The start of the season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Wellington, Florida, could not have gone any better. Four teams took part in the three-tournament 18-goal series, (Iglehart Cup, Joe Barry Memorial, Ylvisaker Cup) which had three different winners. La Fe was the fourth team in the running and, even though they couldn’t win a title, they played the final of both the Iglehart Cup and the Ylvisaker Cup in their first season at IPC. Led by Robi Bilbao and Louis Devaleix, the team are now upping the ante as they prepare to play the GAUNTLET OF POLO®.
“The chance to play the GAUNTLET came to be because Fran Elizalde’s team dissolved. Obviously, we are not as prepared as every big organization, but this is mostly due to the lack of preparation time as we decided to enter the event last November. Still, we will do everything to be the best version of ourselves we can and I’m sure that with time we will eventually be better. It takes a lot of time and effort and we aim to improve in the future,” Robi Bilbao told CLICKPOLO.
Bilbao and La Fe made two final appearances at the 18-goal level in the Iglehart Cup and Ylvisaker Cup at International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. ©David Lominska
Robi, the first in his family to play polo, started his breeding business named La Fe eight years ago in his hometown Garre, near Trenque Lauquen, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “I started playing when I was 14 years old with the Ulloa family and when I finished school I met Santiago Chavanne, who has a farm near ours so I helped him during the season,” shares Robi.
How did La Fe come to be?
“My brother and I were able to work a lot with horses with the Ulloa family and Santiago Chavanne, and my brother continues working with Hilario Ulloa. I saw that to play polo you had to have horses and, I didn’t have the money to buy them, I started breeding them with the help of Santiago, who gave me his mares. That was how La Fe breeding began. I was 18 at that time.”
2021 East Coast Open Champions: La Fe – Robi Bilbao, Hilario Ulloa, Francisco Elizalde, Louis Devaleix. ©Jay Austin
When did you start playing in the United States?
“My first time was when I turned 21 with Santiago [Chavanne], when I traveled as his groom. I worked with him and Hilario [Ulloa]. My work was mainly as a groom until four years ago, when Gonzalo Avendaño invited me to play for his team Patagones, that was when I brought my first horses to America. I met Julio Ezcurra and he invited me to play in New York. Every time I have some money, I bring horses to America as it is very expensive.”
What’s the story of the team?
“I met Louis Devaleix two years ago and he is the owner of the team La Fe. The team was previously known as Ellipse, but that was a company he no longer owns so we had to change the name. Louis’ story is very interesting. Two years ago, he didn’t know anything about polo, but he is a very passionate person. He started playing with Julio Ezcurra and asked me to bring horses here. That was the time all the work I did for many years started showing results. I was able to bring many horses, mine or Santiago’s [Chavanne], and last year, thanks to his help, we were able to register La Fe as a breeding company.”
La Fe joins eight competitive teams in the first leg of the GAUNTLET OF POLO®’s C.V. Whitney Cup®. ©David Lominska
In two years, you went from low-goal to playing the GAUNTLET OF POLO®.
“Yes, this is incredible for me. I always played the low-goal with Smithfield until last year, when Louis started improving. That was the time he decided we would play the 16-goal in New York and later we were able to bring Hilario to play the East Coast Open at Greenwich [Polo Club]. Imagine that! In two months, I went from playing the 8-goal, to the mid-goal and then to the high-goal where we won the East Coast Open with a team Louis and I created. It was incredible!”
INTERNATIONAL POLO CLUB PALM BEACH