By Alejandra Ocampo
Polo is known as the “sport of kings”. And as such, it must have a castle, the usual residence of kings and queens. Among some of the most famous castles that surround polo grounds, we can name the legendary ruins of the Cowdray Castle, set in Cowdray Park Polo Club. It is said that the most famous King of England, Henry VIII used to stroll through the place. The splendid Chantilly Castle is set only 30km of Paris, just a few minutes away from the Polo Club du Domaine de Chantilly. And recently, Guards Polo Club, in Windsor Great Park, in England, opened up The Castle Ground, a field that overlooks the impressive medieval fortress, Windsor Castle, which is also Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite residence.
And how about Argentina? The 40-goal polo has a castle, as well; a castle set in the Alfredo Lalor complex, owned by the Argentine Polo Association, in Pilar, 60km north of the city of Buenos Aires.
The history of the place goes back to 1820. It was an estancia, named El Recreo, close to the Luján River, which included a place named Casa Grande (Big House). José Carabassa and his wife, Felisa Ocampo, settled there in 1860, when he bought it as a hunting ground.
In 1900, when their daughter, Adela, married Miguel Pando, they decided to built a Victorian style castle, known also as The Chalet. To this purpose, they brought the materials over from Germany exclusively.
Adela and Miguel lived there with their six children, born from 1905 to 1915. The Pando family spent most of the year in the castle and only returned to Buenos Aires in winter.
The castle has a tower, that houses a hexagonal attic. The youngest son of Adela and Miguel, Felix, used to go to the attic, to observe the Luján river and watch the magnificent surroundings.
The Argentine Polo Association bought the castle in 1969, under the management of Alfredo Lalor. The castle underwent a period of restoration, in order to modify some of the rooms to apply to other purposes. The rooms of the ground floor usually host players meetings or serve as office for the staff of the AAP. It has a bar and restaurant for all those who go to Pilar to watch polo. In addition, the grounds had to be specifically modified to turn them into appropriate polo fields.
The Alfredo Lalor complex and the castle go hand-in-had with the one and only Campo Argentino de Polo, in Palermo. The name of the place remember the man who was the AAP President from 1969-1971, a true visionary, who had the great idea of giving polo such a splendid place. Over the years, the complex has got better and better, both in quality and in terms of the number of fields (there are currently 12), which host several tournaments, like the league stage of the Hurlingham Open, the Municipalidad de Pilar Cup and, most recently, the Potrillos Cup.
The Victorian Castle is, indeed, the perfect backdrop, a snapshot representing the best polo in the world.