Apr 06, 2021 4:50 PM
Only a week into her new partnership with Mariano ‘Nino’ Obregon, a dark bay named Sally drew the eyes of the polo community after receiving the 2018 Willis L. Hartman Trophy for the U.S. Open Polo Championship® Final, the most prestigious Best Playing Pony award in the United States. Only the start of a fast and furious year of polo, Sally was whisked off for a summer of high-goal competition at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Carpinteria, California), capping off her cross-country year as BPP in the National Copper Cup®. A feisty American Thoroughbred of unknown origin, Sally excelled at the 12-goal level for almost five years before her undeniable talent prompted a special request.
Having the opportunity to play Sally in practices, Obregon could immediately sense the mare’s quality and was intent on trying to buy her from Skaneateles team owner, Marty Cregg. Although never raced, Sally has a genetic desire to run, keeping up a blistering pace often for nearly two full chukkers. Soaring to the top of the 7-goaler’s string, the 11-year-old mare has been saved specifically for the GAUNTLET OF POLO®, enjoying the past two summers off as one of Obregon’s top mares. Competing for the first time with Cessna in 2021, Sally continues to mature with each passing season, confirming over and over again her durability for the rigors of high goal.
What was Sally like as a young horse?
Marty: “I bought Sally in July 2013 when she was three years old from Dennys Santana who found her on a farm in Pennsylvania. He came to play a game at my home club Skaneateles Polo Club [Skaneateles, New York] and she was for sale. I rode Sally that day and I liked her, so I bought her even though she was still a little green. She was just starting to come into her own and it took another year or so for her to fully develop. I started out playing her in 12-goal tournaments in 2014 and then she became a lot stronger, so I had my pro Cesar Jimenez play her for the next four years.
She’s a horse that could play hard for the entire chukker and she didn’t tire easily so we played her for two chukkers in some games. During the 12-goal games Cesar ran the horses a lot because of his position at back and Sally was one of the horses that could go all chukker. She could be physical if you needed her to, but she was just very willing to run and she possessed a boldness that made her a horse you could confidently play against anybody. She has the speed to stay ahead or pass people and she is unusual because she has not only speed but durability and strength. We rarely had any days when we couldn’t play her because she was always ready to go.”
How did Sally come to be in Nino’s string?
Marty: “Nino was playing with me in 12-goal tournaments and he had practiced Sally a couple of times. While he was playing the 2018 U.S. Open Polo Championship® with Daily Racing Form he came to my barn the Sunday before the final and told me he was really short on horses for the upcoming semifinal and he said that Sally would really help him. We considered Sally to be a really strong horse, but I couldn’t have told you she would soon be the Best Playing Pony of the U.S. Open Polo Championship® Final. I had played with Nino for five years at that point so my thought was if I had a horse that would help him in the high goal, I was happy to help him out. Instead of loaning or renting Sally I asked him to find a horse in his string that was a good match for me and we made a trade. He took Sally back with him that day to finish the tournament.”
“Sally was a very good horse in our 12-goal string, but Nino Obregon is a good enough horseman that he was able to get more out of her in the U.S. Open Polo Championship®. We played her in six 12-goal tournaments every year for four years, but she became a top horse in his string.” – Marty Cregg
Was there a particular moment when you realized she would be a great polo pony for you?
Mariano: “About four years ago Cesar asked me if I could play his horses in an Equuleus practice. Out of all the ones I played, Sally was noticeably different. I hadn’t played many mares like that, where you just get on and right away you feel that they are very complete. I really liked her, but Cesar didn’t think that Marty would sell her. I really liked how she played with Cesar, but it wasn’t until a year and a half later that I was able to own her.”
“She’s a complete horse—she has a lot of speed and a nice mouth as well. She’s a mare that has a little bit of everything. I can make more plays on her than with some of my other horses.” – Mariano Obregon
Do you have a favorite playing memory on her?
Mariano: “During the U.S. Open Polo Championship® I made a breakaway on the nearside and Adolfo [Cambiaso] was chasing me. Sally was flying, she started running faster and faster and this was only her second or third time playing a high-goal game. She has a lot of heart. I had the chance to go up by two goals in the sixth chukker, but I missed it. I wish I would have scored the goal, that would have been even better!”
How did you feel when she won Best Playing Pony in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® Final?
Mariano: “That was an amazing experience, the whole day was incredible like something out of a movie. It's something you dream of happening. If you asked me if I would rather get a Best Playing Pony award or be named Most Valuable Player, I would choose BPP. It’s something that you work really hard for and it’s tough to get well-mounted. To win it gave me a lot of satisfaction.”
How have you seen her improve or change over the years?
Mariano: “I think that she has settled down a little more over the years. She's always had a lot of fire and I think polo horses are at their peak between 10 and 13 depending on the horse. Since she has settled down a little more I think that has helped her out because she would get a little anxious playing.”
What’s her personality like?
Mariano: “She’s really nice with the other horses, but she’s always grumpy with people. Whenever the grooms or I go to put her blanket or girth on she gets mad and tries to bite you. Whenever you are cleaning her stall she puts her ears back and makes it clear she doesn’t want to be bothered. She’s never hurt anybody, but she doesn't want you there and prefers to be left alone.”
What are your plans for her after the Florida season?
Mariano: “After the Florida season I will probably turn her out in Aiken, South Carolina, until next year because I’m going to Chicago, Illinois. I’ll get her fit slowly and hopefully get a head start for the 2022 high-goal season. In the future I would like to breed her although I’m not sure with which stud yet. I hope to both breed her naturally and take embryos.”
Watch Sally compete in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® Quarterfinal on Saturday, April 10, exclusively on Global Polo TV.
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
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