A Lesson in Polo: The Royal Salute Treatment

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Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 11.07.44 AMPolo is an undeniably chic sport — beautiful people on beautiful horses — even the spectators are there to look their best. So I’ve historically (and truth be told, embarrassingly) been drawn much more to the lifestyle than the actual sport. But all that changed last Sunday when I joined Royal Salute for a day filled with the finest art, adventure, and equine athletics.

We were warmly welcomed by Malcolm Borwick, a Royal Salute ambassador and professional Polo player, who graciously hosted us for a Polo Demo and Lesson before the match, teaching us the basic strokes and moves. Now, I’ve seen my fair share of polo matches, but there’s nothing quite like being taught about the sport by Malcolm, a world class player who captained Prince Harry’s team at the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup last May, and Facundo Pieres, who is the No. 1 ranked polo player in the world and basically the Michael Jordan of polo. We watched in slack-jawed amazement as Facundo launched ball after ball into the opposite goal from across the entire length of the field and then gallantly galloped his pony around the grounds at a breakneck speed while dribbling a ball in mid-air with his mallet, making it look about as easy as a game of ping-pong.

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Feeling inspired after watching Facundo, we were all ready to hop on ponies ourselves when a quick interruption occurred — the most welcome of interruptions anyone could have asked for — Peter Brant, the famed publisher, art collector and founder of Greenwich Polo Club, offered to give us an impromptu personal tour of his private Warhol collection currently on view at the Brant Foundation Art Study Center (located on the Club’s grounds). As we strolled through the collection — viewing everything from rare Campbells Soup can sketches, to more recognizable celebrity portraits of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, to a vast collection of Mr. Warhol’s personal polaroids (including some of a young Peter Brant), to a one-of-a-kind Duchamp-inspired case of Coca-Cola bottles that was intended to house Warhol’s first fragrance — Brant treated us to the perfect mix of personal anecdotes and stories from his friendship with Andy, as well as historical information about the collection before he realized he had to run because . . . he was playing in the match!

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And that’s when we finally had the opportunity to put our prior lesson to the test atop “Tucan,” a stunning pony who was nearly as patient with us as our trusty teacher Malcolm. Then it was off to the match, where we sipped on some well-earned Royal Salute Scotch Whisky while Malcolm comically quizzed us before darting off to commentate the second half, which he did marvelously — interspersing rapid fire play-by-plays with the perfect notes of proverbial color. As Fecundo sailed the ball past defenders and towards the goal with the grace of a centaur playing croquet, Malcolm quipped, “Well, they say that genius lies in making the complex look simple. . . .”

The high-goal match was a thrilling challenge between Royal Salute and the local favorite, Airstream, which scored five goals in the second half, making it even more exciting to see team Royal Salute hold on to the lead for the win. Facundo was humble in victory, saying “The polo and the event were of the highest caliber, and on behalf of all the players, our thanks to Royal Salute for championing it.”

After the match, supermodel and wife of Peter Brant, Stephanie Seymour, awarded her husband with the Royal Salute Jubilee Cup trophy: a handmade, Waterford Crystal Lismore Cobalt Decanter donated by Waterford Crystal. In addition, the players of both teams were awarded specially engraved Waterford Crystal Lismore Cobalt tumblers, by Michael McLaren of Royal Salute.

At the end of a day that seemed like a dream, I was left with a newfound appreciation for not only the immense skill of the players, but also their love of the sport, the horses, and, yes, the lifestyle.

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