Monday, January 12, 2009

Chukker Time in Palm Beach

Print on a clubhouse wall at the Gulf Stream Polo Club.
By Augustus Mayhew

Polo is one of the Palm Beach area’s seasonal attractions, ever since John S. Phipps introduced the area’s first polo matches during the 1920s at the family’s Gulf Stream fields. Today Greater Swellington hosts a range of handicap leagues, stick-and-ball and practice games at several venues, Outback at International Polo Club, Gulf Stream Polo (now in western Lake Worth) and at the world-class high-goal jeroboam of polo, the International Polo Club Palm Beach.

The 2009 season highlight promises to be the revival of the Westchester Cup by the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame to be played between the US and the UK, February 21st at the International Polo Club Palm Beach stadium in Wellington. While waiting for all the big shots to play, saddle up and enjoy a few snaps out-and-about where the ball is already in play and a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a season opener, the Friday, January 10th, 3:00 p.m. game played on the Outback field, Tommy Lee Jones’ San Saba team defeated Victor Vargas’ La Lechuza Caracas, 12-11.
Ponies out for an afternoon walk at the Gulf Stream Polo Club.
Casper Riese seen out back behind the barn at the Gulf Stream Polo Club.
La Lechuza patron and Venezuelan banker extraordinaire, Victor Vargas, right, with his daughter Margarita, left, and family friend, Anibal Middo, center, still smiling, before they lost to San Saba. Margarita Vargas is married to Luis XX, as some monarchists refer to her husband, Luis Alfonso de Borbon, who plays for his father-in-law’s polo team. While the couple live in Venezuela waiting for the cloud to clear over Luis deB’s title, her father has taken title to Palm Beach’s most expensive real estate, having paid $33.6 million for 1960 South Ocean Blvd., and more recently, purchased the Lindemann’s Blossom Way estate for $70+ million, lets see, that’s around $104 million, if my Bolivar-to-US dollar abacus didn’t jam up.
San Saba patron, Tommy Lee Jones, left, puts a leg up sitting on the cooler, you’ve already seen his many close-ups, while his wife, Dawn, and the team strategize their next winning moves.
San Saba’s Dawn Jones (left) charges down field with Lechuza’s Tomas Garcia del Rio (3), mallets ready.
Clarissa Echezaretta and Dr. Josh Hall tailgate it along the boards.
Tomas del Rio, La Lechuza (3), Dawn Jones, San Saba (1) with the red wraps, and Francisco D’Agostin, La Lechuza (1) head towards the ball, I think.
A Lechuza pony gets spray washed and cooled down after playing a few chukkers.
Frederic Roy, editor and publisher of The Morning Line, hand-delivers the latest issue aboard his Segway. A Lechuza pony handler takes a quick smoke in the horse van.
How many men does it take to change horses? Three to watch and two to hold the horses.
This is polo's "Brangelina lens" -- a must to keep your eye on a polo ball.
Sponsor logos make it all happen.
A San Saba pony tender waits on the sideline with a fresh mount, fetlocks wrapped and tail plaited.
A Lechuza pony also stands ready for play.
Meanwhile, back on the field, mallets are up in the air so the ball must be somewhere.
Backstage at the Outback barn, Cabo patiently waits for delivery of an afternoon snack. Meanwhile, back at the Outback barn, Poeta relaxes in her stable suite enjoying a late afternoon lunch delivered by room service.
Dolores Hall and her pup, Holly, enjoy the afternoon match.
The Watering Hole at Gulf Stream Polo Club.
A polo saddle.
Under San Saba’s tent, fully-tacked for the next chukker.
Waiting to be saddled, roached, braided and reined.
A Lucchese pony is prepped for a practice game. During the summer, Prince Harry played for the Lucchese team during a benefit at Sandringham.
Five-goal player and trainer Julio Ezcurra is ready to ride at Gulf Stream Polo Club. Badly misshapen with every wallop, about two dozen polo balls are used for each match. This could add up.
The Lucchese team plans its gambits, awaiting the team’s patron, John R Muse, to begin a practice game.

Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

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