One could say that the XI FIP World Polo Championship was a thoroughbred tournament both on and off the field. The non-polo events were exceptional, spanning the breadth of a bronc and bull-riding rodeo, to an art exhibition. On the field, the Thoroughbreds showed their class. FIP’s Horse Master, Jose Lartirigoyen remarked at the close that this was the best batch of horses they have ever had at a World Cup tournament.
Jose is Argentinean, a former 8 goaler. He was the FIP Horse Master at the San Luis, Argentina FIP World Cup Final in 2011, at the Malaysian Zone D Playoffs also in 2011, and the Chile World Cup Final in 2015. I know Jose does not pass such remarks lightly. Coming from him, this was top-of-the-world praise for Australian horses.
Not only did Jose like them, all the teams praised the quality of horses.
99% of them were Thoroughbreds. Some were off the track, and some bred for polo, but almost every one of the 300+ horses that were tried and used for the XI FIP World Polo Championship, were Thoroughbred.
The Best Playing Pony at the XI FIP World Polo Championship was Riviera, an off-the-track Thoroughbred.
I have said before that I believe we need a bit more Thoroughbred blood in our polo in Malaysia. The Argentine ponies have served the purpose of getting us going really well when we had a lot of new patrons and players. Thirteen years ago, when we were starting our leagues, the placid Criollo blood was exactly what we needed. Now, we have progressed as horsemen. An injection of Thoroughbred speed and bravery is what we need to add to our game.
Watching the Thoroughbreds run made your heart leap with delight. There was real galloping going on in every game. Hard, fast, flat-out full gallops that encouraged players to let it all hang out.
With no patrons in any of the eight teams, the teams that played the 2-pro type keep-the-ball-away-from-the-patrons kind of polo, didn’t get very far in the tournament. They were soon taken apart by the much faster 4-player passing game.
With usually a young pro at No 1, the 3′s and 4′s quickly got the ball up-field. The attacking players had the skills and the Thoroughbreds the speed, to stretch the backs. And stretch them, they did. Time and again, the quicker players used their horsepower to accelerate away and score galloping goals.
This was Thoroughbred Polo at its best.