Selecting a name synonymous with many of the greatest and globally-recognized athletes in the world, Christian “Magoo” Laprida’s choice is especially fitting for Nike, a mare who displays many of the same defining attributes of a professional. The epitome of athleticism with a sleek yet muscular build, Nike was unleashed on the racetrack as a three-year-old, raking in over $50,000 in earnings and qualifying for the prestigious Breeder’s Cup. Discovering the dark bay mare’s potential in the heart of Lexington, polo horse trainer Juan Valerdi’s expertise and intuition guided her seamless transition into Laprida’s string, her natural-born talent hinting at the polo horse she would become.
Sired by Kafwain and out of Western Rush, the now 11-year-old Nike (registered as Lemon Drop Blondes) has only continued to elevate her game with Laprida, competing together in high-goal tournaments over the last three years. Trusting Valerdi’s instincts has paid off for the 8-goaler, who debuted Nike at the height of the 2018 English season as a green horse in the Gold and Queen’s Cups with Valiente. Her dedication to the game validated with two Best Playing Pony blankets in the states, Nike’s unwavering ability infuses Laprida with the confidence to ‘just do it.’ Executing many of his best plays for Equuleus, Nike is an undisputed princess in Laprida’s eyes, situated at the entrance of his Wellington barn. Sitting down with the USPA, Magoo recounted the story of his best purchase and the memorable journey which has led the pair to the GAUNTLET OF POLO®.
Magoo Laprida prepares to take a shot on Nike in a GAUNTLET OF POLO® Sunday featured match. ©David Lominska
How did you come to own Nike?
“She was owned by Mike Galvan who previously worked for Crab Orchard, but Juan Valerdi found her in Lexington, Kentucky. Mike [Galvan] always buys Thoroughbreds over the phone just by looking at a picture and that’s how he bought Nike. Juan [Valerdi] was making horses for Mike and told me there was a really nice mare I should see, so he sent me a couple of videos. I was out of the country so I didn’t fly to Kentucky to see her first. Instead I talked to Mike for two or three days because he did not want to sell her. We agreed on a price and I decided to buy her over the phone never having seen her because I trusted Juan. I knew that he was really excited about her and when he’s excited that means he’s found a good mare. Juan deserves a lot of credit because he’s really good at spotting green horses and working with them.”
How has she improved since working with Juan Valerdi?
“He’s had her since she was five-years-old and he made her. I started playing Nike a year and a half after Juan started her. She was already made at eight-years-old when I started playing her so he did all the work to get her there. She’s always been the same horse, I think it’s a matter of just waiting until she’s ready and not rushing her.”
Nike poses during her photoshoot with the USPA.
“I knew she was different from the first day. She was incredibly easy to train. When you find a horse like her that feels different from the beginning, you only have to be very careful not to fry the horse because she was already super sensitive in the mouth, ribs and body. She’s the best horse I’ve ever made.” – Juan Valerdi
What are her best qualities on the field?
“She’s really powerful and handy, but at the same time she’s calm so I think anyone can ride her. What I really like about her is that she’s a complete horse. A horse like that gives me confidence because if you need to run she is fast and if you need to stop she is really handy. She also has a lot of stamina and she can do anything I ask. She’s the most complete horse I own, so she is the best in my string.”
Which chukkers do you typically play her?
“I usually play her in the second or third chukker and then try to bring her back again at the end of the game because she is really good.”
Nike is a mare built for speed, running downfield for Equuleus. ©David Lominska
Has she won any awards?
“So far she has won two Best Playing Pony awards, the first in the 16-goal Two Trees Cup Final in the Hamptons, New York, and the other a Sunday featured game against Coca-Cola in the 2020 USPA Gold Cup®. During the USPA Gold Cup® game I played her in the third, fifth and sixth so she had a lot of game time. My grooms Hernan, Giovanni and Carlos really know her well and they are a large part of why she performs really well because they take care of her every day.”
What is your favorite playing memory on Nike?
“I always knew she was a really good horse, but last summer I played her in the Hamptons and when I ran on the field I was amazed how quickly we travelled from one side to the other. I always thought she was really special, but after playing her last summer I really started to realize how powerful she is and how fast she can run.”
Describe her personality.
“When you first put the saddle on you have to walk her because she doesn’t really like when you put on the tack. Afterwards she’s really calm and around other horses she is really quiet. The only thing you have to be careful of is when you saddle her up and when the chukker finishes you have to walk her around again before you take the saddle off.”
Magoo Laprida demonstrates excellent ball control. ©David Lominska
What are your plans for her after the Florida season?
“I am going to turn her out and then take her to New York if I play there this year. I plan to breed her in the future and hopefully get some foals from her and I would also like to do embryos from Western Rush and my stallion.”