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A GEM OF A POLO PONY: RUBY’S JOURNEY TO THE MOST EXCLUSIVE STRING IN POLO

May 18, 2021 7:39 PM

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Ruby. ©United States Polo Association
©United States Polo Association

Capping off a diverse winter season as a late addition to Adolfo Cambiaso’s string and contributing to Scone’s U.S. Open Polo Championship® victory, 11-year-old Ruby (Sorcerer’s Stone x Ineluctable) has been shaped by many talented American hands on her rise to the top. Sold to Cambiaso by Kylie Sheehan* (facilitated by partner Gabriel Crespo) just after BTA/The Villages won the 2021 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship®, Ruby immediately jumped into the 22-goal and effortlessly switched high-goal gears. Seamlessly transitioning between three players and styles of polo in one season, Ruby is the embodiment of versatility, competing in the 2020 National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) Championship® with Crespo’s 15-year-old daughter Alea, two U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championships® and the GAUNTLET OF POLO®. A rare find with qualities including extreme sensitivity, willingness and speed, Ruby has repeatedly dazzled in every string.

Ruby played in the 2020 National Youth Tournament Series Championship® with 15-year-old Alea Crespo (left). ©David Lominska.
Ruby played in the 2020 National Youth Tournament Series Championship® with 15-year-old Alea Crespo (left). ©David Lominska.

Purchased off the track by Rodolfo Irigoyen, the bay American Thoroughbred (registered as Junes Ruby) was briefly played by Sheehan in Florida while on consignment** with Crespo. Mounting himself for the inaugural GAUNTLET OF POLO®, USPA Chairman Stewart Armstrong (then USPA Secretary) added Ruby to his Aspen string, the pair earning a Best Playing Pony blanket that summer. Gaining a strong foundation with an experienced horseman in tournaments including the 2020 Butler Handicap®, Ruby became part of Sheehan’s string through a trade with Armstrong in early 2021. Naturally easy and lending herself well to women’s polo, Ruby pivoted from youth polo and carried Sheehan to consecutive U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship® Finals, playing nearly two full chukkers in the winning game.

Her second mare sold to Cambiaso after only three years of running her own business buying and selling horses, Sheehan is particularly proud to have prepared Ruby for her debut in the iconic 10-goaler’s string. Hitting her prime and showcasing her exceptional quality during the Florida season, Ruby’s high-goal career has accelerated quickly with plans to compete in the English high-goal season. Molding to every level with resilience, Ruby’s natural ability is without question, each experience offering her the growth necessary to excel at the highest levels of the sport.

Stewart Armstrong playing Ruby for Aspen in the 2019 GAUNTLET OF POLO®. ©David Lominska.
Stewart Armstrong playing Ruby for Aspen in the 2019 GAUNTLET OF POLO®. ©David Lominska.

How did Ruby come to be in your string?

Kylie Sheehan (KS): “I first met Ruby when she was seven years old and I played her in a couple of 6-goal tournaments. When Stewart [Armstrong] decided to compete in the 2019 GAUNTLET OF POLO® Gabriel was helping him find horses to add to his string. He ended up buying Ruby and playing her that season with Aspen and then he took her to Colorado for the summer. Stewart didn’t play a lot of competitive polo in 2020 so Ruby ended up going with Gabriel to Aiken, South Carolina, but he didn’t sell her because of COVID-19. Stewart was putting together Aspen/Dutta Corp for the GAUNTLET this year and since I had another special mare that had the Argentine bloodlines he was interested in we traded in Florida a couple weeks before the 2020 NYTS Championship®. Ruby had played two seasons with Stewart and was obviously more of a made horse than when I played her previously. Stewart works really hard on his horses so Ruby was well schooled and had come a long way with him.”

“It’s an incredible opportunity and huge accomplishment for me to say I owned a horse who Adolfo Cambiaso played in the U.S. Open Polo Championship®.”  – Kylie Sheehan

How were you able to sell Ruby to Adolfo Cambiaso?

KS: “After winning the 2021 U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship®, Gabriel [Crespo] suggested I show Ruby to Adolfo [Cambiaso] because he knew what the organization would be looking for in a horse. Since I had played against Hawaii Polo Life’s Mia [Cambiaso] in both U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championships® Cambiaso had seen Ruby before. We weren’t sure if she would be used as a team horse or for one of Adolfo’s sponsors, but it was a pleasant surprise to see that he was the one who chose to play her. I give Gabriel a lot of credit for making the sale happen, he’s really good at matching horses and knowing which ones will work for which organization.”

Ruby stepped into Adolfo Cambiaso's string for the 2021 GAUNTLET OF POLO®. ©David Lominska.
Ruby stepped into Adolfo Cambiaso's string for the 2021 GAUNTLET OF POLO®. ©David Lominska.

What are her best qualities?

KS: “Ruby has speed, handle and power but she’s also so easy and quiet. If you have her as a spare she will stand on the sidelines like a statue and watch the game. It’s actually a little misleading because at the trailer and in the barn she moves around a lot and is not very patient.

She’s also extremely sensitive to everything which is good but almost to a fault. If her browband is too high on her ear she starts shaking her head or if her girth is too tight she’ll let you know. Ruby’s one of the quickest horses I’ve ever been on in terms of her turn and she’s very versatile. Particularly in women’s polo the ability to turn is so important because there’s a lot of quick, short plays and Ruby turns inside out which is amazing especially for how big she is. She has the speed but she’s comfortable and smooth to ride. Even when you are going fast it doesn’t feel like it and she always wins the bumps.”

Stewart Armstrong (SA): “Ruby has a lot of lateral movement, speed and she's very light which makes for a good combination. She's also very sensitive and quick across the neck and I'm sure that's what Adolfo [Cambiaso] likes the most about her. She's not your typical polo pony type because she's on the taller side and narrow through the shoulders. Although you don't feel like you've got a stout horse underneath you, she's very strong on the bump because she's collected and can do everything you ask.”

Kylie Sheehan competing with Ruby during the 2021 U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship® victory with BTA/The Villages. ©David Lominska.
Kylie Sheehan competing with Ruby during the 2021 U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship® victory with BTA/The Villages. ©David Lominska.

Was there a moment when you knew she would be one of your best polo ponies?

KS: “In the 2021 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship® Semifinal, Ruby made an amazing play where she was able to get back to the ball which would be difficult for most horses to do. I hit the neckshot which went over to goal and Ruby was at a full gallop going towards the corner. She followed the ball, laid into the turn and got herself back over to it. At that moment I realized she was a really special horse. She was winning almost every play I put her into and I almost felt like she was waiting for me a little bit because she had so much ability. She was very capable of making spectacular plays as long as I could execute them.”

Why did you decide to sell Ruby?

KS: “Winning the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship® with BTA/The Villages was a dream in and of itself and I also had a great season selling horses. I wasn’t planning on selling Ruby because she ended up being such a useful horse in my string but selling her to Adolfo was a bonus. I viewed it as a privilege to see one of my horses playing with the best player in the world. It’s an incredible opportunity and huge accomplishment for me to say I owned a horse who Adolfo Cambiaso played in the U.S. Open Polo Championship®. Selling a polo horse to the best in the world is every horse seller’s dream.”

BTA/The Villages' Kylie Sheehan racing forward on Ruby in the U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship®. ©David Lominska.
BTA/The Villages' Kylie Sheehan racing forward on Ruby in the U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship®. ©David Lominska.

“That’s what makes her a special horse, she keeps saying yes and stepping up. She went from playing with me to playing in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® within a week which is pretty amazing.”  – Kylie Sheehan

How did it feel to see a horse you owned and played competing with Adolfo Cambiaso?

KS: “Ruby did well with me and gained some confidence but then to see her with the best player in the world who is able to execute all the plays that I know she is capable of making was incredible. Adolfo brings out the best in every horse and he is also capable of asking them things that I never asked of her. That’s what makes her a special horse, she keeps saying yes and stepping up. She went from playing with me to playing in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® within a week which is pretty amazing.

In 2019 I sold a mare named Rana to Adolfo that was an embryo out of one of the clones of Sage and Pelon Stirling ended up playing her in the Argentine Open. Personally, Ruby feels like more of an accomplishment because I was the only one playing her throughout the season. The only preparation she had was playing in the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship® which is not a common method for getting a horse ready for high-goal polo.”

SA: “I love my horses a lot and I really enjoy understanding and trying to improve them so it made me feel good that a horse which I felt good about he [Cambiaso] was also very interested in. I noticed Cambiaso played her a fair number of minutes in each game which is even more of a testament to the fact that he felt comfortable on her and could do what he wanted on her. It gave me confidence that I bet I could pick another horse for him!”

Where would you want to see her in five years?

KS: “I would love to see Ruby continue to be successful whether that is with Adolfo [Cambiaso] or with someone else in his organization. I hope she keeps playing well for them and I have no doubt that she will continue stepping up.”

*Kylie Sheehan is a Team USPA Alumna. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.

**Having a horse on consignment refers to a seller who has a horse in their possession to be sold for the owner.

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