The Women’s Argentine Polo Open is set to kick off on Monday. The championship will see the best female players in the world compete, as four teams, up to 32 goals (ladies handicap) will partake. Hazel Jackson, one of the top players on the international circuit, spoke to Pololine about the high and lows of the women’s polo.
On the second edition of the Argentine Open: “My expectations for this Argentine ladies polo season are pretty high because we are pretty well organised. Obviously here I’ve got Lucas Monteverde’s horses for the entire season, and I’m based in Cañuelas. We’ve got the horses from El Overo Z7, which is Lucas’ breed alongside Sheikha Maitha from UAE. So we are pretty well organised, playing really good practices, I’m hoping to improve a lot and hoping it will be a very good season.”
On her Argentine season so far: “I have played La Ensenada Mix Cup with Why Not, where we had a win, so it was pretty good. I’ve also just played the Myriam Heguy, that team was under UAE and we also had a win, so it was great. I also played the Lobos ladies cup, were we reached the final. I’m also playing Nuestra Tierra; Nuestra Tierra have the best fields in Pilar, in my opinion, and a very well organised tournament. But I’m fully focused on the Argentine Open. I also came from USA and we had a win in the Women’s US Open.”
On the current year of Ladies Polo around the world: “This year of ladies polo for me has gworn and grown, and it’s not stopping. Actually, I’m struggling to find time to see my husband because I’m travelling so much; I’m travelling to an average of 8 to 10 countries per year, for different tournaments, for ladies and mixed polo. I’m noticing that the level is getting higher. If you want to go play in different countries you need to be very well organised, you need to be well mounted because the tournaments are so competitive. Most of the girls are improving and there are some amazing up-and-coming players. But, in general, I think that the nice thing about the ladies polo is that we have such a buena onda on and off the fields, we are having so much fun with all the girls, so I’m a massive fan.”
On the second year of the English circuit where six 18-goal tournaments competed: “The second year of the English Victrix Ludorum was intense to say the least. I think we made nearly all the finals apart from one, and most of the games were half a goal or a goal difference in score. It was incredible. Cowdray had 10 teams for example and Guards was nearly the same. You can imagine, ten teams of 18 goals, ladies players, is pretty phenomenal, and all of them very competitive, all the girls pretty well organised, the fields were really nice. Plus, we had an amazing summer in England this year, the weather was incredible, anyone who went could know how hot it was. Unfortunately, my team failed in winning the League by just a few points, so that was really frustrating to be honest. We ended up playing a lot against Nina (Clarkin) in the finals. Although I’ve beaten her a few times in the league games, in the finals she seemed to come away with a few wins against us. However, next year I’m going to be in a different organisation, I’m looking forward to that, going to be based with UAE. The same organisation which we have over here in Argentina, we will have it in England, so we can put together a very strong team, and hopefully bring home the Trophy next year. But it was incredible, and anyone who saw the games I’m sure they really enjoyed them. Super competitive, English girls are pretty tough, and there are so many of us, it’s really quite special.”
On winning the Women’s US Open: “I’m very happy. I have been based with the same team for the last four years, we made the final four times and won it twice, the other two we lost were in extra chukker, so you can imagine the frustration. I love my team over there, with Lottie Lamacraft and Tiva Gross, and Courtney (Price) our patron and her sister Bridget. They are super well organised, the team Rocking P, I had some horses from Marcos Villanueva, and the horses were unbelievable, we really made a big difference. The whole tournament was awesome. It’s a tournament which I love to go to, it’s really competitive because realistically there are 3 pros on each team. It must be the second highest ladies tournament in the world after the Argentine Open. I came back with a very big smile on my face.”
On the memories of last year’s Argentine Open Final: “We are very focused this year on the Argentine Open, the final last year was really frustrating to us, as I think we didn’t have our best game and I don’t feel that our horses matched in comparison with La Dolfina’s horses. However, I feel like this year it’s going to be a different story, we’ve got an amazing organisation behind us. We are like sisters, we are going to study the other teams, and practicing a lot together; we’ve been offered a lot of help with horses, which is incredible. We also have to say thank you to La Ensenada and Ernesto Gutierrez, who also offered us to help us with horses. So we’ve got a lot of backing this year, a lot of support, it’s up to us now. All the teams are good, but of course La Dolfina is pretty well organised with incredible horses and the girls are only getting better and better because they are still growing.”
On the next challenges for Ladies Polo: “For me it keeps growing and growing, and a lot of ladies patrons are here, they are beginning to understand about how professional the ladies polo is now. We’ve got WIPN (Women’s International Polo Network), an incredible organisation which is really making the women’s polo a lot more professional, so I really support it. All the girls are growing, I think we are all trying to improve a lot and the whole sport it’s taken so seriously now with personal training, we are coming to the fields in some incredible horses. People is watching that you want to learn, that you are passionate.”
On her personal challenges for 2019: “Personally, I would like to improve my game in general, I’ve got a lot to work on, so I’m going to be trying to play a little bit more mixed polo, some faster practices, just to get my speed up a little bit, which then obviously I can take and adapt into ladies polo. At the moment, for us girls, we are in heaven; we would never thought that ladies polo would be in this situation where it’s so popular and so in demand. Each year there is more tournaments popping up everywhere, the same ones are happening year and year out, they are getting more established, we are playing finals days in the same days as some of the men’s pretty high handicapped polo it’s being played, for example in the Argentine Open, in England, in America, in France, in Chantilly. I think there is a lot of sponsors on board also, and I think that we are just keep growing for now. My schedule is pretty busy, so I don’t think it’s slowing down.”
The Women’s Argentine Open kicks off on Monday in Pilar:
10am: El Overo Z7 UAE vs. Santa María de Lobos
11am: La Dolfina Brava vs. Alegría – HPA 1875
El Overo Z7 UAE: Clara Cassino 7, Hazel Jackson-Gaona 9, Lía Salvo 9, Sarah Wiseman 7. Total: 32.
Santa María de Lobos: Dawn Laurel Jones 6, Paige McCabe 6, Tiva Gross 6, Courtney Asdourian 6. Total: 24.
La Dolfina Brava: Mía Cambiaso 6, Milagros Fernández Araujo 7, Candelaria Fernández 8, Nina Clarkin 10. Total: 31.
Alegría – HPA 1875: Lottie Lamacraft 6, Annabel McNaught-Davis 6, Emma Tomlinson Wood 5, Tamara Fox 7. Total: 24.