St. Regis Polo Partnership | New York

0
1351

The Sport of Kings

The game of polo and The St. Regis form an elite partnership to celebrate this ancient sport that’s played around the world.

By Keith Loria

“Let other people play at other things. The King of Games is still the Game of Kings.” Inscribed on a stone tablet in China that sits next to a polo ground near the fabled silk route to the West, this simple phrase captures the ancient history of what is believed to be the oldest organized sport in the world.

For centuries, as mounted armies swept back and forth conquering and re-conquering lands, polo was adopted as the most noble of pastimes by the kings and emperors, shahs and sultans, khans and caliphs of the ancient Persians, Arabs, Mughals, Mongols and Chinese. For those who play the sport today, polo still typically involves nobility and members of the upper crust mounting horses for a miniature battle on a field, which involves swinging a mallet at a ball toward a goal post.

The sport is breathtaking to watch, as the riders gallop their horses up and down in a fast-paced, yet dignified manner that resembles an amalgamation of hockey, soccer and steeplechase. Still referred to as “The Sport of Kings,” the royal bloodline was definitely in play at the Third Annual Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup in Brazil on March 11, as Prince Harry led his team to a resounding 6-3 win over the St. Regis’ team. The Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup is an annual affair that raises funds to support improved health care and education for children in Lesotho through the Sentebale Foundation, a program enthusiastically supported by the young prince.

“The St. Regis has been involved with the match for three years, but has been involved in polo for even longer than that,” says Paul Nash, general manager of The St. Regis New York. “We do a lot of polo events throughout the world, especially around locations where we have properties.”

Although it doesn’t have a property in Sentebale, Brazil, the St. Regis has teamed with match organizers before in New York and wanted to help with the charitable effort.

“It was very important to be able to do something that matters for all of those children in need in Lesotho,” says Argentine player and St. Regis Connoisseur Nacho Figueras. “It was an honor to help Prince Harry on such a wonderful cause. As a polo player it is great to see that polo is gaining in popularity all around the world.”

For the past four years, Figueras has represented the St. Regis in all of its polo endeavors. He led the team in last year’s Greenwich, Conn., match that celebrated the 135th anniversary of the sport in America. He also helped kick off the opening of The St. Regis Bangkok with a special charitable polo match, and on May 19, he captained the St Regis polo team at the Fifth Annual St. Regis International Cup.

“Nacho has been a great representative for us and has helped us reach the polo community,” Nash says. “Polo is a very small global community, typically an elite and exclusive community that fits well with our brand.”

A Noble History

The sport of polo originated in Persia during the fifth century B.C., and over the ensuing centuries has evolved into a popular pastime for those in the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Chile and most of Europe. The St. Regis has had a long history with the sport, when both polo and The St. Regis New York gained prominence in the 20th century and became part of New York’s vibrant summer social scene. In 1904, when the Astors first founded the brand, the family was a big proponent of the sport. “It was a tradition of the Astor family at the beginning of the last century to host polo players and attend polo matches,” Figueras says.

The St. Regis is often associated with the world’s premier events, people and associations, so it seems fitting that the world’s most “royally” inclined sport has been a part of the hotel’s legendary heritage.

“It has been a great success because we share the same passion for polo,” Figueras explains. “Today we share those traditions by bringing great polo matches all around the world while sharing the St. Regis values.” In 2008, the St. Regis International Cup was established in England, with the first match played at Cowdray Park Polo Club.

“In addition to the match, butlers from The Lanesborough, a St. Regis hotel, served spectators the award-winning afternoon tea to make it truly a luxurious day,” Nash says. “This year’s match will be the first time that teams from the U.S. and England have met in 15 years.”

 

Premier Partnership

In 2010, Prince Harry attended an “Evening to Honor Sentebale” at The St. Regis New York, celebrating a shared connection with New York City and polo. The recent match was a continuation of the charity’s relationship with the St. Regis. Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho launched the event in Barbados in 2010 to raise awareness and funds for Sentebale—the charity they founded to continue the legacy of their late mothers’ charitable work with children.

Today, the Sentebale/St. Regis partnership remains strong as Prince Harry and Figueras support the annual polo match. “Prince Harry’s charity, Sentebale, is close to my heart, and I was delighted to captain the St. Regis team in this year’s match,” Figueras says. “As an ambassador for Sentebale and St. Regis, I was excited to help Prince Harry raise funds for this very worthy cause. The most memorable moment was spending an afternoon doing what I love with friends while helping the children.”

Before the game began, players and guests were ushered to the polo field grounds by six horse- driven coaches, the last driven by Prince Harry himself for a royal entrance. Played on the elegant polo field in Campinas, the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup was thrilling, with great back and forth action between the two teams.

Figueras, one of the world’s leading polo players, was joined on the field by Pakistan-born polo star Bash Kazi in representing the St. Regis team, proudly leading the team to battle. At one point, Kazi took a hard fall and was taken off the field by ambulance, but the game continued with the rest of the St. Regis team leading the charge. Still, the fighting spirit of Prince Harry and the Sentebale team proved to be too much, as Prince Harry demonstrated once again that the royal Windsors never look better than when they’re on a horse. The Most Valuable Player award went to the Prince Harry’s teammate, Brazilian Carlos Alberto Mansur, who scored the final winning goal of the match.

The polo match was the fitting end to the Prince Harry’s adventure in the Caribbean and South America, including seven days of representing his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, for her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Belize, the Bahamas and Jamaica, and another three days in Brazil to promote trade and the London Olympics.

After the match, the players, luminaries and those with the St. Regis were treated to a fine luncheon and lively discussions about the game. Nash says that the St. Regis hopes and expects to continue its association with Prince Harry and Sentebale, and that Figueras and the rest of the team will be ready to compete again next year.

As for the St. Regis itself, it will continue to its polo partnerships and was grateful to be invited to this event.

“As our global portfolio grows, so does the global nature of our guests,” says Paul James, Global Brand Leader for St. Regis Hotels & Resorts. “Particularly a new generation of affluent Brazilians, who are increasingly staying with the St. Regis around the world, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to host an exciting day of polo on their turf.”

Exciting Matches

The 5th Annual St. Regis International Cup was played on May 19 in Cowdray Park Polo Club in Midhurst, England, and all those involved with the St. Regis team were thrilled with the match and looking forward to next year.

“We will continue our mission to sponsor some of the best polo with the best players in the world,” pledges Paul Nash, general manager of The St. Regis New York. “We are proud to sponsor this annual event.”

Just like this year’s contest between England and the U.S., there have been some great matches through the years. In 2010, England barely defeated South America, but the following year, trounced South Africa.

“It is always a pleasure for me to play high goal polo in England, and The St. Regis International Cup is [one of] the highest goal match played anywhere in the world,” says St. Regis Connoisseur Nacho Figueras, considered to be one of the top polo players in the world. “The England team is tough to beat. They play together around the world and so their teamwork and strategy is unmistakable.”

In addition to a great polo match, the Lanesborough, a St. Regis Hotel, offers a St. Regis Aficionado Polo Style Experience each year, which includes a myriad of indulgences, such as a champagne reception in the hotel’s Great Hall, The Lanesborough’s award- winning afternoon tea in Apsleys, a spa treatment and VIP access to the match itself.

To learn more about the St. Regis’ polo connection, visit stregispolo.com.