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Breeding Excellence: An Interview with Patricio Garrahan - An Article by Clickpolousa

Updated: 5 days ago

Patricio Garrahan, breeder of the 2024 National Polo Center Horse of the Year recipient Mega Big Bay (Open Cabernet x Grappa Big H) discusses the art and challenges of breeding in Argentina and the United States.

Mega Big Bay (Open Cabernet x Grappa Big H).

Garrahan reflected on the influence of Argentine mares in the American polo scene, the increasing competitiveness of the sport and the critical role of top-quality horses in achieving success. He also discusses the challenges and opportunities in the American polo circuit, noting how platforms like the Gauntlet of Polo are pivotal in showcasing the best talent and breeding.

His interview provides a deeper understanding of the intricate world of horse breeding and the factors that contribute to the success of champions like Mega Big Bay. Garrahan’s experiences offer valuable perspectives on polo’s evolving landscape in Argentina and the United States.

2024 Horse of the Year recipient Mega Big Bay, played by Hilario Ulloa and owned by Park Place, presented by USPA President Charles Smith, pictured with Hernan Martinez, Victor Escobar, Agustin Menta, Marcelo Kibis, Juan Pablo Saadi and Martina Revelli. ©David Lominska


Mega Big Bay won the 2024 National Polo Center Horse of the Year Award. What does this mean to you?

“The American market has increasingly adopted Argentine mares; it has always done so, but this has grown recently thanks to the pedigree and the promotion primarily through social media. It has been very useful for these mares to play in the United States and for American polo to have focused on giving awards, also in the matches, as they did in the U.S. Open. Not only do they give the American blanket, but also an Argentine breeding blanket, thanks to the work done by the Argentina Breeding Association. This gives us Argentine breeders a huge boost.

I have been fortunate to win a couple of awards in the USA, but this is the first time the mare has won the award for the Best of the Year, and not for a particular tournament. I believe this is more important because, often, about 80 horses compete in a final. The award depends on a particular play, who made it, if she scored a goal, or if it decided the final. On the other hand, the award received by Mega Big Bay speaks more of the consistency of having played well in all three tournaments, with the added fact that Park Place did not reach any of the three finals. Even though Mega Big Bay did not play in any final, there was a broad consensus that she had many chances to be the mare of the season. This gives the award greater significance because, as I said before, many times, the awards depend on specific situations in a match. Generally, the best one wins, but sometimes you depend on luck. An award like this depends on the mare performing well, and Hilario [Ulloa] did very well on her.”

What can you tell us about Mega Big Bay?

“This is the fifth season Mega Big Bay has played in the United States at this level of polo. Lerin Zubiaurre bought her from me in Argentina in 2020 and took her to the USA; she played one season with him, then she moved to Park Place. Juan Britos played her for four years, during that time she won the award for Best [Argentine Bred] in the final of the [2021] C.V. Whitney Cup. The following year, Juan won the award for the [String] of the season, a lot that included Mega Big Bay. This year, she was passed to Hilario, and now she has won this great award.”

Juan Britos playing Mega Big Bay in the Gauntlet of Polo. ©David Lominska

What do you remember about the breeding period of Mega Big Bay?

“I started breeding in 2008 in Ellerstina when Gonzalo Pieres and his sons offered me their embryos. It has been 16 years as a breeder. The process is so long that a mare can only play at the highest level when they are 8 years old. This means I had seven litters until I had mares playing. Fortunately, in my early years, in addition to Ellerstina's genetics, I had training by Polito Ulloa, whom I consider by far the best. The first two awards I won in the United States were Mega Espía (Open Cabernet x Spuky) and Mega Chistosa (Simpatia x Sportivo), both played by Facundo Pieres and trained by Polito Ulloa. With Mega Big Bay, it was curious that the training was done by us and not by Ulloa, and Hilario played her instead of Pieres. I have an agreement that the Pieres’ have priority for Ellerstina’s embryos. Mega Big Bay, although she was a comfortable mare, she did not give the impression that she would become what she is today. Lerin ended up taking her, sold her to Park Place, and there she exploded.

The path Mega Big Bay took is not the traditional one for my breeding, but it is the one I will need in the future because it is difficult to get into the lot of Facundo, Gonzalo and Nicolas [Pieres]. The United States allows me to showcase the mares elsewhere. Getting into 10-goal players in Palermo [Argentina] is very difficult, and this helped me a lot.”

Is there any feedback between the breeder and the player?

“In my case, we stay pretty separate. I have a club in Pilar [Argentina] with my brother Martín, Polo One, and until the mares are 6 or 7 years old, the Pieres’ hardly know they exist unless they happen to be daughters of a particular mare or there is a specific situation that gives me the chance to talk to them about one. The reality is that they only ride them when I feel the mares are close to being played. Many times, they were first played by Lerin Zubiaurre, Rodrigo Andrade, Ignacio Du Plessis and Jaime Huidobro, among others, who acted as intermediaries between the club's finishing process and the Pieres’. Then they give the horses the extra touch they need, and I think you have to have an almost perfect mare, because it is getting more and more difficult. They are more demanding, and the mares are played for less time. This is not just my problem but a general issue in polo.”

It is also about being consistent, seeing how many years they remain at the highest level. That is why Mega Big Bay's achievement is so important; I don't know how many mares remain at the top level for five years in such an important organization as Park Place.”  – Patricio Garrahan

Mega Big Bay and 10-goaler Hilario Ulloa. ©David Lominska

You have mares from your breeding in the best tournaments in the world; where do you place the polo in the United States and the Gauntlet of Polo?

“I think anything that can be consolidated in the United States and helps economically will be very good for polo in general and horses in particular. The more competitive polo is, the better horses they will need. One sees that when players need to win, they bring the best mares from Argentina. There are years when they take them to Palm Beach [Florida] and bring them back to Palermo. Before, when they took them to Palm Beach, it was often because they were not fit to play in Palermo. Today, the players use the mares, which improves the level over there; the more the level improves, the more they will need.”

Besides being a breeder, you also participate in the award ceremonies; what do you evaluate when giving an award?

“I don't like to be guided by the awards because, for example, in Palermo, 104 horses play per game. In the United States, they play fewer because there are fewer chukkers. For a jury to have the capacity to evaluate so many horses is very difficult, and the awards do not exactly reflect where you are as a breeder. For example, sometimes it depends on whether the mare is known, as the jury might end up watching the mare they already know, or if the mare makes an exceptional goal, which not only depends on the level but also the context of the match. The way of judging can still be improved. Now, in Palermo, they put the lists on screens; in the USA, they do the same, which is good, but when the dynamics of the match start with all the changes, it is difficult to recognize which horse the player is riding again if they played it two or three times, and that complicates the evaluation moment.

In general, one can have a self-assessment, but I think it is more important to talk to the players and not just rely on an award to say whether you are breeding well. Of course, the awards help. They also help with promotion, but it is not only that; it is also about being consistent, seeing how many years they remain at the highest level. That is why Mega Big Bay's achievement is so important; I don't know how many mares remain at the top level for five years in such an important organization as Park Place.”

Bred and trained by Garrahan, Mega Big Bay has become a staple in the Park Place organization.

How did you get into breeding, and what were the first challenges?

“I was a polo player for 10 years, then worked in the financial market for another 10 years and played as a hobby, but I knew nothing about breeding; I had barely seven horses, most of them were males. I had a fun mare to play with, and at that time, Ellerstina was open to selling services, but it was a total hobby. One day, Gonzalo Pieres called me to work there and offered me an embryo, which motivated me, but I never thought I would end up dedicating myself to this. I had worked at ESPN, I went to the stables, I knew almost all the horses, but I had no idea how to breed one.

Not having preconceived notions made me choose the best genetics from Ellerstina, the best trainers like Polito Ulloa and Ezequiel Correa as the pilots, someone who knew a lot about riding and was a veterinarian. I was lucky that I did very well with the first litter, and from then on, I kept improving. When you start to grow, you have the problem of all breeders; even if you don't increase the number, you have more litters of horses, and the number grows. Today, I have around 20 new horses per year. Imagine, it is a very long process; you don't sell until they are 7 or 8 years old, so you have an enormous number of horses when the sixth year arrives. You must be very meticulous in the organizational part.”

What are your next challenges as a breeder?

“They arise as you go along. Imagine, that when I started in 2008, when Gonzalo Pieres offered me his embryos, I didn't imagine I would be able to have the best mare of the year in the United States and my mares playing the last chukker of the Palermo Open final, as happened last year with Jeta Castagnola and Facundo Pieres. Today, the challenge is in the training part. The genetics are there, but they are in many places; the horses have advanced much more than us with the clones, for example. The horse is bred with increasing efficiency, and between what it takes to generate people who understand that whole process, it puts us in a quagmire in the training part, and that is reflected in the horses. Today, the baseline is much more even, and my challenge is to win the same award in the United States as in Argentina. Mega Chistosa won the award for the best mare at the Tortugas Open and in Palermo, I had mares playing three years in a row, the last chukker of the final. It is important to have the mare with chances; that is the challenge.”

Mega Big Bay recently completed her fifth season competing in the United States. ©David Lominska

How has breeding evolved since you started?

“When I started in 2008, the genetics were already there. What happened before is that each organization had its genetics, and the auctions made the genetics diversify; the clones increased the speed at which unique genetics were replicated, but we did not advance with the so-called ‘cracks,’ the exceptional ones. In Palermo, there are 10 teams and 500 horses, and I believe that in the last 10 years, no mares have appeared that could be voted for the Hall of Fame. If you go back 10 more years, from 2004 to 2014, Dolfina Cuartetera (Lambada x Sportivo), Dolfina Buenaventura (El Sol x Ytacua Bienvenida), Aiken Cura (Dolfina Cuartetera x Durazno), Open Guillermina (Open Geisha x Optimum), and Open Chequera (Open Cheta x Sportivo) appeared, all the best mares of the great players, and we could not replicate them. That is the point; then each one analyzes why this happens, whether because they are played for less time, or because there is more competition. It would be good to discover why this happens.”

By ML Staff. Content/Image courtesy of United States Polo Association/Clickpolousa. Clickpolousa. is the top virtual magazine for polo news featuring news from US polo and worldwide info. Videos, pictures and more.

1 commentaire

As an educator myself, I found this interview with Patricio Garrahan incredibly insightful. His passion for breeding excellence in education is truly inspiring. It's clear that nurturing talent and fostering a love for learning are at the heart of his approach. For anyone interested in further exploring educational excellence, I would recommend checking out They provide valuable academic resources and services that can help both students and educators alike achieve their goals. Their commitment to quality and reliability makes them a trusted partner in education.

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