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RISING THROUGH THE RANKS: GRINGO COLOMBRES’ COQUITO

Mar 01, 2021 8:49 PM

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Coquito. ©David Lominska
Coquito. ©David Lominska

Propelling Raul ‘Gringo’ Colombres into the upper echelons of his professional career, Coquito is the dark bay gelding who for the past five years has anchored the string and kept Colombres humble on the rise to the top. A repeat standout in the Florida 20-goal season, Coquito’s stamina made a lasting impression at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (Wellington, Florida), earning him consecutive Best Playing Pony titles in the Joe Barry Memorial Final (2020 and 2019) as well as the 2019 Ylvisaker Cup Final. Recognizing the talent buried within an initially reluctant Coquito and patiently molding the young horse, Colombres didn’t know then that their partnership would be the best investment of his career.

Sired by Fax Banquero and out of Carbonilla, 12-year-old Coquito embodies the best of English family Tomlinson breeding, calm and collected until the throw in yet a machine when unleashed on the field. Credited with raising Colombres to an 8-goal handicap, Coquito has made his GAUNTLET OF POLO® debut alongside his owner, the pair competing for Aspen/Dutta Corp. Sweeping all three 20-goal tournaments in a stellar 2019 season with Dutta Corp, Colombres joined forces with Timmy Dutta* and Lucas Diaz Alberdi as he strives for the 22-goal GAUNTLET and Coquito is just the horse to take him all the way.

How did you get started in polo?

“My dad was a 4-goal polo player and the manager of a polo organization in Argentina. My granddad used to have a farm so I started stick and balling there. When I was 16 years old I started coming to the United States and I worked as a groom for the first two years. I had a 1-goal handicap then and I was trying to become a professional polo player and chase after my dream. It was really hard for me because my family does not come from money where they can financially support me and help me buy horses. My family is a hard-working farm family who know a lot about horses and they taught me to be a horseman. In the United States I had an uncle who used to sell horses so he lent me a couple of horses and I rented horses when I first started out.”

Coquito has led Gringo Colombres' string in high-goal play in the USA. ©David Lominska
Coquito has led Gringo Colombres' string in high-goal play in the USA. ©David Lominska

“Coquito was the horse that helped me reach an 8-goal handicap.”  – Gringo Colombres

How did Coquito come to be in your string?

“As a five-year-old Coquito came from Argentina to the United States when he was still not completely made. He was first purchased by Philip Mactaggart who was my previous sponsor, but he [Philip] was unable to play Coquito who was still a little green. I finished making Coquito and then I made a deal to buy him from Philip.”

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

“When I first saw Coquito he had a lot of talent, but he was not an easy horse. In the beginning he didn’t like to play polo and he was a little nervous, but after a year of working with him and playing a lot of games he started doing much better. After just a year and a half and playing one season in Florida, Coquito was a machine and he became the best horse in my string.

On Coquito I was able to make a difference on the field against 10-goal players so I knew he was a really good horse. Several large polo organizations made me many offers to buy Coquito, but I never wanted to sell him. Of course they offered me good money, but horses like that don’t appear too often and I wanted to keep him. Coquito was the horse that helped me reach an 8-goal handicap. Without him I would probably still be playing 6 or 7-goals.”

Coquito has been with Gringo Colombres to help him reach an 8-goal handicap. ©David Lominska
©David Lominska

Which chukker(s) do you typically play him?

“In really important games like semifinals or finals, if I’m only going to play him once, its usually in the fifth chukker. If I do play him twice, I put him in the first or second chukker and then bring him back in the sixth chukker.”

What’s his personality like at the barn versus on the field?

“Coquito has an amazing personality and that’s why I am planning to clone him this year with Scott Swerdlin if everything goes well. We were originally going to do it after the 2020 Florida season, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic we decided not to. We are planning to make four clones and I want a stallion to pass on Coquito’s quiet temperament. You can put anyone on him from a baby to a player like Facundo Pieres because he’s universal and anyone can play him.

Coquito is like a dog, he behaves so well in the barn and when you take him on a set he's quiet and never causes a problem. He's always relaxed when he goes to the field and a bit lazy until it’s time to play polo. When I get to the throw in I say, ‘come on Coquito,’ make a noise and then he wakes up. Until that moment he’s really quiet and because he behaves so well both on and off the field all the grooms like to take care of him.”

What are his greatest strengths on the field?

“His power is his best quality. After three or three-and-a-half minutes of playing usually all the horses are a little tired, but Coquito has one more minute left in him. He always has more power than the rest of the horses and he has another speed. He's also really loyal and he has a good mouth, but for me the big difference that makes him a great horse is the extra minutes he can play. Playing Coquito I know I can pass the other horses when they get tired and that’s why I keep running; he has a big heart.”

“10 or 12 years ago I started with a 1-goal handicap and now I’m 8-goals and have 20 horses, a truck and a trailer. I'm really happy because I didn't have anything when I first came to this country and now I have all this.”  – Gringo Colombres

Do you have a favorite playing memory or play from last year on Coquito?

“I scored a goal for Dutta Corp in the 2019 Ylvisaker Cup Final when we beat Pilot 11-7. In the sixth chukker, I made a play where I crossed Facundo Pieres and then passed him from behind to score a goal that put us up by four to win the game.”

Where would you like to see him five years from now?

“I think I can easily play Coquito five more years, he’s so healthy and has never had an injury. Maybe in a couple years he won’t be as good because he's going to start getting older, but at the moment he's amazing. I take very good care of him as if he were my wife! I make sure he has all the supplements he needs and I aIways send him to the best pastures.”

What are your plans for Coquito after the Florida season concludes?

“Usually I go to New York to play in the summer, but I have to see if I will send Coquito back to Argentina or not this year. If I keep him here I plan to give him the summer to rest in Florida.”

Coquito won Best Playing Pony in the 2019 Joe Barry Cup. Pictured with Gringo Colombres and Jose Mendoza. ©David Lominska
Coquito won Best Playing Pony in the 2019 Joe Barry Cup. Pictured with Gringo Colombres and Jose Mendoza. ©David Lominska

How does it feel to have come this far in your career with Coquito?

“When I came here as a groom I had nothing and I competed against bigger organizations who had a lot of horses from top bloodlines. As I was progressing in my career I found Coquito and he helped me win games against those organizations. It’s a great achievement to win when you are up against 10-goal players who have the money to buy the best horses. Coquito received two Best Playing Pony blankets back-to-back and I was really surprised and happy; it was a big deal for me. When I first came to the U.S. I wanted to play in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® more than anything and now I finally will and I’m so happy.”

*Timmy Dutta is an Active Team USPA Member. 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.

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