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TONKAWA’S SAPO CASET STEPS UP HIS GAME – AN ARTICLE BY CLICKPOLOUSA

Jan 18, 2021 4:49 PM

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Tonkawa's Sapo Caset in the 2019 C.V. Whitney Cup®. ©David Lominska
Tonkawa's Sapo Caset in the 2019 C.V. Whitney Cup®.

“Our expectation for this year is to win. We've been fighting closely for a couple years and have come close to the top teams, but we want more.”  – Sapo Caset

Tonkawa has become one of the biggest organizations in American polo. In 2021 Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Cody Ellis*, Sapo Caset, Francisco Elizalde) will try to step up in the fight for the GAUNTLET OF POLO® and attempt to claim the title. "Our expectation for this year is to win,” Caset said. “We've been fighting closely for a couple years and have come close to the top teams, but we want more."

2021 will mark the 10-goaler’s fifth season with Tonkawa. “The organization is solid,” Caset said. “I'm close to Jeff [Hildebrand], he's very calm and keeps a low profile, but he loves the sport. He enjoys competing and winning just like I do.” Tonkawa is currently in a good position. "We have a great team and solid horses which we have managed to put together the last few years,” Caset commented. “I’m confident it'll be a good year and the expectations are high. Our expectations for this year are to win the U.S. Open Polo Championship®, and if we can hopefully the C.V. Whitney Cup® and USPA Gold Cup® as well."

No matter what his team achieves, Caset expects to have a few great months of polo in the United States. "There are good teams participating and it’ll be a very competitive season,” he said. “Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, polo is still standing and I hope it stays that way. The last two seasons were some of the best in the last few years with up to 16 teams in the 22-goal with two top level leagues, it's quite the impressive feat."

Caset continues to think positively for the future of the sport. "Even with such a difficult year, summer still had a lot of polo,” Caset continued. “In California, Aspen [Colorado] and New York there was a lot of polo played. This year will also be different, but polo will still be very competitive.”

2018 Joe Barry Memorial winners - Tonkawa (Julian de Lusarreta, Sapo Caset, Sterling Giannico, Jeff Hildebrand. ©David Lominska
2018 Joe Barry Memorial Champions: Tonkawa - Julian de Lusarreta, Sapo Caset, Sterling Giannico, Jeff Hildebrand.

“Our expectations for this year are to win the U.S. Open Polo Championship®, and if we can hopefully the C.V. Whitney Cup® and USPA Gold Cup® as well.”  – Sapo Caset

Before traveling to the United States, Caset confirmed that he'll be playing for RS Murus Sanctus for the 2021 Argentine season. His teammates will include Facundo Sola and two former La Dolfina players, Pablo MacDonough and Juan Martin Nero. “It was a nice end of the year for us, especially after the confirmation of the new team,” Caset said. “We have a big year ahead of us with new challenges, but we are happy, motivated and excited.” Caset discusses the highly-anticipated Argentine season in an interview with CLICKPOLOUSA.

Is the RS Murus Sanctus team one of the favorites to win?

"Yes, we are one of the favorites to win. We are a 39-goal team, which is the same total handicap as Ellerstina and since La Dolfina won't be as high, and there is not a 40-goal team, we have become one of the top seeds. This is what I've been looking forward to for a long time, to play for one of the two teams with a strong chance of winning. There are new challenges to face and we are prepared for them."

Did you think this opportunity was going to happen?

"Deep down I didn't want to get too excited in case it didn't happen. It was an amazing possibility, but there was also the possibility that La Dolfina would continue. I didn't want to talk to anyone about it in case it didn't happen, but I was anxious and nervous because I really wanted it to happen. Being able to play with two players like Juan [Martin Nero] and Pablo [MacDonough] is a unique opportunity for both Facundo [Sola] and I."

Tonkawa's Sapo Caset on the U.S. Polo Assn - Field 1 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach©David Lominska
Tonkawa's Sapo Caset on the U.S. Polo Assn Field 1 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.

How did you react when you found out?

"I had spoken with Facundo [Sola] in the morning and he told me that he would let me know if it was confirmed. I tried to distract myself and after having lunch I went to take a nap and put my cell phone on silent. My wife came in and woke me up because he was calling her since I didn't answer. He told me that it had been confirmed and I told him I’d call back. Once I got myself together I called him back. I could not believe it! I hugged my wife, it was big news for us. Now we have to prove we are up to the task."

Caset reminisced about his success with Lechuza Caracas, playing alongside Juan Martin Nero. Together, they won several tournaments in the United States, including the 2009 USPA Gold Cup® with Victor Vargas and Nicolas Espain, the 2011 C.V. Whitney Cup® and U.S. Open Polo Championship® with Vargas and Martin Espain. He also won the 2014 C.V. Whitney Cup® and USPA Gold Cup® playing for Valiente, alongside Bob Jornayvaz, Santi Torres* and Adolfo Cambiaso.

"I played a lot with Juan [Martin Nero] in the United States a long time ago; it was with Lechuza [Caracas], for about three or four years. We did well, winning several tournaments including the U.S. Open Polo Championship® and the USPA Gold Cup®. I never had the opportunity to share a team with Pablo [MacDonough] because we were always against him. Juan [Martin Nero] and I always wanted to play again and we have had the opportunity to, but it never happened. I always felt very comfortable when we played together, he is a great player and it is easy to play with him."

Sapo Caset Tonkawa ©David Lominska
Sapo Caset displaying skill with the nearside neckshot.

What do you most admire about Pablo MacDonough and Juan Martin Nero?

"They are both geniuses. I look up to Pablo [MacDonough] a lot because he plays as number three and I try to copy some of the things he does. He has incredible accuracy, and he always shows up when the team needs him. He has also played as back several times because he and Juan [Martin Nero] compliment each other very well and have played together for a long time. Juan [Martin Nero] is a genius as well and they both have incredible rotations. Sharing a team with them will be a unique experience and we will try to do our best."

Watch Sapo Caset compete for Tonkawa in the 2021 GAUNTLET OF POLO® beginning Wednesday, February 17, with the C.V. Whitney Cup®. All games of the GAUNTLET OF POLO® will be livestreamed exclusively on Global Polo TV.

*Cody Ellis and Santi Torres are Graduating Team USPA Members. 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.

All photos courtesy of ©David Lominska.

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