Given the name Trébol (Spanish for clover) by Memo Gracida, Felipe “Pipe” Vercellino’s chestnut stallion has brought him nothing but good fortune over their seven-year partnership. Sired by Ellerstina’s Open Especial (Sportivo x Luna) and out of Petaca, Trébol carries the bloodline of one of Gracida’s greatest mares of all time, a competitor in the U.S. Open Polo Championship®, British Open and Argentine Open. The only stallion in Vercellino’s string, the 10-year-old chestnut powerhouse is the young 6-goaler’s go-to spare, a fiery force of nature who often makes an appearance several times per game.
Traveling to play in the United States, Argentina and Vercellino’s home country of Chile, Trébol previously played 26-goal with Orchard Hill (2017) and has been a standout throughout the 2020 Santa Barbara 12 and 16-goal season. Characteristically quiet and easy to handle at home, Trébol is no pushover on the field, delivering on key plays to help Farmers & Merchants Bank reach the Silver Cup® semifinals. Competing Trébol in the Pacific Coast Open before taking him to Kentucky to breed, Vercellino is counting on his good luck charm to give FMB an extra boost to capture back-to-back titles. Catching up with Vercellino at the start of the final 16-goal tournament, the USPA learned about the 25-year-old’s introduction to polo and the moment he first laid eyes on the striking chestnut stud.
Vercellino prepares to hit the ball during the 2019 Pacific Coast Circuit Intra-Circuit Cup. ©David Lominska
How did you get involved in polo?
“I started playing polo in my hometown of Rancagua, Chile, when I was seven years old. My father also started at the same time and although he had never played polo before he rode a lot of horses on the farm. One day we went to see a practice because we lived by a polo field and they asked my father if he wanted to try playing, so he and my uncle did. After that the entire Vercellino family began to play including my father, uncle, cousins and myself. My family put a polo field on our farm and we played frequently in Chile.
I was a fanatic about the horses and after school I would always go to ride and stick and ball. When I was 14 years old my father called a Chilean man named Martin who played in the United States to see if I could come help him. In 2009 I came for the first time to work as a groom in Santa Barbara, California, and in 2011 I returned again. Then I started coming every year so I’ve been in Santa Barbara for the last 10 years. One year I helped Paco Navarez and then I went with Pelon Stirling (he’s married to my cousin) to Florida to work with his horses. I found my first job playing 12-goal with Lucchese in Alabama, Dallas [Texas] and Santa Barbara. After that year I sent horses from Argentina and Chile to the United States and I started playing more professionally. I played for two years with ERG and also with Antelope, Orchard Hill and now Farmers & Merchants Bank.”
How did you come to own Trébol?
“I bought Trébol as a 3-year-old in Argentina from Memo Gracida. I really liked the bloodlines of his sire and dam because they are a really good combination. When I saw Trébol I immediately liked his conformation. He’s a beautiful polo horse, the kind of horse you are always looking for. He’s a good size for the game, strong and he moves well. When I first got him he was just learning to gallop and change leads so I would practice and stick and ball on him.”
“In my opinion Trébol has everything to become a top sire.” – Memo Gracida
Vercellino takes the ball on the offside. ©David Lominska
How would you describe his personality and temperament?
“He has a very good temperament and everybody can stick and ball on him. I keep him in the front stall and he is always calm and quiet in the barn. He’s easy for a stallion because he never has an issue being around the mares. I can take him on sets with the mares and he walks easily with them. He never causes me any problems. Also, he loves to eat everything especially grass and grain.”
What are his best qualities on the field?
“He’s really powerful on the field and he’s always consistent. I can bring him out for two or three chukkers at a time and he never gives up and will always give more than 100%. I know him very well because I’ve been playing him for many years and that gives me a lot of confidence.”
Vercellino prepares to strike the ball during the 2019 Pacific Coast Open. ©David Lominska
“Trébol is a really strong horse who runs really hard and is comfortable with the ball. He’s one of those horses that doesn’t get tired.” – Felipe Marquez, FMB Too!
What is your favorite playing memory on him?
“In 2016 I won with Chile (Felipe Vercellino, Max Silva, Jaime García Huidobro, Matías Vial) over Argentina in the Copa de las Naciones. Having the opportunity to play on field one at Palermo is every polo player’s dream and it was even better to win for my country. I played Trébol in two chukkers of the final against Bartolomé Castagnola, Juan Martin Zubía, Eduardo Novillo Astrada and Joaquín Pittaluga. It was a really good day for the team and Trébol played well.”
If Trébol was a famous person who would he be?
“Cristiano Ronaldo the Portuguese soccer player because like Trébol everyone says he is attractive and he is very good at playing the game.”
Trébol is always ready to go on the sidelines. ©David Lominska
“Trébol is a horse that plays very well, has a lot of speed and is very strong and powerful. He plays like his mother Petaca on the field.” – Lucas Criado, Farmers & Merchants Bank
How are his offspring progressing?
“I have three four-year-old mares in Chile and another three in Argentina from him that are really good mares. They are still a little green, but they are doing really well doing stick and ball and practices. So far I’m really happy with Trébol as a father and I know he is going to be a good stallion to continue to breed in the future. Once his offspring start playing games I will know how good they are, but the process is going well so far.”
What are your plans for him in the future?
“I want to keep playing and winning tournaments here in the United States. When I retire my best mares I want to breed them to Trébol. I have a few of his offspring already who are promising, but I want to continue breeding him and make some really good combinations.”
Look for Felipe Vercellino and Trébol in their next Pacific Coast Open game on Friday, August 21. All games will be livestreamed on Global Polo TV.