POLO IN PALM BEACH
Nic Roldan's Annual Sunset Polo & White Party Fundraiser
Photography by Enrique Urdaneta & Emma Miller
When the concept of hosting an event to raise funds for working equines in some of the world’s poorest countries first appeared on their meeting agenda in 2016, the team behind Brooke USA had little idea their dream would blossom into the highlight social event of the Wellington season in only three years.
A fourth-generation and professional polo player, Nic Roldan made history at 15 years old when he became the youngest player ever to win the United States Open Polo Championship—a distinction he still holds. His talent is immeasurable, and so is his passion for improving the lives of equines around the world. He joined Brooke USA as its first polo ambassador in 2016 with the goal of raising awareness about the condition of working horses and the people who rely on them, and soon enough the idea of hosting a polo party sparked in his mind.
“Being Brooke USA’s first polo ambassador was obviously huge, and a big step for me. It’s a big responsibility, and it’s an honor, as well.” Roldan explained,
"I really want to carve the way and set the pace in the hope that many more people in the sport will join me. It’s not all about taking, but it’s about giving as well.”
Brooke USA is a fundraising organization associated with Brooke, the world’s largest equine welfare organization, that strives to significantly improve the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules and the people they serve throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America by raising funds and responsibly directing them to the areas of greatest need.
“Having the privilege of being in an equine sport in the U.S. makes us obligated to improve the welfare of donkeys, mules and horses in much less fortunate countries,” Roldan continued. “The animals are suffering because their owners don’t know any better. What Brooke does with Brooke USA funding is great in bringing education to the owners and free veterinary care to the animals.”
Only three months into his ambassadorship for the non-profit organization, Roldan helped organize the inaugural Sunset Polo & White Party.
"I was really excited about the first event in 2016 we put together to benefit Brooke USA because we were trying to bring together all equestrian disciplines to create awareness on issues that everyone in the equine industry will take to heart," Roldan said.
Fast-forward three years and the event has flourished into one of the most talked about social events in South Florida with rave reviews from the Wellington, and Palm Beach social scenes. With over 1,000 people in attendance, Nic Roldan’s 3rd Annual Sunset Polo & White Party, hosted by Mark and Katherine Bellissimo in late March 2018 at The Wanderers Club, proved to be an astounding success. The event provided an entertaining evening highlighted by an exciting polo game and Argentine asado, raising more than $240,000 to help alleviate the suffering of working equines in some of the world’s poorest countries.
“Everything turned out great,” Roldan remarked. “A lot of people came out to support the cause and we were able to raise a great deal for Brooke USA. It was fun to get the next generation involved on the polo field. We had a really nice group of players. The work that Brooke USA funds around the world is really important, and it is really nice to promote it and help them out. We are very happy and we have a lot of people to thank.”
The evening began with an exhilarating sunset polo match, where three teams played in a six-chukker round robin polo tournament consisting of three two-chukker games.
The tournament kicked off with Team Brooke USA, made up of Antonio Aguerre (age 10), Poroto Cambiaso (1), Justin Daniels (2) and Nico Pieres (8), and Team Tito’s Handmade Vodka, made up of Matt Bellissimo (0), Grant Ganzi (2), Kris Kampsen (6) and Roldan (8), taking the field for the first game, where Cambiaso and Daniels each scored to secure the win for Team Brooke USA with a 2–1 finish, while Roldan scored the goal for Team Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
With one win under their belts, Team Brooke USA then faced off against Team Provident Jewelry, consisting of Anthony Calle (3), Henry Porter (2), Martín Pepa (4) and Brandon Phillips (5). Daniels scored two more goals; however, Calle and Porter snatched the win with a 4–2 victory.
In the final game, Team Provident Jewelry challenged Team Tito’s Handmade Vodka in a match that went down to the wire as both teams scored one goal for a tie-game. Bellissimo scored for Team Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Phillips for Team Provident Jewelry. In the end, Team Provident Jewelry was declared the winner with a final cumulative score of five. Team Brooke USA finished in second place, while Team Tito’s Handmade Vodka took third place.
Daniels, the highest scorer of the evening, was presented with the MVP Award and the Best Playing Pony Award, sponsored by Cowdray Estate, was chosen by none other than Adolfo Cambiaso and went to Taquara, played by Aguerre of Team Brooke USA and owned by Mariano Aguerre.
“Mark [Bellissimo] and I are honored to be a part of such an important event,” said Katherine Bellissimo, Brooke USA board member and host of Nic Roldan’s 3rd Annual Sunset Polo & White Party. “We were delighted by the amount of funds raised to support Brooke USA and our work overseas. We saw the party reach a new level with its VIP section and we are exceptionally proud of the support from the equestrian and Wellington communities.”
Later in the evening, the event hosted a variety of auctions, led by ZooMiami goodwill ambassador, celebrity emcee and auctioneer Ron Magill, and featured exclusive, one-of-a-kind items up for grabs such as the players’ team jerseys donated by Polo Gear USA, a World Equestrian Games VIP experience donated by the Bellissimos, an Azamara cruise for two donated by Master Travel and Cruises, a Napa Valley wine country experience for two donated by “KR” and Laura Rombauer, exclusive equestrian jewelry donated by Provident Jewelry and a weekend trip to play polo at the Aspen Valley Polo Club courtesy of Ganzi, who serves on Brooke USA’s Young Leaders Initiative, led by Paige Bellissimo.
Once the sporting action and official program were over, it was time for the highly anticipated White Party, where guests danced the night away to music mixed by DJ Adam Lipson, one of the performers at this year’s SunFest in West Palm Beach.
Those in attendance included Brooke USA ambassadors Jessica Jo Tate, record winning jockies, Ramon Dominguez and Margaret Duprey, as well as Brooke USA board members Marcia Kulak, John Nicholson and Laura Rombauer. Geoff Fear of Provident Jewelry, Grant Portier of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Curtis Pilot of the Pilot polo team and famous players Gonzalo and Facundo Pieres also made appearances
“Brooke USA is thrilled with the support received from the equestrian community in Wellington, Florida, as well as those who traveled from afar,” said Emily Dulin, executive director of Brooke USA. “We are very grateful for event hosts Mark and Katherine Bellissimo and Brooke USA ambassador Nic Roldan. We are looking forward to producing an even greater event in 2019.”