 per cent team ability. You have to be very experienced and have a bit of luck. The most important thing is knowing how to close a match. I started playing Palermo at 19 and I lost the final of the Open by a goal. I thought that it would be easy from then on; my father had won it 17 times and the first time I played we almost won. But it took us 11 years from that point before we won the cup. You have to know how to play the important points of the match. Every game is different and you have to be able to remember past experience in a split second.