Officials at Sotogrande are turning venue into an oasis for equine sport – and have been rewarded with World Polo Tour inclusion.
Sotogrande is this week celebrating its Gold Cup tournament’s inclusion as a Grand Slam on the World Polo Tour, as it celebrates the 45th year of its famous event in 2016. It represents a huge step forward for Santa Maria Polo Club.
The competitive value of the Gold Cup has seen the WPT Committee raise this tournament to a Grand Slam competition following its latest meeting, meaning that 150 ranking points will be available for the winning team, up 25 points more than last season, for which the points tally was also raised.
It marks the staggering rise of Sotogrande. Many years to become an overnight sensation. Having visited Sotogrande last year as the Gold Cup drew to a close, and having heard of the plans it has for development and expansion, little wonder it is becoming more recognised on a global stage.
Indeed, plans include drawing patrons to bring their teams to the south of Spain to prepare for the English season. The Hurlingham Polo Association are not seeing this as a threat, but an amelioration of polo’s standing in Europe.
For several years, we have witnessed an exodus of the very best players to Sotogrande after the Gold Cup, as they seek warmer climes and more gold. It forms part of a larger plan being implemented by Santa Maria Polo Club to turn Sotogrande into an oasis for equine sport.
As Santiago Torreguitar, the Argentine who has been polo manager for 16 years, said: “Every year it’s growing. We have new sponsors, the fields are fantastic, the teams are the best in the world, the referees are the best in the world.
“If the organisation goes alongside all of that, you can’t lose.” This latest promotion from the WPT is vindication of all those qualities, with the likes of Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres being drawn there to play.
In 2016, there will be only three international competitions, outside Argentina, included in the Grand Slam category:
• US Open Polo Championship, to be held from March 30 to April 24 at Palm Beach International Polo Club, Florida. (Played at 26 goals)
• UK Open for the Gold Cup. From June 22 to July 17 at Cowdray Park Polo Club. (Played at 22 goals)
• Gold Cup, Spain. From August 14 to August 28 at Santa María Polo Club, Sotogrande. (Played at 22 goals)
The World Polo Tour was formed in 2002. The other competitions which form the 45th International Tournament at Santa María Polo Club will stay at 90 points – the Silver Cup, and the Gold and Silver Cups at medium goal, all of which will take place between July 27 and August 28.
There was a need to create new competitions and measuring standards for players on the international polo scene, as part of an international ranking system of players.
Each player gets the sum of his results in the annual competitions of those tournaments that are included in the World Polo Tour, highlighted as the best in the world, with Grand Slam, World Championship Cup, World Polo Tour Cup and Challenge Cup categories. The “Master” category is reserved only for the Argentinian Triple Crown.
The WPT, in deciding its elevation of tournaments, takes into account the following aspects in its assessment: tournament handicap, location, the organisation of the event, the number of teams competing, the number of attendees congregated, and the level of the international players taking part.
The great leap forward for Santa Maria and Sotogrande.