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POLO IS OUR PASSION – Interview with Luis Estrada



How did it all begin? When did the Santa Maria Polo Club open?

Polo started at the same time as Sotogrande, an urbanisation created by two people of great importance, Mac Micking and Enrique Zobel in the 1960’s, who wanted to make a very special and unique urbanization, similar to the American style. The first thing they did was to buy the land and before building even one house, they built polo fields and a superb golf course. Polo already existed in the Gibraltar area, mostly played by the military. The first Gold Cup was held in 1973, 74, and now we are holding the 42nd event. 

Polo in Sotogrande not only brings together the best players but also the greatest sponsors. What is your work as Vice President?

The world of polo is virtually unknown in Spain, but in Sotogrande we hold the third most important tournament in the world after the Palermo Open and the English Open. This year it is the 42nd tournament. We will have 30 teams and it will be a particularly attractive event, with players such as Cambiaso, the Pieres brothers,  McDonogh, Novillo Estrada, and teams such as “Dos Lunas” or “Ayala”, so during a whole month we will  offer the very essence of world class polo. 

We Polo fans love this incredible sport and the elegance of the game, but surely there is a lot of work involved in the organisation of a tournament?

Apart from being the Vice President of the Santa Maria Polo Club, I am also Managing Director of OM Premium where we organise elite sport events mainly in the world of polo and golf. To organise what involves 30 teams, more than 1,000 horses, 150 matches. In other words a whole month of organisation and logistics. This is very important, and a lot of experience is involved. We get calls from countries such as China, Qatar or the Arab  Emirates to organise polo tournaments for them, we also have considerable experience in the commercial aspects, sponsorships, media, etc. we have the fundamental “know how”. 

As in all sports there are fans and players, you are a fan of this sport, but have you ever tried to actually hit a ball?

It is a very difficult sport which requires great control over the horse, you have to have a lot of skill; of course I have tried it. As a spectator I find it quite spectacular, but if you have control over your horse and you want to move on to polo, this sport unites skill, team play, risk, grace……. no other equestrian sport has so much appeal. 

The inauguration of Los Pinos with its 2,500 metre marquee and luxury brands was a success, but maybe the classic old fashioned fans miss el Rio?

We created Los Pinos out of need for space, el Rio was a classic area, but it became too small for the polo fields and particularly for the commercial area and hospitality zone. To begin with people found this change from the traditional difficult, but now they are thrilled by it. The Medium Handicap with 16 teams is still played in el Rio. 

Investment in Sotogrande thanks to the summer tournaments must be enormous! Has it declined in recent years due to the crisis?

Not particularly as regards international level polo. There are problems in Europe and the entire world, but we have not particularly noted the crisis on the sporting side, although the sponsorship situation is more complicated since we depend principally on national sponsors, and here we do notice that there are less financial means in this country. You have to find new ways of selling your product. We have increased offers for products, gastronomy, hospitality and we have also managed to maintain good sponsors of top quality brands.


How does one become a member of Santa Maria Club? Is it only for polo players? And what advantages are there?

Yes, of course. You can become a playing member, a non-playing member or corporate member. There are big advantages from the point of view of hospitality, protocol, parking areas, exclusive terraces, polo classes, polo clinics and we have a large amount of offers and perks for members wishing to enjoy watching good polo, or playing good polo. 

Santa Maria Club has a foundation which promotes Equine Therapy. What is it and who benefits from it?

It is an effort by the Club to help children, particularly children with problems with mental illnesses. Horses and the contact with horses provide a very useful therapy for such conditions. The results are fascinating and the best results are incredible and benefit the whole of the Campo de Gibraltar, including Marbella. 

Sotogrande is probably the urbanisation with the most sporting activities in the world, sailing, golf, tennis, paddle tennis, polo. How important is sport for you, and what sports do you practice?

I play golf, and truth be told, Sotogrande is a golfer’s paradise, and even if you do not play golf, you will end up doing so with all the facilities on offer, courses such as La Reserva, Valderrama or el Real Golf Club. 

Finally, what goals does a Polo Club official pursue? Where do you want to go with Santa Maria Polo Club?

That is an easy one to answer since we have a project for the future. In Los Pinos in particular,

we have a residential project, including luxury hotel and  tourist services, which we hope will become the best polo club in the world. We already have some of the best polo fields, very experienced organisation, a very special atmosphere, and surroundings that are very suitable for polo. All this will be complemented with the most exclusive residential zone in the world with polo and leisure harbour. This will make it a unique complex, which we want to achieve without forgetting the essential factors, that is good polo and well organised tournaments.

At the moment we are growing, we have increased the handicap to 22 goals, we have brought the best players in the world. I must  stress that few shows of this type are free, but here people can go without paying anything except for the finals, and the proceeds go to the Equine Therapy Foundation. A very attractive offer which is becoming better known day by day. The Club’s doors are open and you can enjoy a great show. I hope to continue to see you and to tell you a lot more about polo, which is our passion!


Interview by Maria Elena Paganini

Hansa Realty in Google



Published in Costa del Sol Property News |