Anticipating Felipe Marquez’s every move with quick and surefooted steps, Malcriada (Open Chaleco x Santana Martina) holds a special place in the 7-goaler’s heart as the budding daughter of his prized Colombian mare. Along with the decision to shift careers and pursue his lifelong passion to become a professional polo player like his father at the age of 26, Marquez funded and established his own embryo program, producing Malcriada as one of his first foals. Arriving in the states in April 2019, Malcriada made her American high-goal debut with FMB Too! at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California, before heading to Florida for Cessna’s 2020 winter season.
Standing her ground when it comes to other horses, the 7-year-old bay’s handiness and responsiveness on the field propel her to each play, allowing Marquez crucial seconds to stay one step ahead of his opponents. Trained by Marquez’s childhood friend, Ricardo Nuñez, Malcriada’s progression to this stage in her career is due in large part to her groom’s consistent involvement and investment since birth. Sitting down with Marquez in Wellington, Florida, the USPA learned about his growing breeding program in Colombia and the mare who represents all the ideal qualities one looks for in a high-goal prospect.
What is her breeding?
“Malcriada is by Open Chaleco (Ellerstina Pícaro x Ellerstina Chalina) and out of Santana Martina. I purchased Santana Martina in 2012 and she was one of the top mares I played in Colombia so I knew her daughter was going to be a special horse. I brought Santana Martina to Santa Ana which is one of the largest breeding facilities in Colombia. They had Open Chaleco, an Ellerstina bred-stallion, and he was one of the best bloodlines we had available at the time. I wanted to aim for the best bloodline in the country so I decided to breed that combination and it worked.”
What are Malcriada’s strengths on the field?
“I can typically get anywhere quicker than anybody else on the field especially checking and turning which are her strongest qualities. Maybe she’s not the fastest or the strongest horse, but usually when you get to the ball quickly you have enough time to make a decision and make the right play. I know if I’m checking and turning on her I’m going to be first to the play and that’s important for me.
I also feel like I make a difference on the field when I play her because she’s really handy and she has a nice mouth. I feel I can get to the ball quickly when the game is tough and everybody is tapping the ball, stopping, checking and turning. I can move easily and comfortably on the field and she goes where I think I should be. Those are the moments I can get 100% out of her.”
“From the very beginning she was easy to teach. She was naturally talented so training her was very simple and gratifying. To see her playing in the GAUNTLET OF POLO® brings me pride.” – Ricardo Nuñez, Felipe Marquez’s head groom
Which chukker(s) do you typically play her?
“Usually our team gets together to make the horse list and depending on which horses my teammates are using I will change the order I bring her out. I prefer to use her as a spare because I can use her two or three times per game. She is really calm on the sidelines and makes it easy for me to jump on from another horse.”
Do you have a favorite memory with Malcriada?
“Every time I ride her it’s a complete joy for me. I saw her being born, we taught her to play polo and now she’s playing in the GAUNTLET OF POLO®, the most competitive tournament in the United States. It’s a big accomplishment for me because she is one of the first embryos I ever bred. It’s a different feeling when I get on other horses that I don’t have as much of a history with, but for me it is special every time I get on Malcriada. Every time I got on her last year while playing at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club I felt I could disrupt the other team because she was one of my top horses.”
Malcriada playing in the 2019 Pacific Coast Open for FMB Too! ©David Lominska
Describe her personality.
“Usually with people she’s really calm and friendly, but with other horses she is territorial and tries to be the alpha. When you stick and ball she’s really calm and easy, but once you get in a game she knows that it’s important. Her neck gets larger and she starts looking around and moving her ears. She gets tougher on the field and I like that because it’s the same as us players when we get into a game and our adrenaline increases. She works the same way as well.”
What would you like to see Malcriada achieve during her career?
“I would like to see her win some Best Playing Pony awards that give her recognition because those prizes are important for a breeder and a player. I would also really like for her to go back to Colombia when she’s finished playing so I can breed her and hopefully get more sons or daughters. I have a couple of foals in Colombia now, but she is here in the states now so I can’t do any embryos.”
Malcriada poses during her video shoot.
What does it mean to you to know Colombia is supporting and watching you compete?
“I’m really thankful for Chip Campbell and Cessna because they are the main reason I get to play in the GAUNTLET OF POLO®. It also means a lot to play Malcriada, a mare who I bred, for the first time in the three most prestigious American tournaments. I think it’s really important for a polo player to have a sponsor who believes in them and gives them a chance like Cessna did for me.
I want to thank everyone back home in Colombia because they are watching us play through GlobalPolo.com and cheering for Cessna. I know Nico [Saenz] and I have a lot of support back home so we want to make them proud and encourage the little kids who are coming up to take a chance if they feel this is something they want to do.”
What are your plans for Malcriada after the Florida season?
“Nothing is confirmed yet, but I really want to go back to Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. Hopefully I will play again with Farmers & Merchants Bank and if I do she will definitely go with me. At this moment I can’t ask for anything better. I’m living the dream and I guess it is because I had the guts to make the decision to follow my dream when I did.”