ABU DHABI // The Argentine polo professional Ignacio Heguy, the seven-goal hero of last year's final, will be back at Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club when Zedan of Saudi Arabia begin their defence of the President of the UAE Polo Cup next week.
The nine-goal handicapper will be among the top foreign professionals spread over five teams vying for the title between Monday and April 5.
Heguy scored seven goals in a match three times last year, including the final to lead Zedan to a 9-6 victory over Habtoor of Dubai.
Nasser Al Dhaheri, the polo manager at Ghantoot, said the bar has been raised this year from a combined 14 to 16 handicap.
"The game is already established in the country with several tournaments apart from the President of the UAE Cup which is in the 13th year," he said.
"Our objective would be to raise the bar every year and the very long term objective is to make this as one of the highest rated tournaments in the world. The competitions here also provide the Emirati players the opportunity to play alongside top professionals and gain experience.
"We have 10 players who are at a pretty good level. We also play a lot of exhibition and practice games to improve the level of the local players."
Al Dhaheri is one of the two Emiratis to have a one-goal handicap. Nasser Al Shamsi is the other.
"In order to improve the handicap one has to play in top tournaments outside the country and that's something we haven't been able to do. Perhaps in time to come," Al Dhaheri said.
Juan Ambroggio, another Argentine professional who has travelled widely to ply his trade in the US and Europe, has been impressed by his first season in the UAE.
"The facilities here are second to none," the seven-goal handicapper said.
"Even the competitions are getting stronger and that's why we see a lot of good players arriving here."
Ambroggio has competed in some of the biggest polo competitions in Europe - the Gold Cup and Queen's Cup in the UK, the Silver and Gold Cup in Deauville, France and the Solo Grande in Spain.
Ambroggio reunites with fellow Argentine professionals Juan Storni (five), Manuel Elizalde (four) and their patron Faris Al Yabhouni for Team Abu Dhabi.
"All the teams are equally balanced and it would be the best team on the day," Ambroggio said.
"Obviously our objective would be to win. I think we have had a good feel of the team playing in a few tournaments but this is a big one and hopefully we can pull it off."
The matches will be worked off in a round robin league and the top two will qualify for the final.
What The President of the UAE Polo Cup
Where Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club
When Monday to April 5
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE