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LONG LIVE THE LEGACY OF SPORTIVO: THE ARGENTINE STALLION THAT CHANGED POLO - AN ARTICLE BY CLICKPOLOUSA

Apr 05, 2022 3:48 AM

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Sportivo.

“In the 2021 Argentine Open final alone, fifty out of the ninety-two horses that were played shared Sportivo's bloodline.”

On February 25, 1998 , Gonzalo Pieres and a few of his friends visited the San Isidro Race Course in Argentina, never knowing that a fate encounter would launch a long-standing polo dynasty. One of the last races of the day was the "Anemos-Viejo Ligero," a 1400-meter race that Jorge Valdivieso would triumph in to secure $5,800 in prize money. The winning horse had been bred by Haras Santa Maria de Araras at a stud fee of only two pesos. That horse was Sportivo.

At the time, Pieres was in search of a direct son of Mr. Prospector to add to the Ellerstina breed, which he was building up alongside Kerry Packer. Originally, he traveled to the U.S. in hopes of finding a match, but having no luck, he returned to Argentina horseless.

As if happening as a result of destiny, Pieres found out that the stallion Sportivo, who had just won the Anemos-Viejo Ligero, was a grandson of Mr. Prospector. Intrigued, Pieres inquired about whether the horse was for sale. But with that race sealing Sportivo's fourth win, the owners wanted to continue pursuing competitive racing. Disappointed, Pieres was forced to continue his search.

Gonzalito Pieres purchased Sportivo in 1998 after a chance encounter at the San Isidro Race Course in Argentina. ©David Lominska
Gonzalito Pieres purchased Sportivo in 1998 after a chance encounter at the San Isidro Race Course in Argentina. ©David Lominska

Six months later, Pieres returned to San Isidro, still on the hunt for a stallion for his breed. After finding and choosing one, Pieres surprisingly learned Sportivo was now for sale. Not finding much success on the track after that fateful February race, the owners were now open to selling. Pieres jumped at the opportunity and went to see Sportivo at a nearby stable. Initially unimpressed with the look of the horse, Pieres was preparing to forego the now present opportunity. But with encouraging words from his friend, Claudio Perez, and the stallion’s impressive bloodline, Pieres took the chance and bought the stallion.

Sportivo was immediately taken to Adolfo Cambiaso's “La Picaza Ranch”, where the La Dolfina breeding operation was headquartered. That spring, Sportivo’s first foal, Dolfina Toro, was born. But Sportivo ended up running into health trouble pretty quickly. In the process of trying to breed multiple mares, he received so many kicks that it caused a large hematoma on his chest. He needed surgery, but it didn’t go as well as planned, so he was sent to La Grappa in hopes of expediting the recovery. Despite the chaos, they were still able to create several embryos during Sportivo’s recovery. Two of those embryos ended up being Open Especial (Luna) and Ellerstina Penca (Petitera).

Best Playing Pony and Best Argentine Bred Pony in the 2022 USPA Gold Cup was presented to Open Azarenka (Sportivo x Rusita), played and owned by Facundo Pieres. Presented by Jesse Coppola and Maureen Brennan, pictured with Tomas Garbarini, Facundo Burgos, Santiago Buigues, Javier Fiel, Beto, Sandro Diaz, Pablo Erbin, Leoncio Godoy. ©David Lominska
Best Playing Pony and Best Argentine Bred Pony in the 2022 USPA Gold Cup was presented to Open Azarenka (Sportivo x Rusita), played and owned by Facundo Pieres. Presented by Jesse Coppola and Maureen Brennan, pictured with Tomas Garbarini, Facundo Burgos, Santiago Buigues, Javier Fiel, Beto, Sandro Diaz, Pablo Erbin, Leoncio Godoy. ©David Lominska

The following season, now keeping Sportivo at La Grappa permanently, they created as many as 15 embryos. One of those was Dolfina Cuartetera (Lambada). Other notable descendants include, Penca (1999), Chalo Primera (1999), Felicidad (2000), Malaquita (2000), Chalo Porteña (2000), Top Model (2003), Pasarela (2003), Carei (2003), and Guita (2003). This was the true beginning of Sportivo’s legendary legacy.

His first descendent to win the Palermo Open was Dolfina Cuartetera in 2006. From thereon, Sportivo became the stallion with the most award winners in the Palermo Open. His offspring won nine of 16 blankets presented by the Argentine Association of Polo Horse Breeders, those horses being: Cuartetera (2006, 2009), Dolfina Toro (2008, 2010), Open Chequera (2014), Dolfina Cuartetera Clon 9 (2016, 2017), Dolfina Cuartetera Clon 6 (2020) and Open Easy Game (2021).

His descendants also won seven out of 16 Lady Susan Townley awards between 2006 and 2021, those descendants include: Dolfina Cuartetera (2009, 2010 and 2014), Dolfina Cuartetera Clon 9 (2017 and 2018), and Dolfina Cuartetera Clon 6 (2019 and 2020).

Sportivo was a stallion who adapted to the needs of many players and polo operations. Never before in polo history had there been a stallion with so much success across different organizations. To briefly summarize a few of his amazing contributions to the world of polo:

He fathered Cambiaso’s famous Cuartetera, Facundo Sola’s Sportiva, As de Basto, and Sovietica, Pelon Stirling’s Suma (who played in six Palermo Open finals), Lolo Castagnola’s Primear, Porteña, and Toro, and Mariano Aguerre’s Jazzita. All of these horses have been integral to the success of these players and have kept the Sportivo dynasty alive.

In the 2021 Palermo Final alone, fifty out of the ninety-two horses that were played shared Sportivo's bloodline. At the two-minute mark in the last chukker, arguably one of the most important moments in polo, seven of the eight horses playing were descendants of Sportivo. The AACCP award also went to a horse of the Sportivo bloodline, namely Barto Castagnola’s “Open Easy Game.”

Tragically, Sportivo died of a heart attack in La Grappa on August 28, 2013, as he was approaching his twentieth birthday. There are many great bloodlines that exist in polo, such as Pucara and El Sol, but all seem to pale in comparison to the achievements of Sportivo’s bloodline. With the plethora of amazing horses he brought into the world, his bloodline is often regarded as one of the most, if not the most, fruitful and prosperous in polo. And even though he’s not around anymore, his legacy will live on for years and years to come through the success of his descendants.

USPA

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