The Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series got off to a flying start on Saturday, with a match between Habtoor Polo and Habtoor Wolves at the beautiful Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club. Juan Zubiaurre, one of the best up-and-coming young stars of the sport, was on the field playing for Habtoor Polo after recovering from an injury which left him on the sidelines for several months. His comeback was positive, as his team won the first match of the season. "I felt good,” says the Argentine. "I took my time with the recovery and concentrated on rehabilitation, which I think was the key.”
This is not Isopo’s first time playing in Dubai. "I first came to play in 2013 and 2014 with Ghantoot, alongside Facu Sola and Pelayo Berazadi, and we did well,” recalls Zubiaurre. "We won two Gold Cups and a Silver Cup. Unfortunately, I suffered an injury in 2014 during the Gold Cup semis and I was unable to play the final.”
-What were your expectations in terms of the level of the tournaments when you first came over?
-When I first travelled to Dubai the level was 16-goal; I had never played 18-goal polo here. Dubai had already become a competitive destination. The level of horses has improved over all the organisations and the fields are better than ever. That helps promote good polo. I had heard of a lot of talk about Dubai growing and it becoming a great polo destination. Having two 10-goal players in an 18-goal tournament, and many more high-goalers who play the Argentine Open, makes the Dubai seasons one of the best in the world.
-What can you tell us about being part of an organisation like Habtoor?
-I am very happy to be a part of Habtoor; the organisation is first-rate and everyone gets on well. They do things properly and have grown accordingly year on year.
Zubiaurre had a great 2016, particularly shining in France. Not only did he win the traditional Open de Paris with the team Costa Rica, but he was then one of the most outstanding players during the pick season at Polo Club de Saint Tropez, where he won the Cote D’Azur Cup with La Concepción and was named MVP. In Argentina he reached the final of the Juvenile Open, before suffering an injury playing the Ellerstina Silver Cup and being unable to finish the season.
-What can you say about the quality of the fields and installations at Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club, hosts of the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series?
It is really impressive. The club is a 5-star hotel for horses, and offers dressage, show jumping, a riding school and a polo academy. It is very family oriented, where kids can take lessons while their parents play any sport they like. There are four amazing fields, two arenas, two exercise tracks and 520 first-class stables. And then we have the St Regis hotel; it is the perfect place for people who love horses.
-How do you see the season panning out for your team?
-Habtoor has always been one of the leading teams in terms of organisation, and I trust that this year will be no different. Both the players and the organisation are putting their best foot forward and aiming for good results. I hope it works out for us.
-What can you tell us about the horses?
-Habtoor has no need to worry about the horses of any other team; we have quality and quantity. Nico (Pieres) also brought five horses over from England, and that adds to all the horses that have been bought over the years. We are in a good position.