The end of the season is a good time for reflection and for treatment, rest and recuperation both for players and for horses. I was lucky enough to steal a few days away in Cornwall at the end of August, which despite the cold weather was heaven on earth. I learnt a new word: “narly”, used by the surfing crowd, and our party had competitions in who could acquire the most “narly” item at the surf shop.
Rest is important for us, but also for the horses and the grooms who have been working so hard to look after them. The importance of post-season vet-checks and assessing which horses need treatments and proper roughing-off is paramount to them having a good winter and coming in well for the beginning of next season.
All the “i”s need to be dotted and “t”s crossed at this stage of the season to ensure the wellness of the horses and the longevity of each horse’s playing career. Knowing when to finish the season on each horse is also important, to avoid playing horses that are over-tired or stale.
Striking a deal
Next year’s deals are also done at this stage and while there are no massive transfers —such as Angel Di Maria’s €75m transfer to Manchester United or salaries like that of Colombia’s Radamel Falcoa — there are quite a few teams that have already concreted their plans.
The big league teams like Zacara, El Remanso, Talandracas, King Power and Dubai are always clever in getting the deals done quickly and ensuring they get the line-up that they want. This gives them more time to spend organising the build-up period and the players can source horses earlier.
I can remember Carlos Gracida trying six-year-old thoroughbreds in August in England, knowing how many horses he needed for his team the following year and then preparing them well over the winter and having five extra horses for the season already acclimatised. This can only be done if the team is made early.
I gather that Jerome Wirth’s Enigma is not playing next season, which is sad after such a good season this year and a good run over the last few years, narrowly missing out on the Queen’s Cup in 2011.
King Power is fielding a second team, so it is not only building up its premiership football side Leicester City, but also both polo teams.They have taken on the world number one Facundo Pieres to play alongside his brother Gonzalito and Top [Srivaddhanaprabha] — who was the leading amateur player in this year’s Gold Cup.
There have been lots of exciting moves and there are still some big organisations — namely Black Bears — yet to put their cards on the table. There are still some top players available and the market is reasonable as a result of this.
At the moment there is no transfer window like in football and in other sports. Maybe the governing body should bring one in? Would this then help the sport to become more organised and sponsor-friendly? It would inhibit the last minute teams — but are these teams good for the sport?
The future’s bright
August — being the main part of the school holidays — is when the Pony Club polo sets sail. It was a pity that bad weather hampered the finals at Cowdray but I have been so impressed by the level of play shown by the younger players — and also by the commitment of the parents to get them well-mounted and into good polo at an early age.
The future is bright for the level of the sport in this country.
Column first published in Horse & Hound magazine on Thursday 18 September, 2014