Hubert Burda Media

The Brothers Novillo Astrada

Considered the Lionel Messi of their sport, brothers Miguel and Nacho Novillo Astrada of La Aguada have the game of polo running through their blood. By Lauren Tan

Together with their brothers Eduardo and Javier, Miguel and Ignacio (Nacho) Novillo Astrada took home polo’s Triple Crown — the equivalent of tennis’s Grand Slam, which comprises the Tortugas, Hurlingham and Argentine Polo Opens — in 2003, becoming the first team in history comprising brothers to obtain the world’s most important polo achievement and the fourth in history.
Still competing at the highest level of the sport, including at the recently concluded Argentine Polo Open, the brothers play for arguably one of the world’s best polo clubs La Aguada. Founded by their grandfather Julio Novillo Astrada, the club is set amidst 270 acres (109.3 hectares) of spectacular groves just 70km outside of Buenos Aires. La Martina polo ambassadors Miguel, 39, and Nacho, 35, spoke with Prestige when we visited the family club.
La Aguada plays yearly at the Argentine Polo Open at Palermo, which is the highest level tournament in the sport. What’s that like?
Miguel: You can compare it to playing the Fifa World Cup if you are a footballer. It’s the most important thing you can aspire to as a professional polo player, and what you wait for and train for the whole year. We may play at the 26-goal level at Wellington in Palm Beach and 22-goal in England, but there is no other tournament that is played at a similar level to Palermo [which can see teams of up to 40-goals]. And the history of Palermo…that’s something else.
What is it like to play as a team of brothers?
Nacho: It’s the best thing that can happen for anybody. As brothers, there’s a certain sense of connection that generally makes teamwork easier.
Miguel: It’s also part of our heritage. La Aguada was started by our grandfather. He played polo and our father played polo. We were born here. Over the years, as we brothers started playing and representing the club, we’ve also added to the property. We’ve now just celebrated 50 years of playing polo as La Aguada, which is for sure one of the best clubs in the world.
Do you ever fight?
Nacho: Like every family, we have our fights. But being brothers, you fight for a while and after that, it’s okay.
What does it take to become a 10-goal player?
Miguel: Dedication. You work hard and train hard. Being well-mounted also gives you an edge, because in polo you rely a lot on your horses. Being part of a good team is also important. So it’s a combination of all three, which is the formula to playing at 10-goals.
You play every day. Do you ever tire of it?
Miguel: The good thing with polo is that you play on many different horses, so the training of each horse becomes like a pet project to you. And because we have a big breeding operation with many horses to work with and play on, you never tire of playing polo everyday — it’s fun.
We watched one of your nephews play earlier. Are your own kids started on polo as well?
Nacho: Yes, but I’m not really pushing them. My eldest is eight-years-old and he rides when he feels like it. He likes the game, but he is also a little scared of horses. So I’ll have to give him time.
Miguel: They play with the foot mallet and sometimes, they come and ride. They are always around the game of polo, so eventually they’ll be hooked.
How old were you when you turned professional?
Miguel: 17.
Nacho: Full-time at age 22, but I started playing professionally at age 19 during my university holidays.
At that age, you are supposed to be enjoying your new freedom and doing things like clubbing. Do you think you missed out?
Miguel: I didn’t like that lifestyle very much anyway. I was focused on polo so I was happier coming [to the club] than partying late at night. But we’re all different. Our brother Eduardo would go out Friday nights and play rugby on Saturday morning, but he’d still come after.
Nacho: I had fun during university. So I would say I lived every stage of my life!
Who is the best polo player in the family?
Miguel: You’ll need to ask someone outside the family!