Argentinian polo player Eduaro Novilla Astrada enjoys a glamorous lifestyle that belies his down-to-earth nature
Photography: Adrian Gaut
Styling: Akari Endo-Gaut
POLO IS KNOWN AS THE SPORT OF KINGS and there is indeed a heady slice of glamour and high-life when mixing with royalty and VIPs at some of the most desirable polo events around the globe. But leading Argentinian player Eduardo Novillo Astrada Jnr insists that it isn’t just about the champagne lifestyle.
Sitting down at his stables in Palm Beach, the 39-year-old, married to model-turned-photographer Astrid Muņoz, reveals this is where he is happiest.
“There are two sides to a polo player’s life. More well-known is the glamour of the big tournaments where you are mixing with kings and queens but the other side is when you are at the barn with the horses and the grooms who are very ordinary people. This balance of two very different worlds appeals to me.”
“On a typical day I’ll spend the morning at the barn, tending to the horses with the grooms and talking to the vets. Then I’ll work out with my personal trainer before a practice match in the afternoon.”
Like the rest of the professional players on the circuit, Astrada’s year is divided into three distinctive phases. From September to Christmas he is at home in Argentina (from where most of the elite hail), then in the New Year he will head via St Moritz or Dubai to Palm Beach, Florida, before flying to London at the start of May for the English summer.
“The travel is perhaps the most challenging part of a professional polo player’s life,” he admits. “I can’t complain as I’m out in the fresh air doing what I love but we do have to pack up and move house every three months. The polo world is very family-orientated so wives and children travel around with the players. Sometimes they come a little later to allow for school terms but they also bring a tutor so they don’t fall behind.”
He says that England is his favourite place outside of Argentina to play: “The summer is the best time to be in London, where I have lots of friends. Nowhere else can match the variety of culture.” Astrada currently plays off a nine-goal handicap (the top rating is 10) and, like almost all of his fellow star players, is Argentinian.
“My father was a professional player and my five brothers are all professionals too. I’m the eldest and I actually wasn’t sure I wanted to be a professional, but one of my younger brothers asked me to go to England with him to play, so I decided to give it a go and see how good I could become.”
So why are the world’s best players also his compatriots? “In Argentina, polo is not the elite sport that it is in other countries. The land is flat and spacious and everyone has horses and rides. Games take place in the villages across the countryside, much in the way you see groups playing football or cricket in other countries.”
After a successful campaign in Florida, where his side ERG reached the semi-finals of the US Open only to lose to eventual winners Zacara in extra-time, Astrada was preparing to fly to the UK for the English high-goal season, where he is playing in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Cortium team with Adrian Kirby. It’s the first time the Swiss watch manufacturer has taken title sponsorship of a team, and their long-standing partnership with the Argentinian was the main reason.
“I asked Jaeger-LeCoultre if they wanted to join us as the title sponsor as I have had a relationship with them for the past six years and they agreed. Jaeger-LeCoultre are like a big family, which is very important to me. They also have the great tradition of being the first company to make a dedicated polo watch, the Reverso, which was first designed to be worn by polo players in the 1930s.”
His new team is focusing on two big tournaments as its main route to glory this summer: the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup and the Cartier Queen’s Cup. “Cortium won the Gold Cup last year so it would be great to win the Queen’s Cup this summer,” he says.