The perfect “10” conjures images of everything from Bo Derek to Dancing With The Stars. In the sport of polo, a 10-goal rating is a rare and hard-earned honor. Thirty year old Hilario Ulloa was recently given the 10 goal handicap by the US Polo Association (USPA) from a jury of his peers. Only 10 players in the world currently competing have this perfect rating. Of this “10” which goes into effect January 1, 2017, Ulloa comments, “It’s amazing. It’s something you dream of since you the day you wanted to be a polo player.” Ulloa is playing his third season at the Greenwich Polo Club on the highly successful White Birch team, the home town favorite helmed by Peter M. Brant. White Birch is sometimes called “The Yankees of Polo” having won more high goal tournaments in the past 25 years than any other team, and this year Ulloa plays alongside Santino Magrini, Mariano Aguerre and Peter M. Brant.
Brant comments, “Hilario has played with White Birch for the last three years and he’s been a great teammate. He is intelligent, very fast, a great horseman and an all-around talented player. It has been a pleasure to see him develop and achieve 10-goal status with White Birch. Hilario joins a long list of 10-goalers who have played for White Birch including Mariano Aguerre, Carlos Gracida, Bautista Heguy, Gonzalo Pieres, Sr. and Adolfo Cambiaso.”
In Ulloa’s home of Argentina, Polo is a favorite national sport. His father Carlos “Polito” Ulloa is a legendary horse trainer. “I come from a horse family so I started riding when I was really young,” says Ulloa, “As soon as you go out of the house at a couple of weeks they put you on a horse.”
Hilario Ulloa at a young age has an impressive career winning the Monty Waterbury Cup twice and the East Coast Open. He won the 26-goal Triple Crown in the U.S. with Crab Orchard in 2010 and won the U.S. Open with Alegria in 2014. He’s also won the C.V. Whitney cup twice, the Piaget Gold Cup and the UK Gold Cup. It’s clearly time to get a bigger trophy case.
Yet Ulloa recounts, “The most memorable moment of my career is when we reached the final in the Argentine Open in 2013. That was a great moment for me and my organization and my family. It was a big effort from the Alegria team and it was really nice to reach the final.” In the world of polo the Argentine Open is pretty much the Super Bowl minus the Budweiser commercials.
Training The Perfect Partner Pony
Ulloa still spends a good portion of his time in Argentina. He explains, “I have a big breeding operation in Argentina so when I’m not playing tournaments I spend time with the young horses training them and selecting which ones can play high goal polo and what others can be sold for other players. I love the breeding so I spend a lot of time there.”
Interestingly, he also buys thoroughbreds off the race track in America to retrain. “Since I’ve been here I’ve bought 15 horses off the track and played some here in Florida and Connecticut and four went to Argentina in the last three years. It was really exciting. I spend a lot of time schooling them and then one day they play the Open in Argentina and it’s like winning a big trophy.”
In terms of how he identifies prospects, Ulloa comments, “You have many different types of talent. The first one I pick is the head. They have to be quiet and calm and have a good brain. What I like the most are the horses which are soft in the mouth and have amazing handling so everyone can play that horse.”
His personal favorite mounts this season are Caprichosa and Lavinia Naipe.
The Life of a Polo Player
His passion for polo is only matched by his passion for his family, wife Clarita and daughters Lavinia who is two and a half and Amber three months. He says, “I have two daughters and spend a lot of time with my family so I spend time half in the barn and half in the house with the kids. I also love playing soccer. Whenever we have some free time we play with a group of people from the barn, all the grooms, the vets, the polo players. We have some fun.”
With his athletic prowess and good looks, Ulloa would be a natural for a major sponsor contract. But for now he’s focused on the game instead of fame. He explains, “I try to focus on my polo career and spend enough time in the barn keeping my horses in top shape, and I have two young daughters so the rest of the time I try to spend with them.” Certainly Hilario Ulloa will draw attention to the sport and he’s excited to bring more visibility in the U.S. He comments, “Polo may not be that big yet but one moment it will come like any other sport like soccer or basketball or all the others.” No doubt his perfect 10 will have a role in that.
Equestrio is a proud sponsor of Greenwich Polo and will be reporting from the scene. For more information on the Greenwich Polo Club Season: www.greenwichpoloclub.com
© Chichi Ubina & David Lominska