On the playground of the aristocracy, polo replaced war as the “sport of kings” (a moniker also applied to horse racing, hunting and falconry). Persian Emperor Shapur II played polo in the 3rd century, and the first Mughal Emperor of Manipur, India introduced what is now known as “modern polo” to the British in the mid 1800’s. Later in the 19th century, wealthy Texans and New Yorkers played and attended polo matches for the first time on their own home turf. Today, Argentina is considered polo’s world champion with more 10-goal players than any other country.
For this week’s Listen Up, we’ve selected a 2012 feature article from the CBS News program 60 Minutes entitled “The Sport of Kings: Polo.” With a running time of 12:37, it’s a fascinating introduction to the sport and to one of polo’s greatest players (and Ralph Lauren model), Nacho Figueras.
Seventy polo ponies, 8 players, two teams – Audi versus White Birch – all came together for one final match of the 2016 season at the Greenwich Polo Club. Spectators arrived early, swinging picnic baskets and rolling coolers, toting canvas chairs and rolled Pendleton blankets. Linen pants and sports coats, shorts and tees, prim print shift dresses, flowing busty town gowns, and jeans topped with starched Brooks Brothers’ button downs or a prism of Polo shirts filed across the field. Heads were topped with straw hats, fascinators and baseball caps, and it was a decidedly east coast event – bow ties galore, but not a single Stetson in sight. Printed umbrellas formed a rainbow of parasols under the mid-day sun.
Elaborate picnic setups were quickly put in place – titans of industry and society doyennes stepped out from under white tents, clinking plastic glasses of Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc as the players galloped onto the field. Rosy-cheeked toddlers toddled, pedigree dogs rolled in the grass, people chatted idly and for many the game was merely a backdrop, as Audi dominated the scoreboard through the opening chukkers. By halftime Audi was leading 9-4, and the tony lackadaisical crowd took to the field to stamp down the divots created by polo ponies who had thundered across the grass, an expanse equal to nearly 9 football fields.
The sun was baking as the game resumed. Flies were gathering on the succulent fruits and lovely baskets of breads and brownies that filled the tables under the tents. A man collapsed on the sidelines and EMS quickly arrived to tend to his needs. On the field, the tide turned for the White Birch team, but the party in the stands was wilting and languor was settling in. With the score tied, White Birch team owner and player Peter Brant knocked heads with his horse. As an emergency vehicle drove toward the accident, the announcer’s strange response was, “Look at all those lights.” Peter Brant left the game, and the crowd began to disperse.
In overtime, White Birch defeated their arch rival Audi, but we missed the celebration. Like so many of the other spectators, we’d come for the high society picnic, to capture a modern Downton Abbey moment, to witness, Pimm’s Cup in hand, the sport of kings. In the end, it didn’t matter to us which polo team won the match — we had spent a Sunday afternoon amongst society’s winners.
With plentiful sunshine and perfect Indian summer temperatures, the East Coast Open was an ideal picnic opportunity. Our hosts, Lisa and David Post, and new friends, Deborah and Tom Trimble, had assembled a royal feast. We started the afternoon with Pimm’s Cup Cocktails (see the recipe in Editourial above) and crisp, crunchy crudités. Mid-game, a bottle of Lawer Estates Rosé of Syrah was uncorked to accompany a plate of tender, juicy steak sliders. This rich and fruity rosé elegantly crowned the meal. (When you visit the Lawer website, don’t miss the terrific recipes offered under the pairings tab.) Earlier in the weekend, we had visited Best Wine Purveyors in Pleasantville, NY, a superb wine shop with a knowledgeable staff and a well-curated selection, to purchase a bottle of bubbly and a few other wines to complement the menu for the match. They’re a terrific stop whenever you’re in the Hudson Valley, or you can shop their selection online.
Thank you to David and Lisa and Deborah and Tom for quite an enjoyable Sunday afternoon!
This past June, American polo sensation Adam Snow and his wife, equine veterinarian Shelley Onderdonk, published Polo Life: Horse, Sport, 10 and Zen. A third-generation polo player, Snow began his career in Argentina and returned to the United States to play at the Greenwich Polo Club before joining the worldwide polo circuit and becoming a 10-goal player, an elite status only achieved by four other American players in the modern era. The couple’s conversational book shares their love of horses, gives insight into training and holistic veterinary practices, and provides a behind-the-scenes account of the sport of polo around the world. Whether you are an avid fan or novice, their anecdotes draw back the curtain on an obscure world where man and horse are sporting partners.
Truman Capote was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, spent much of his youth in Alabama, but credits Catherine Woods, his English teacher at Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Connecticut with being the first person to encourage his writing talents. He gained literary acclaim with his novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, after which Norman Mailer claimed Capote was “the most perfect writer of my generation.” Capote followed up with the internationally best-selling non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood. Having achieved personal fame, Capote became increasingly obsessed with celebrity and high society, befriending wealthy socialites including Gloria Vanderbilt, Babe Paley, Katherine Graham and Lee Radziwill. His Black and White party at the Plaza became legendary, and wherever café society gathered — such as a Sunday afternoon polo match — Truman Capote could be found holding court, liberally dolling out outrageous gossip and razor-sharp comments calculated to shock his consorts. Among the elite, he reigned as king in the sport of scandal.
Intended as the first installment of his unfinished magnum opus, Answered Prayers, “La Cote Basque 1965” was first published in 1975 in Esquire Magazine. With thinly veiled portrayals of his friends and acquaintances in New York’s crème de la crème social set, Capote’s story spread like wildfire, annihilating everyone in its path. The revelations ranged from infidelity to murder and Capote’s transgressions against New York’s haut monde were never forgiven. A full manuscript of Answered Prayers, if there ever was one, has never been found, but in 1987, Random House published Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel, which the Chicago Tribune called, “The most talked about novel in publishing history.”
Last week Truman Capote’s ashes were sold at Julien’s Auctions in LA for $45,000. It was the first time a human being’s ashes were sold at public auction. We may have thought he was gone, but Capote is still finding ways to give a quick jolt to society’s sense of propriety.
There’s always something new on Zippertravel’s Pinterest. This week we explore the luxurious, equine “Hermes Lifestyle.”
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