The St. Regis San Francisco’s exclusive Sport of Polo aficionado package fosters the bond between the hotel and the storied game.
By Vicki Hogue-Davies
For more than 2,000 years, man and horse have united to play polo—a game many believe is the original team sport. The first recorded match took place in 600 B.C in Persia, where the game became one for the nobility. Other early written accounts of polo appear in Arabic, Byzantine, Chinese and Japanese records. Deemed the “sport of kings,” many historians believe polo evolved as a training exercise for elite cavalry soldiers.
While the game’s exact history is unknown, it purportedly arrived in the United States from England in the late 1870s when former New York Herald publisher James Bennett Gordon Jr. organized the first polo match after learning of it on a trip abroad. Less than 20 years later, the United States Polo Association was formed. Through the ages, the game spread across the world, and today it is played in more than 85 countries.
In San Francisco, visitors need only travel a short distance to beautiful Sonoma County to be immersed in the world of polo. This summer, The St. Regis San Francisco is offering its guests access to an exclusive aficionado package that combines polo with singular amenities at the hotel, creating an experience that is both rooted in tradition and fit for modern sensibilities.
Polo’s storied history with the St. Regis brand makes it an ideal pursuit for The St. Regis San Francisco to explore with the new Sport of Polo aficionado package. “The connection with polo and the St. Regis emerged in the early 20th century when both the sport and The St. Regis New York became part of New York’s vibrant social scene,” says Toni Knorr, general manager of The St. Regis San Francisco.
Matches between military officers were regularly held on New York’s Governors Island in the early 1900s—around the same time John Jacob Astor IV unveiled The St. Regis New York, the first St. Regis hotel. Polo and St. Regis instantly went hand in hand. The matches attracted New York’s elite, and players and spectators often stayed at the hotel. This early association commenced the relationship with polo that the brand still honors today.
In recent years, St. Regis selected an official ambassador to enhance its passion for the sport. Nacho Figueras, a world-class polo player and face for the Ralph Lauren Polo fragrance collection, has served as a St. Regis brand connoisseur since 2010. As a global ambassador for the sport, Figueras participates in various matches around the world, including the St. Regis International Cup at Cowdray Park Polo Club in England. Originally from Argentina, Figueras served as captain of the South American team, which played against the Audi England polo team at the seventh annual event this year.
A new St. Regis match, the Family Traditions at St. Regis Polo Cup, debuted following the international game in May. Inspired by the Family Traditions at St. Regis program, the match featured teams of prominent polo-playing family members, including Figueras and his son.
Treated Like a King
At The St. Regis San Francisco, the Sport of Polo aficionado package introduces the ancient game of royals to St. Regis guests in a custom experience that includes a private polo lesson and wine tasting, fitting for the hotel’s proximity to wine country.
“The polo aficionado package is tailored to the St. Regis guest who appreciates the sport of polo and the art of winemaking, and has a passion for adventure,” Knorr says.
Available through Sept. 30, the package begins with a reservation for an overnight stay in the St. Regis’ Metropolitan suite, which features nearly 1,000 square feet of space and includes a living and dining area. The suite also offers expansive views of the entrancing city lights. For the ultimate in relaxation the night before the polo lesson, guests can rest at ease, as the hotel’s signature butler service accommodates any and all possible requests.
A delicious breakfast at Vitrine restaurant is on the agenda in the morning. Vitrine, which serves elegant fare for breakfast and lunch, specializes in using fresh, local ingredients, including herbs and produce from the hotel’s organic garden. Some of the standout items on the restaurant’s morning menu include a black truffle frittata with freshly cracked Petaluma farmed eggs, prosciutto, mixed mushrooms, celery root, fingerling potatoes and frisee salad; and brioche French toast with Marshall’s Farms honey, fromage blanc and house-made seasonal fruit marmalade.
Following breakfast, guests will ride in style to a polo lesson at the Chalk Hill Estate via the St. Regis house car. The 1,500-acre Sonoma County estate in Healdsburg, which is about 90 minutes away from the hotel, was founded in 1972. Its grounds feature vineyards, a winery, an Olympic-size dressage arena and stables, a culinary garden with organically farmed produce, swimming and fishing ponds, wilderness and parklands, and, of course, a polo field.
Once guests arrive at the estate, they will learn the basics of riding and polo from Wine Country Trail Rides at Chalk Hill Estate founder Rafael Hernandez, a lifelong horseman and professional polo player for 25 years. Previous horseback riding experience is not necessary to participate, as lessons are tailored to individual’s experience levels; closed-toe shoes with a heel and long pants are the only requirements.
After guests have dismounted and handed in their mallets, they continue the exclusive experience by enjoying the Chairman’s Reserve Tasting that showcases a flight of Chalk Hill Estate’s limited production wines, including zinfandel, pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and other varietals paired with artisanal cheeses. The wine tasting is the ideal way to complete an afternoon spent exploring the centuries-old relationship between St. Regis and polo.
Whether guests wish to mount up and play the hard-hitting game themselves or stick to watching world-class professional matches, St. Regis proudly brings the sport of kings to its guests in San Francisco.