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A ROOKIE YEAR IN PALERMO: THE HORSES SEALED ROLDAN’S “DEAL”

PoloChannel Staff | 12/10/18

This is Part 1 of a series on Nic Roldan’s rookie year in Palermo. It would be laughable to say “Roldan” in the same breath as “rookie” anywhere else in the world, but believe it or not, this is his debut year in the Argentine Triple Crown. Each player foots his own bill, so you can’t exactly say Roldan negotiated a “deal”— but thrilled as he was to get the call he had been waiting decades for, he had two non-negotiable conditions: horses and resources. Here’s how it all came together.

 

When his phone rang one day last June, Nic Roldan’s mind was on England, where he was competing for La Indiana. But Fran Elizalde was calling to talk about Argentina. Santi Toccalino had decided to step down from La Albertina Abu Dhabi for personal reasons. Would Roldan like to take his place on the team in the Triple Crown?

Hell yes! But only if he could do it right. The decision took him a couple of weeks. He knew he would need a string of Argentine Open-quality horses, as well as access to major organizational resources. 

“I reached out to my good friends at Los Machitos: Mariano Aguerre, Nick Manifold and Naco Taverna,” says Roldan. “Once they confirmed they were able to mount me and make their organization available to me, and Luis Guzman said he would provide some of his horses to complete my string, it was a go.”

Roldan didn’t know which horses would be offered to him, but he says he trusted his friends. Like Roldan, all the horses he chose were rookies in Palermo, but no problem there: Aguerre specially selected mounts from the Los Machitos breeding program that he believed had what it takes to perform well in the Argentine Open. The horses came through for Roldan, whose performance was instrumental all season.

La Albertina’s final game was yesterday in Palermo, which they lost by only one goal to Cria Yatay (13-12). The take-home message is that they finished seventh in the rankings for the season, which means they have qualified for the 2019 Hurlingham and Argentine Opens.  

“It’s been a great experience and a dream come true,” says Roldan. “I’m really looking forward to the next chapter of my Argentine career.”

 

IN HIS OWN WORDS: NIC ROLDAN’S FAVORITE PALERMO PONIES

 

When Roldan arrived in Argentina September 15, he began trying horses and put together his string. “It was definitely a whole process,” he says. Out of approximately 25 horses, he selected 13 (11 from Los Machitos and two from Guzman). Four of them, listed below, became his “go-to” horses. 

“All my top ponies in Palermo are very complete horses,” says Roldan. “They do everything—stop, turn, and have power. Simoneti is the easiest of them to play.” Here is how he describes them:

 

ESCRIBA SIMONETI

Dam: Incari Malagueña

Sire: Pacua Matrero

Breed: Argentine-bred

Color: Bay

Age: 5

Tournaments: Triple Corona Argentina 2018

 

Awards: Campeón Macho Tres Años (3-Year-Old Male Champion) at Exposición SRA Palermo 2016

“Simoneti is a stallion, and stallions usually can handle more than others. It only took me a few rides to know he was going to be good enough. It was somewhat of a surprise because he is just coming 6 this year, and no one expected him to step onto this platform already.”

“He’s one of those horses that is easy and has a comfortable stride, which make it easy to hit the ball. He’s small and powerful and damn good-looking and kind.” 

“He’s a very reliable horse that does whatever I ask and is always pretty much the same. He’s handy enough yet powerful enough to double. Usually I play him in the beginning, and then he has enough power to come back later in a game when the chips are down.”

 

MACHITOS VALENCIA

Dam:  Machitos Versuit

Sire:  Open El Padrino

Breed: Polo Argentino

Color: Chestnut

Age: 6

Tournaments: Polo Tour Ellerstina 2018 (played by Mariano Aguerre); Triple Corona Argentina 2018 (Nic Roldan)

 

“Valencia is one of the mares that is at the very top of my list at Palermo. She is a horse with a lot of power and speed, with a very good mouth and sides, which is very important to have in Palermo. She is a younger horse as well, so it has taken her some time to get used to this polo but she has really taken to it like a natural." 

“She’s a complete and beautiful mare. She has a lot of power, loves to run and suits field 1 very well. She’s only 6 years old and is one of those horses that is just going to keep getting better and better.”

 

PUCARA LILITA

Dam: Culona

Sire: Open Trotil

Breed: Polo Argentino

Color: Grey

Age: 9

Tournaments: Triple Corona Argentina 2018

  

“A big, powerful mare with incredible sides, which also suits Palermo well. She is one of my bigger mares, and she has great handles. I originally used her as a spare and then started playing her because she’s so talented.”

 

MACHITOS MILENA

Dam: Machitos Mechera

Sire: Open Cabernet

Breed: Polo Argentino

Color: Liver chestnut

Age: 6

Tournaments: Triple Corona Argentina 2018

 

“Milena is a horse very similar to Valencia. She’s very relaxed, a bigger mare, with a good mouth, great sides, a lot of top end. It’s her first season at this level, and she has gotten better and better from game to game, which is very exciting. She is really shining at Palermo. She has all the qualities I look for: power, good sides and is very well suited for the fast-pace polo that I’ve been playing.”

 

Coming next in part 2: A look at the arsenal of a support team Roldan had to organize for his first year in the Argentine Triple Crown. Learn how the task was very different than in any other tournament in the world, and experience some “you were there” moments that could only happen in Palermo.

 

 

Photography: Helen Cruden and  Marcelo Bianchi