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On the sidelines of the annual Sentebale ISPS Handa Polo Cup in August, crowds of well-dressed individuals gathered to look at the Duke of Sussex play on the Aspen Valley Polo Membership fields. The match advantages Sentebale, a charity based by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho in 2006 that helps younger individuals within the African nation of Lesotho.
Harry based the charity in reminiscence of his mom, Princess Diana, who was well-known for her HIV/AIDS advocacy. The match noticed many in style gamers take the sector, together with Argentinian polo star Nacho Figueras, the Sentebale Captain and a longtime good friend of Prince Harry’s. The well-heeled crowd regarded on as they sipped champagne, cocktails, and rosé.
The city of Aspen isn’t only a glitzy ski city; it’s a year-round mountain vacation spot with many out of doors pursuits, fabulous eating places, and its justifiable share of multi-million properties. For the higher a part of the final century, Aspen has attracted billionaires and the wealthy and well-known—Jeff Bezos, the Koch household, and Roman Abramovich, to call just a few—for its see-and-be-seen crowd and upscale choices. So it solely is smart that polo, known as the Sport of Kings and identified for its trendy Gatsby-like society crowd, would discover its solution to the tony city. Over the previous decade, Aspen has turn into an everyday cease on the nation’s polo circuit.
Aspen Valley Polo Membership, the place the match has been held for the final two years, opened in 2014 and is among the fastest-growing United States Polo Affiliation (USPA) golf equipment within the nation. The game dates again hundreds of years, but polo within the U.S. started solely within the late Nineteenth-century. Within the U.S., polo is most performed in Palm Seashore, Fla.; Westchester and the Hamptons, N.Y.; Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Greenwich, Conn..
The Historical past of Polo
Polo originated in Persia as each coaching for battle for the Persian Empire’s military cavalry after which as a sport someday between 600 B.C. and 100 A.D. The battle sport is among the oldest recorded sports activities in historical past and is named the Sport of Kings as a result of it turned the nationwide sport of Persian the Aristocracy. Polo then unfold to Constantinope, Tibet, China, Japan, and southern India.
Within the second half of the Nineteenth century, the game arrived within the U.S., with the primary polo membership established in Westchester in 1876. Polo started to unfold all through the U.S., and plenty of locations nonetheless function their centuries-old golf equipment. In 1924, Spencer Penrose of the Broadmoor, a five-star resort in Colorado Springs that attracted the Rockefellers and different rich households, based the Broadmoor Polo Affiliation. The resort hosts the annual Broadmoor Winter Polo Basic that brings in polo gamers and followers from across the nation.
“Polo’s recognition peaked through the Twenties as high nationwide staff gamers got here from everywhere in the United States to vie for the coveted Penrose Polo Park Gold Cup at The Broadmoor,” says Nicholas Francoeur, polo operations officer at The Broadmoor. In 1927, Penrose constructed a brand new polo area and a secure for 400 horses, butsport’s recognition suffered through the Nice Despair and World Conflict II, Francouer says.
The Unique Issue
Polo started as a noble sport, and for hundreds of years, it remained one. Even right this moment, the game conjures photographs of the royal household, massive hats, sprawling estates, and champagne. That is partially because of the many philanthropic initiatives and galas the tournaments profit, but in addition the excessive prices related to enjoying. Prices embody the horse itself, which ranges from US$3,000 for ponies to US$200,000 for skilled horses; horse trainers; horse repairs and vets; trailers; tools; and membership and match charges. It’s frequent for skilled gamers to have as much as eight horses for normal play, switching them out throughout matches to maintain power ranges up.
Polo’s noble historical past, the high-end places the place the game is performed, and the luxurious sponsors contribute to this air of exclusivity. Certainly one of Sentebale’s core sponsors is the St. Regis, which has its personal lengthy historical past of polo with one in every of America’s wealthiest households: the Astors. The St. Regis additionally hosts the annual Aspen World Snow Polo Championship, which Figueras additionally performs in.
“It’s a enjoyable sport to look at and has a really high-paced power,” says George Fleck, vice chairman and world model chief of St. Regis. “There’s this factor of see and be seen as nicely as a result of moreover the polo match itself, you may have all these spectators and these people who find themselves watching and socializing and celebrating.”
Don’t let the champagne flutes and cocktail apparel idiot you—polo is among the most tough sports activities and requires excessive athleticism.
“Polo is far more than charity galas and large hats so far as a aggressive sport,” says Charles Smith, president of the USPA and son of legendary Twentieth-century polo participant, Cecil Smith. “It’s in all probability some of the tough sports activities from an athlete standpoint as a result of so as to be on the high of the sport, you must be a wonderful rider with superb hand-eye coordination. It’s very demanding.”
At the moment, there are 221 USPA golf equipment and over 5,300 members. The highest location within the U.S. is in Wellington, Fla., simply exterior of Palm Seashore, residence of the Nationwide Polo Middle and host of the Gauntlet Sequence, which contains three tournaments with one champion.
“Wellington is a polo mecca and most severe gamers will spend winters enjoying there,” Smith says. “The Gauntlet Sequence is the top of the game from a aggressive standpoint.”
Smith says polo ranges from a reasonably cheap weekend exercise, like membership polo, to the high-profile Gauntlet Sequence that requires a extra full-time dedication. Smith, a former leisure polo participant, hopes his work with USPA will make polo a hit across the nation and present how enjoyable of a sport it may be.
“Polo is a really inviting sport,” polo star Nacho Figueras tells Penta. “There’s much more diffusion of the game with the usage of social media and streaming, so I feel there are actually many new methods to put it up for sale. I’d inform individuals to examine for an area membership near the place you’re and please come and be taught extra concerning the sport, and there are at all times methods to get entangled.”