The English high goal season officially kicked off on Tuesday with the first game of the Queen’s Cup at Guards Polo Club. This season sees the return of Hilario Ulloa, who is back playing in the UK after three seasons at Greenwich with White Birch. This season sees him playing with Corinne Ricard’s Murus Sanctus, alongside Facundo Sola and Martin “Min” Podesta.

“I am very happy to be back,” says Ulloa. “My objective was to come back and play the two high goal tournaments. Playing at Greenwich was a great experience, but being here competing against the best organisations is also special. Competing alongside the best is always a nice challenge.”

On his last time in England: “The last time I played here was in 2013, also with Facu Sola, when we played in Sumaya. I have had offers since, but always last minute things that were not so well organised. This was organised with time; I knew that to be a good 10-goal player here I would have to be very well mounted, and that does not happen over night. I was able to bring horses over, buy a few, and get organised.”

On what it feels like to come back with a 10-goal handicap: “It is one thing being the second or third man in the team, but being 10-goals and the leader of the team means that you have to be well mounted, because I have to go head to head with players like Cambiaso and Facu Pieres; they have the same handicap I do and are the best in the world. You have to have good horses to compete with them.”

On playing with Corinne Ricard: “I had never played with Corinne before. I met her when I was playing with Facu in Sumaya, but I had never played on a team with her. Being part of this organisation is great, everything works well. We put the team together a year ago, we have been making plans and talking about what we have to do, and Corinne helps Facu and I in everything. Every time I had the chance of buying a good mare, she helped me out. It’s one of those teams where you don’t have any excuses to not play well. If you lose a game it is because you didn’t play well or you had a bad day. We have done everything to put together a competitive team.”

Beyond the two challenging months ahead of Hilario in England, he is also thinking about the upcoming Argentine Triple Crown, where he will once again be playing for Alegria. “We have always had a fun team with Alegria,” says Ulloa. “Be it with Polito when he was with us or with Magoo. But it always boils down to the same thing: we have a competitive team, but the difference is made with horses. In terms of players, we can compete with Ellerstina or La Dolfina, but they have two big organisations and make the difference with their horses. There are no horses better than theirs. We have also suffered several horse related injuries. And if there is someone who wants to lend a good horse, they would rather see it play with La Dolfina or Ellerstina, because they are going to make it to the final.”

“There are less patrons around, so it is difficult to attract people who have the means to mount a team well. Many players put everything they have into getting good horses, but sometimes it is not enough. There are few players around who have everything they need to play well. The rest are less consistent – you may have a good year and then an average year.”

-On his long term objective, beyond Alegria: “I sometimes think about what would happen after Alegria, but my goal is always the same: to win Palermo. I am very happy with Alegría, we have a great team and I don’t think about playing with anyone else. But one day I would like to put together a team with players who are focused on the horses and creating an organisation. Today there are lots of guys who play well, but the hard thing is getting a good string together and being well mounted. So, in the future, I would like to get together with three other guys who want to win Palermo, buy horses, and be well mounted. You probably won’t win the first or second year, but one day it will happen. And that only becomes a reality if all four players want to buy horses. It is an enormous sacrifice in terms of money, because you have to invest a lot in this and not in other things, like having a big house, for example. If you are in doubt about buying a mare because it is too expensive, buy it anyway – it’s to win Palermo.”

On his relationship with Fred Mannix after playing together for so many years: “Fred is a friend and a teammate. He never demands anything because he is the owner of the team – he is one of the team. He is prepared to do anything and everything on the field. In that sense, we really are a four-man team with the same objective in mind.”

While there is a while to go before the start of the Argentine high goal, next week will be critical for Argentine polo, since the AAP will elect its new leader. On the subject, Hilario states: “I obviously support the Polo Union, but I think what we need most is a change on behalf of everyone: players, patrons, managers – a change of mentality, so to speak. We want patrons to have fun again, to get excited about polo. We don’t need them to get involved in the politics of the sport, in the umpiring and the draws, and so on. Polo is trying to be so professional that we have put the patron in the same situation as the player: he has to go to the gym, play the team practice, go to the team meetings, go to the draws – it’s too much stress. The patron should arrive, play, and have a good time, and lose if he has to lose. If he wants to work, he can work, but if he wants to play, he has to get the ball. I also think that polo needs to adopt a different mentality; it needs to be managed differently, we need to put new things together, develop new polo destinations, attract new patrons, new businesses, and help polo grow in other countries. We need to open our mind and leave the old school train of thought behind.”

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.