By Andrés Ugarte Larraín
After several tries and a difficult start to the high-goal season, Matías Mac Donough finally reached his objective: to qualify for the Hurlingham Open and the Palermo Open. He and La Irenita, his family team, underwent an extremely trying Qualification tournament and now anxiously await their Hurlingham debut against Ellerstina.
“It is great to come back and play Hurlingham and Palermo after several years of trying to qualify, especially in terms of our horses, since we are very interested in breeding our own. The other guys [Clemente Zavaleta, Juan Gris Zavaleta and Tito Ruiz Guiñazú] have a few Cría Irenita horses in their string, too,” Mac Donough tells PoloLine.
“The special thing about playing the Triple Crown is that you have a team and you have to get organised before the game; it is not just about playing. You also share a lot of things. And having watched from the stands for a few years makes you really want it.”
What stage are you at personally?
I feel like this has come at a good time; I have got several horses together and we have been playing with this team for four years. It is fun and exciting. I really enjoy it because you never know when you can play the Triple Crown, and I really think that it has to be enjoyed; this is the first time I play and think that this could be my last Triple Crown. The last time I played was with Chapa in 2010; that season finished and I didn’t put a team together because things did not work out. But I didn’t play thinking that it could be my last. Today there is a big chance that this is my last Triple Crown.
How are your family and La Irenita feeling about what is to come?
One of the best things about playing is going to the games with the whole family, and seeing the kids get excited. I’m happy that they have the chance to see me play and that they will remember watching me play Hurlingham and Palermo. This is our family club so everyone is delighted. And it is special for everyone at La Irenita, not just my family: it is an embryo center and a breeding program with a long trajectory. We have Pablo playing for another team and that makes it hard for La Irenita to stand out, but everyone is very excited and working with the horses, trying to recover one that is not being played or finding a younger one. It is a nice feeling seeing La Irenita at Palermo because when we first put it together with Pablo it only lasted a year. Then we got invited to play with Ellerstina and that was it.
Coincidentally, La Irenita is scheduled to take on Ellerstina in their Hurlingham debut. Mac Donough will be playing against his cousins, with whom he won the tournament in 2005 and 2007, and with whom he played a couple of Palermo finals. On the subject Matias, married to Clara Diehl and father to Matías, Isabel, Luisa and Fermín, comments: “When I was told that we would be playing Ellerstina in Hurlingham and Palermo, I had a flashback of the years we played together. I think we formed a pretty important team. And I remembered when Facundo [Pieres] was sixteen and we woke him up to tell him we would be playing the Open together. It is a nice memory of the time when we started playing in Ellerstina with Pablo, Facu and Gonzalito.”
In terms of horses for Hurlingham and Palermo, have things changed now? And how will La La Irenita support your three teammates?
Yes, things have changed. This year Jorge leant us a lot of horses for the Qualification and they really helped us. La Irenita provides the horses for the team, which is really important, because need quantity as well as quality. It is amazing how our strings have evolved; I am surprising myself now putting together the list of horses I am going to play for the Triple Crown. I am happy with the horses, they are going well.
What is your personal and team objective for Hurlingham and Palermo?
Once the hardest part, the Qualification, is over, I think it is important to enjoy the moment. It is not easy to get here and play the two best tournaments in the world. So we are happy and hoping to do our very best. And we want to take advantage of the rule change to try and qualify directly for next year. I think it is a good incentive.