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  • Gonzalo Pieres

  • Gonzalo Pieres

  • Gonzalo Pieres

Gonzalo Pieres
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Gonzalo Pieres

Unión del Polo, Crisis in Polo, AAP, Dubai, Clones & more

March 7, 2017
March 7, 2017
DUBAI 
"This is my first time in Dubai; I had heard that it was a place with potential. Maybe there is more of a future here for polo that I initially thought. The locals really like horses, and that means that patrons can enjoy themselves more, which is a bit of what we are missing. People here really know how to ride and their culture could be helpful for us."

On the level of polo in Dubai: "There is good polo here, and they have a chance of standing out and they are prepared for growth."

On Dubai: "It is a very nice place; I like modern things, I am amazed by how the look after the horses, I can’t stop looking at the buildings, the lights - at night it feels like we are in Vegas. What is set up is great, and golf-wise, it’s paradise. We have already played three courses; two were unbelievable and the third was great. Nico is a huge fan of golf, so he’s really enjoying that aspect of it."

POLO CRISIS 
On his vision: "I think that there are high chances of everything working again. We have a serious patron problem; many of the ones around at the moment are the same ones who were sponsoring teams twenty years ago - there has been no new blood in polo. That is mainly due to the abrupt economic changes that started in 2008. Polo players have to greatly improve their relationships with patrons. There has to be more companionship - things have got a little boring in that respect. The Palm Beach season is too long. It was good at the beginning when things were growing, but I don’t think three and a half months of polo is good for anybody. England was getting by, but now they are faced with a visa problem. But still, they were not attracting new teams, and the two or three strongest organisations have been dominating the season to a great extent."  

On Argentina: "In Argentina there is a team that wins almost everything, and we are there in 99% of the finals. No-one else can get close, which isn’t positive, either. Polo should be much more even and competitive, and patrons should get involved more; they need to have more fun. Handicaps are off, the handicap committees are not made up of professionals, they make changes too late, they say they are going to change and then they don’t, or they make changes in accordance to certain countries. But I think that if we have a little luck, and polo players, especially the two most important players - Cambiaso and Facu - start realising this, then we can begin to make progress again." 

Players and Patrons: "The structure could be less limited and therefore more fun for everyone; even the combination of players and horses could be more open. I think that we have to start over in Argentina as well. If polo does not work then it is negative for everyone. There is a huge industry behind the sport, thousands of horses, people who have dedicated their lives to this, and others who travel around the world. Everyone has to make an effort and help when a new place or a new patron comes about. We have to keep them enthusiastic about polo. It is harder than ever to attract patrons; if everything were more balanced, then it would be a great help."

UNION DEL POLO
Expectations: "The new committee, headed by Eduardo Novillo Astrada, is very good in my opinion. It is very hard to be in polo and not be involved. I can see the enthusiasm, and Eduardo is one of the few people who has brought the players and the Association together in the last couple of years. Having Cambiaso and Facundo supporting a project is hugely important. They are the leaders of the sport. And having people like Eduardo Novillo and Eduardo Heguy alongside them is a big plus. They come from families who have dedicated their lives to polo, so they really want this to work out. Their aim of bringing players and the Association together can only benefit everyone. Eduardo Novillo is from an important polo family, and he has polo’s best interests at heart. I like what I’ve heard so far, and I see him excited about it."

"They have put a group together, with people like Menéndez Behety, who is very capable. I don’t know him personally but I have heard good things about him, and the same goes for everyone else involved. This is a unique opportunity because the most important characters in polo are involved. We have to see this as a positive thing, and clubs must accept it. If we carry on as we were before, then we will continue to be old-fashioned. The AAP members don’t travel much and they don’t know much about the reality players are living."

On getting involved: "I 100% cannot get involved. One thing is being a player, and another is being the father of three players who are tied to a particular team. Ellerstina supports this initiative, as do I, but I cannot be a member. I think that would lead to misinterpretation and maybe some of the things I support will not be carried out. When I spoke to Eduardo Novillo, I realised that he had plans for 80% of the things that I wanted to do. Perhaps it would be more accepted if I was one of the committee members, but that would be wrong. If they searched for like minded individuals and found them, then they are applying and becoming a part of the Union. That is great. We are going to look back and realise that this was necessary, that we needed a change. But we must help and be the change we want to see.”

THE EVOLUTION OF NICO PIERES
"He has changed a great deal. He had already had a good season, but playing at 2. Like most young players, he tapped the ball too much. In that sense, he improved 80% this year. Then he played at Back in Argentina, which, in my opinion, he did almost perfectly, because being talented he had no need to tap too much. He still needs to work on putting the ball exactly where his team needs it to be, and not just hitting it as hard as possible, or scoring with a flying ball. We really needed a Back, and now we have found him." 

Ellerstina’s challenge: "We now need to bring everything together. We need to improve our team play. We are very close - we still face an incredibly tough opponent - but it looks like we are getting there."

CLONING
"I am obviously not interested. It is very bad for breeders. I have kept cells in the past because of what I thought it could be, and everything pointed to it being a positive development, because we thought a clone would generate a clone, not what is happening now. Embryos are still good for improving the level of what we breed, but clones do not improve the level; it maintains the level you had before. If this continues to progress, everything will be in the hands of lab technicians and not people who know and love horses. Horses need to be broken in and taught; this is not a car factory. That is the problem. Who would control them if they were a success? Who would limit the number of clones in China or in an American lab?"

Breeder Association and clones: "The AACCP (Breeders Association) has not been great on this issue; they didn’t know how to handle it. I think it is very wrong of them to allow six clones to play one game. The truth is that those clones were good, but how many were there? And who rode them? In reality, the only thing that works well are genetics, because good clones come from good genetics, the best in Argentina at the moment. And when it is not the best, it still comes close, because it’s Lambada, Jazz, all the descendants of Sportivo. Another downside of clones is the following: what will happen if you sell a foal or an embryo? La Dolfina’s clones and Cambiaso’s clones are of Ellerstina origin and they were also sold as embryos. When it happens to him he is going to realise that it is not too fun. It’s not the end of the world, but if someone clones your embryo without your permission, then they get their hands on your dam and sire. And then they distribute it around the world, in labs we don’t know. They say they have a contract or something... I don’t know." 

"One thing is breeding a horse when the other is no longer of use; you can get a new mother who can produce embryos, or a stallion. What’s going to happen when they realise that it doesn’t work out that well? Because they are going to realise how many were made and which ones they are, and where the bad clones are. They are going to realise which clones need to have their bridle changed during a match, and other strange things."

The role of the AACCP: "This happens in every crisis, there are a lot of bad horses, in Argentina as well. And all these clones are coming out because the genetics of the clones are better than the average. Nothing good can come of this. It is great that people are excited about breeding horses and caring for them, which is what we need more of. For a long time we exported so many horses from Argentina - everything that we had, rushed and badly done. That didn’t help the development of polo either.”