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Wellington’s TONY COPPOLA talks about founding his popular tack shop and becoming the U.S. Polo Association president.

 

Many people know Tony Coppola because of The Tackeria, the tack shop he launched in 1975 in Wellington, Florida. Others know him as the voice of polo. He is a broadcaster on CNN and the announcer at the International Polo Club (IPC), the Argentine Open, and other top matches around the globe. Coppola was recently elected president of the United States Polo Association (USPA).

How did you begin with horses and polo?
I began riding at 9, and they only played polo where I rode. So I have strictly played polo all my life.

How is the U.S. Polo Association brand unique for a sports governing body? 
We have a great brand, but we are also an association. That in itself is unique. Think about the U.S. Golf Association (USGA). They sell some branded clothing, but it’s different because there isn’t a USGA brand. Look at our biggest competitor, Polo Ralph Lauren, that uses polo to project an image. But we are the true sport, which makes us more authentic.

Has there been a change in the landscape of Wellington polo since the loss of Gulfstream Polo Club? Where are medium- and low-goal players spending their winters?
Well, there is a definite loss, but it has also opened up new avenues. You know, it was a club that served over 100-plus players at one time, and people have had to find new venues. Port Mayaca Polo Club has picked up some of the players. Palm City Polo has, too. It has left a gap that we are slowly filling. Grand Champions Polo Club should be mentioned, too. Gulfstream provided practice in addition to tournament polo, while clubs like International Polo Club and Grand Champions only provided tournament polo.

You started Wellington’s best-known tack shop, The Tackeria, out of the back of your trailer. How did you go from selling polo mallets one-on-one to being one of the equestrian world’s largest retailers for multiple disciplines?
I think timing and location played a big role. I started just to be in the polo business, and then things began to grow around me here in Wellington. We opened during the beginning of Wellington as an equestrian center and the equestrian influx that followed, so we just kind of grew with it. We were very lucky with timing and location. As far as I know, Schaefer Drugs might be the only business in Wellington that has been around longer than we have.

Your son Matt is a pro polo player. What are your hopes for polo in the U.S. for young players like Matt?
I’m hoping for more opportunities for young Americans. We are starting to get more of them. Like any parent, you want to see your children reach their pinnacle. Matt has gotten some great goals, and he is doing pretty well, making a good name for himself.

You and your family are known for having the best-cared-for horses in the industry.
We just try to give the horses the best care we can. We’ve been fairly lucky with some home-breds that are starting to do well. We just believe in good care and maintenance. Even though my main discipline is polo, my involvement in horses has grown into racehorses.

Do you own racehorses?
I’m involved in about four or five different syndicates with about a dozen horses.

Tell us about judging the Thoroughbred Makeover Project in Kentucky and the special horse that won.
She was the most impressive to me. I just thought she had a lot of natural balance and athleticism and liked her enough that I thought she could fit into our program. She ended up turning out really well. Matt is taking her to Texas and use her in the polo season.

Do you enjoy announcing at the IPC?
Well, you know, the best thing about announcing is that you’re seeing the best polo that’s played in the United States. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve announced at the Argentine Open, which is the best in the world. This year is kind of special, because this will be my 40th year in a row of announcing the U.S. Open. I missed two finals, but I announced all the preliminary games. So I have announced at the U.S. Open for 40 years!