Eduardo Novillo Astrada’s family rules






Much has happened since our interview with Eduardo Novillo Astrada in Buenos Aires.  The basics of good polo, however, remains the same.


By Camilla Alfthan



Suddenly in 1999 the Novillo-Astrada clan became the focus of attention,when the they made it to the finals of the Argentine Open, and lost by only two goals against Indios Chapaleufú ll.

Alejandro ‘Pikki’ Diaz Alberdi had broken his collarbone, and his replacement never quite managed to enter the match. To most people, the three brothers came out of nowhere, and expectations for the following Abierto were high – however, injured horses and bad weather conditions meant that the Novillo Astradas only made it to the semi-finals, losing by two goals against Adolfo Cambiaso’s La Dolfina.


As it turned out, we had far from seen the last of their Cañada team, named after the polo club, La Cañada; founded by the Novillo-Astradas and, at the time, the largest in Argentina with seventy members.

These days it is the  family’s Aguada club which is the talk of the sport with numerous tournaments for all levels, including the traditional La Aguada horse sale.

The first family member to shine on the national polo scene was Julio Novillo-Astrada, who played in the 1930s. Julio held a 5-goal handicap and his son, Eduardo, was a 9-goaler who won the Hurlingham Open and the Tortugas and played the Abierto several times, once making it to the final. Eduardo played with his brother Julio and friends at La Cañada which they had established with a cousin.


The club is also where they keep most of their horses, said the eldest brother, Eduardo, when we met during the Abierto in Buenos Aires at the turn of the millenium when there were altogether eight Novillo-Astradas on the fields of play.


“We started playing when we were very young – about five or six years old. We would stick and ball and ride a lot. We spent our holidays here in Lujan, and also played with our four cousins in the Tortugas country club.”


“Our father would teach us to play, as well as our uncle. We also learned a lot from our groom, Raoul Simerez, who was with the family forever, running the organization.”


Learning from talent


“lt’s easier to learn how to play well when you have a good player on the field. We played practice games with teams of 7 to 25-goals, since we were very young. That’s why the young stars get to play so well, because they practise with great talent, and they watch and leam,” said Eduardo who started playing at the Irish Catholic Newman College while competing in the annual Potrillo tournament.


“Our father used to shout at us a lot. He said that we always have to get the man first and then the ball. That’s  the golden rule in polo. If you’re looking at the ball trying to get it, the man will get it before you.


But if you worry about him first, you can always get the ball afterwards. All high-goal players can hit the ball very well, so tactics become more important at this level. Also you have to be a very good rider, in order to be a good polo player.


“Just as in a business, you have to know all the levels of the job in order to be really good.


For many years we would ride without stirrups, to learn how to use our legs well. I alway say that you have to be a mix of an Indian and an English rider, to combine a natural style with technique.”


Having other interests than polo did not prove to be a problem either. When younger, Eduardo played rugby in the moming and polo in the aftemoon, and then when he was eighteen and had finished school, he opted for polo.


He then went on to study business administration at university.

Gradually, all brothers improved their handicaps, while getting better horses each year. Their highlight was winning the Triple Crown Open (Tortugas, Hurlingham and Palermo) in 2003 with La Aguada.

In 2014 that was topped when Eduardo won his first match at Palermo with his 14-year old son.


No secrets to being a good player


“There are no secrets to being a good player – it is all about consistency,” he said.


“It is a case of playing every week, all year around, with the best people. Some people come to Argentina, and leam for a few weeks and then they leave. But this is impossible; you forget everything that you have learned.”


“Henry Brett, the Gracidas, Mike Azzaro – they all come here to learn for long periods and this has been significant in their progress.”


“The way we do it here, is by starting at the bottom. You have to know how to do everything yourself. Our parents don’t give us six horses and a groom – they give us one or two and then we have to manage with that. We take the horses from the paddock ourselves, we feed them, we do everything. We are our own grooms. That’s the only way you can become a good player.”


“Just as in a business, you have to know all the levels of the job in order to be really good. You can’t play high-goal, if you don’t know the basics of good horsemanship.”


For Eduardo and his brothers, polo was always a way of life.


“We fight every ball as if it were the last – this is very characteristic of our family. We have a good defence and we are difficult to beat. We play a lot together and know each other well. That’s a great advantage.”






Photo Astrid Munoz © Jaeger LeCoultre


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