Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I haven’t attended many British social season events this summer. With the exception of Royal Ascot, I’ve been out of town for pretty much everything. But the season continues, and on Sunday I managed to get to the Guards Polo Club for the Cartier International Polo.
The club is located near Windsor and Ascot, and a friend of mine was kind enough to organize bus transport for a big group of us. We arrived in the morning and had some time to walk around the Retail Village before the first polo game. I was pleasantly surprised to find hats by my milliner friend Yvette Jelfs at the first booth I came across. From there the goods ranged from polo attire to luxury yachts to designer chicken coops (seriously).
After walking around the Retail Village, we took our seats for the first game and spent a bit of time trying to remember the rules of the sport. The last time I watched polo was at an estancia in Argentina when I was still working at Goldman. One of my bosses was a polo player that happened to be on vacation in Buenos Aires at the same time as I was, and he invited my friend and I out to the pampas to watch the game. But that was a few years ago, and with the exception of a horse dying in the middle of one of the chukkas, I don’t remember much. Thankfully a friend knew the rules quite well, and she filled us in.
The first game of the Cartier International Polo is played by the same teams every year. Hurlingham battles the Prince of Wales team for the Golden Jubilee Trophy. None of the people in my group had an allegiance to either team. As one friend put it, it was the first time in years that we could choose which team to cheer for based on the color of their uniforms.
During half time, the stands emptied as everyone poured onto the field to participate in the long-standing polo ritual of divot stomping. By the time our group got to the field, all of the divots had already been replaced. Instead of stomping, we enjoyed the beautiful weather before returning to our seats to watch the final three chukkas. In the end Hurlingham won the game 7-6.
After the first polo game there was a three hour break for lunch. Having brought our own picnic, we spent the interval lounging on the grass and walking around the grounds under what turned out to be quite strong sunshine.
Back in the stands, we watched a parade before the afternoon game. First came a line of young polo players. These were followed by what looked to be a faux fox hunt, complete with a giant pack of happy dogs. At the end came the England team and the New Zealand team, who were about to compete for the Coronation Cup.
The playing got under way after a resounding rendition of “God Save the Queen”. England was up 7-1 by the end of the third chukka, and it looked to be a rout. But New Zealand came back to tie the game, and the All Blacks had a chance to win. England ultimately claimed victory, though, scoring two goals in the final chukka. They won the game 9-7.
When the playing was over we piled back onto the bus and waved good-bye to the Cartier International Polo. Having enjoyed the play so much, several of us decided to return to Windsor soon to take a polo lesson. I think we will discover that it is much harder than it looks. If not, all we’ll need is 40 or so Argentine ponies to field a team next year. Or not.