As sporting heritages go, Tommy Beresford could not have been born far from a stable or a string of ponies.
There are twin polo dynasties and thundering hooves on both sides of the familial tree, from Chile to West Sussex, via the Emerald Isle, going back over 120 years.
The towering teenager is one of a group of young players coming through in English polo who will bring eyes to the sport for the next decade or two.
‘Tomas’ Beresford – son of Lord Charles Beresford and María Teresa Donoso – was quite literally born into polo from day dot. Even though the 19-year-old, who attended Wellington College, writes left-handed, he plays sport with a dominant right hand.
One suspects mater and pater got a polo stick into that little right mitt from the very early steps. All polo, of course, is played right-handed for safety reasons. Woe betide a Beresford or a Donoso who might emerge as fully ‘sinistra’.
There is much for young Tommy to compare himself by. Beresford’s grandfather is the Marquis of Waterford, who won the Gold Cup with his brother, Lord Patrick Beresford, in 1966, and 1969, in a lineup which included Gonzalo Tanoira and HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Tomas’s father Charles, who now manages polo matters at Great Trippetts Farm, had a successful playing career himself for more than three decades, and in 1979, was named the Best Young Player of the Year, and then went on to win the Gold Cup with Carlos Gracida, as well as winning the Coronation Cup, as an England player, five times.
It is a mark master Beresford of today aspires to. On the Chilean side, the love of ponies and chukkas goes even deeper. Tommy’s mother, María Teresa Donoso, born in Chile, was also a renowned player who won the British Ladies Open Championship in England several times, while his uncles, the late great Gabriel Donoso, and Jose Donoso, were fixtures in the English high goal season for many years.
The two men were always a delight to speak to and to watch playing. They graced the English game, and were consummate gentlemen. Gabriel, indeed was the highest rated player ever from Chile, won all the major honours in the English season, and was regular in polo’s most brutal proving ground, the Argentine Open.
He died as a result of a riding accident in Argentina ten years ago and will never be forgotten. Gabriel’s younger brother, José, now plies his trade with patron Victor Vargas in Venezuela and across the world.
Truth is, to young Tommy, his sporting IQ in polo is being challenged at present as he makes the next step forward in his career.
Polo is all or nothing at this level. But pressed on the history, he explained to Telegraph Sport from Florida, where he is currently playing, he said: “Both sides of my family played polo, my Irish grandfather and my great uncle played and won the Gold Cup with Gonzalo Tanoira.
“My father played for England and all over the world. And then my Chilean grandfather played a lot, too. My connection to Chilean polo is huge due to my two uncles. Gabriel was the best player in the history of Chilean polo and his younger brother Jose not very far off.
“Having this family background in polo most definitely meant encouraged me to get into the sport, and also having my (older) brother William helped me get involved too.
“My first memory of playing is at Great Trippetts Farm, and playing with my brother, father and uncles. George Milford Haven, the owner (of the farm), has always been very supportive, and with my family and other players having always had their horses there I’ve been able to interact with them and play-practice with them for as long as I can remember.”
He added: “I’ve wanted to play polo since I can remember. It’s one of the main reasons why I’m not studying at the moment. I’m honestly not really interested in anything apart from polo. I’ve always liked sports. At school I played tennis, football and golf but polo has always been number one. And it has been like that forever. There’s still a possibility that I will go to university, but at the moment I am planning on sticking in polo and getting to as good as I can be at it.”
With legs as long as a medium-sized polo pony, Beresford is a rangy player, appearing at times as if he has been stretched on a wrack. But it certainly enables his hook to have that extra reach and swing.
Beresford’s hardest shots to play in polo
“I would say that being tall has its advantages when you are trying to hook because I have more reach. My legs are weirdly long but I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” he mused. “But my ambition in polo is to get as best mounted as I can, which will hopefully allow me to play a high level of polo and play to the best of my capability.”
In a sense, the first part of that has been fulfilled over this English winter. Beresford, still 3 goals, was called in to play alongside Adolfo Cambiaso, in Florida, after having been playing in South America for the last five months. It is a path well-trodden by many an aspiring, developing player.
“I was playing lots in Argentina,” Beresford says. “I then came to Florida in the hope of maintaining my handicap but I ended up playing the 20-goal with Adolfo Cambiaso in the Valiente organization – which has been amazing. The horses they provided me with and the experience of being able to play with the best player in the history of the sport is something that any player would dream of.”
Such an experience has clearly provided huge stimulation for the young man ahead of the English summer of 2016. Indeed, he had a run out with Cambiaso, and Dubai, in 2014. Hopefully, though, high goal awaits this summer.
“If everything goes to plan I should be playing the high goal with Talandracas polo team in England. You never know what can happen, so until I’m on the field playing I don’t count it as confirmed. But the deal has been done so I should be playing with them come summer time.”
All this history begs the question as to which country Beresford would play for: Chile or England, should the trumpet call? “My connection with Chilean polo is huge due to my two uncles so it’s always tempting to side with the Chileans but living and playing in England it seems better that I play for them.”
And on the subject of England, like every young sportsperson unshackled and fearless, Beresford believes the new order should be taking over with alacrity. “I personally think that James Beim, Luke and Mark Tomlinson have done a great job over the years for England but I think it’s time for younger players like Max Charlton, George Meyrick, Richard Le Poer, Jack Richardson, Ollie Cudmore and Matt Perry to be given a chance to play for England.”
They are a few years older than Beresford. “If this happened sooner,” added Beresford, “it would give me more confidence that when my generation comes through, with players such as Jack Hyde, Tom Brodie, Ralph Richardson and hopefully myself, that we would be given a chance to show what we have on the field.”
Young Beresford has it all in front of him. But is there pressure to perform to the standard set by his father, mother, cousins, uncles with stick and ball? The young horseman doesn’t feel it. “I wouldn’t say I have a lot to live up to – my parents have always been very supportive of me, but I don’t feel like there’s any pressure on me. I know the amount of work my parents have put in to make me as good as I can be and how they have invested in my game. Perhaps there’s a little pressure when I consider it, but really, they’ve always taught me to aim to play as well or as hard as I can and to try to not think too far ahead.”
Sound advice. Great young sportsman.