While this is her first season in high goal, Nic Roldan’s seven-year-old mare, named after the cigar brand Tres Jota, looks and plays like she’s been competing at the top her whole life. This beautiful red bay polo pony was bred as a racehorse with speed in mind and although she never raced, her Thoroughbred bloodlines have given her the physical qualities which make her a force on the field. Out of Missy Elliott and by Yonaguska, her genetics produced a powerful build and muscle structure, but it is her willingness to learn that makes her a natural on the polo field. Roldan has spent the last couple of years perfecting her talents and turning her from a rookie to a well-rounded high-goal horse. We spoke to Roldan about Tres Jotas, who is fast becoming one of the favorites in his string, to get insight into how to season a youngster, and what it is that makes for true polo pony perfection.
How did she get her distinctive name?
“I was with Nacho Lezica and he was smoking cigars. He loves his cigars and I thought they made for good names so she got her name from a cigar brand. I have one called Cubana who’s my best horse in England, another off-the-track Thoroughbred, then Tres Jota, Opus 10 and then Cohiba. There were four that I bought that year and I named them all after cigar brands.”
How did she come to be in your string?
“This is her first high-goal season. I bought her from Rodrigo Salinas about three years ago. It’s exciting to be playing a horse that I finished. I can’t take full credit for actually making her, but I put the final touches on her and she was always an okay horse, but this year she has really come out of her shell and into her own.”
What was it about her that made you so sure she would make a good addition to your string?
“She had unbelievable balance and great sides, plus a great mouth. She regulated nicely, she stopped very well. I knew she probably had power because she was a Thoroughbred. I wasn’t sure if she would be the ideal horse for polo because you could tell that she had a bit of a hot character, but honestly as the years have gone on she has become more and more chilled. Even when she was hot she still had that really good mouth. I would say that if she lacks something it’s a little bit in those short plays still sometimes, but I think it’s just because she’s young and she has so much ability to throw herself to the left and right that sometimes she overdoes it. She’s really comfortable running. She plays in a gag and draw reins with an Australian noseband which helps her to breathe. She’s just such a nice mare and she seems to be getting better and better with every game which is cool.”
What was the last step of your training process?
“When I bought her she was stick and balling and playing some practices. Then I basically threw her in to the Grand Champions [Polo Club in Wellington, Florida] program when she was about five—so she was playing 12-goal polo. At that point you’ve just got to put the time in and get the miles on the clock, so I played her as much as possible and then took her to Aspen [Colorado] and played her a little bit there [Aspen Valley Polo Club] in the Spring, and then played her in the fall at Grand Champions. The next year I did the same kind of thing and played her in some 20-goal practices as well and just took her slowly but surely through the levels. I mean, she had all the basics so I didn’t really have to do much in terms of teaching her how to do it, a lot of it came pretty naturally to her so it was just a matter of being patient and giving her time.”
How has she been playing this season?
“This has been her best season. She’s played the whole 20-goal this year and now she’s playing in the 26-goal, starting with the USPA Gold Cup® and now the U.S. Open. She’s chilled out and so comfortable in her skin. Sometimes I keep her as a spare and sometimes I play her as a main one, I try to change it up a bit, but I don’t want to overdo it. Once in a while I play her a couple of times, the other day I played her at the beginning as a spare and then she was back at the end of the match as well. Once she’s finished this season she’ll get turned out for a while because she’s played a lot. She’s proved herself so I think she deserves a good five or six months of rest.”
“She’s powerful, passionate about what she does and so willing to learn plus she’s probably one of the sweetest mares in the barn.”
What are her strengths?
“She’s super fast. She’s got a lot of power, she runs, she flies actually. She’s powerful, passionate about what she does and so willing to learn plus she’s probably one of the sweetest mares in the barn. She loves to lick. She’s like a giant Labrador, she’ll lick your hand, your clothes, anything. She’s super chilled and docile and just has a really sweet temperament.”
What makes her different from others in your string?
“I like a lot of power so she fits really well into my string. What she has maybe even more than some of the others is that power, plus the added bonus that she’s so responsive. You can go full power on her, but she will stop on a dime and she’s very good at coming down to zero.”
“When I get on her I know that I’m going to do some damage and I can usually score a few goals. She’s just one of those mares that you can get on and play at least a goal better.”
How do you feel on her?
“I feel confident, she’s the sort of horse that you know has so much speed and is so light in the mouth that you can go and do whatever you want on her. Especially going forward. As a professional everyone has that horse that you like to get on that boosts your confidence and she’s definitely one of them. When I get on her I know that I’m going to do some damage and I can usually score a few goals. She’s just one of those mares that you can get on and play at least a goal better. We all have those but she seems to be getting better and better which is awesome.”