PROFILE

About Sapo Caset

We all like to hear stories of sports successes. There is a supernatural aura that surrounds them. What we tend to forget is that often these sports heroes have not achieved their greatness solely on natural born talent alone. In fact, in a number of cases, these athletes have suffered setbacks and disappointments more times than the normal person could tolerate. It is exactly for these reasons that their stories are all the more intriguing.

Polo history is no exception to this. Among the current top polo players in the world, Guillermo “Sapo” Caset’s story is one of overcoming hurdles that would discourage all but the most driven of souls. His is a story of an unusually talented player who has reached the pinnacle of the polo world by attaining a 10 goal handicap rating; but, it has not been an easy road.

Sapo grew up in the countryside near Lobos, Argentina, the birthplace of national legend President Juan D. Perón. As a baby, playing one evening on the veranda, surrounded by numerous toads feasting on insects, he was told that these creatures were called “Sapo” in Spanish. He started repeating, “Sapo”, “Sapo”, “Sapo.” It was the first word out of his mouth. His father said; “He learned the word Sapo” before he could say “Papá.” The nickname stuck.

Sapo, as do many children from the country, learned to ride a pony at a precociously young age. Videos show him on his tiny pony, at the age of 5, hitting a polo ball with his mallet around a field with the uncanny ability that would make many adult players envious of his style. He was fortunate to have a father, Guillermo Sr., who held a 7 goal handicap, as did his uncle, Marcelo. Thus, he was always involved in the polo world. Later, still at a young age, he won the prestigious youth tournament in Argentina, the “Potrillos”, against tough opponents including Facundo Pieres.

As a 14 year old, he was taken to Santa Barbara, California to play with his father. He was already a 1 goal handicap player. By the end of that year his handicap was raised to 3. The following year he caught the attention of 10 goal great Memo Gracida who invited him to play with him in Florida on a 22-goal team. Sapo played later that summer with his father in two 12-goal tournaments, which they won. Then he teamed up with Memo again and reached the finals of the 20-goal Pacific Coast Championship, and he had his handicap raised to 6, shortly after his 16th birthday. His handicap had gone from a 1 to a 6 all within a short span of 14 months His father then decided to pull him out of international polo to allow the youngster some time to mature. It is one thing for a 16 year old to be able to compete against seasoned, adult professionals; it is another thing to thrust a developing teenager into the adult world of glamour and all the attention and responsibilities that come with the life of a professional athlete.

Playing High Goal

In Argentina, Sapo continued to learn his craft. He competed in the top tournaments in the world, including the Argentine Open. During this period he became friends with Adolfo Cambiaso, and practiced at Cambiaso’s estancia, La Dolfina.

By 2009, Sapo was in Florida, ready to capture his first major title at the US Open. He was playing for Victor Vargas’s team, Lechuza Caracas. Right before their semi-final match, horses from the Lechuza team mysterious started to fall to the ground. Before the night would be over, 21 of the team’s horses would be dead. It was a devastating blow to the team, and to the polo world as well. Later, it would be determined that the horses were inadvertently poisoned by injections of a legal supplement that had been incorrectly mixed.

In spite of this setback, Sapo was back again in the US for the 2011 season. His team, once again Lechuza Caracas, won the CV Whitney Cup, and then capped the season with the US Open title. It was most satisfying to have his string of ponies awarded Best String of the US Open tournament, only two years after the debacle in 2009. The greatest achievement for Sapo, however, came when the USPA raised his handicap to the coveted 10 goal level, based on his extraordinary play during the American season. He is one of the elite players ranked at this highest level and is the second youngest of the current players.

In 2012, Sapo returned once again to the USA to defend his US Open title. His team made it to the final. All in all a fairly decent showing. What nobody realized at the time of his semi-final and final matches was that Sapo had already contracted a very virulent strain of staphylococcus from a polo injury. After the final match on the weekend, Sapo returned home to Argentina on a Wednesday, but was suffering from a high fever. By Friday he was admitted to a hospital in Buenos Aires. The infection had attacked his heart and his lungs. Sapo was now in a fight for something far greater than just a polo championship. He was put into a medically induced coma and placed on a ventilator, in order to allow him to breathe and to recover while being treated with antibiotics. He spent 6 days in a coma. Afterwards, he required a couple of weeks at the hospital. During this time, he lost over 30lbs. in body weight, not a trivial amount for a world class athlete who measures only 5’9” and 150-155lbs normally.

After coming out of the hospital, Sapo needed time to recover, with the help of a physical therapist and a personal trainer. However, immediately after his release, Sapo was back at La Dolfina visiting horses that had just been air freighted in from Florida. A polo player’s soul is with his horses.

Back to the High Goal

At the beginning of the year, before his illness, Sapo received an invitation to play the Argentine season with one of the perennial favorite teams, La Aguada BMW. He made his comeback in the first tournament of the Argentine Triple Crown, at Tortugas in September 2012. In his first tournament game since the US Open, Sapo scored 6 goals. He then played the Hurlingham Open. After that, at the 2012 Argentine Open, La Aguada BMW reached the semi-finals. Sapo scored a total of 23 points in three games in this tournament against the best polo teams in the world.

Sapo obviously has recovered from his illness and has a very positive outlook about his future and his chances for success. Still young at only 27 years of age, the future looks bright for him. Only time will tell what that future might be, but Sapo remains an inspiration to all of those athletes that might blame their shortcomings on fate. Sapo has taken his fate in hand and stared it down.

Handicap

After playing for La Aguada in 2015 with a an outstanding performance. Sapo is part of the elite of polo player with the top handicap (10goals). In 2018 he will be playing with a new team, Las Monjitas Polo, with two old partners at Alegria in 2017: Hilario Ulloa and Facundo Sola, completing the team with Julian De Lusarreta.