Ritzy, wild, and gloriously promiscuous. That's how the polo set were described in Jilly Cooper's Rutshire Chronicles.
Ritzy is certainly a fitting word for this weekend's Monte Carlo Polo Cup. We met the teams this morning in the wonderfully luxuriant Salle Empire, dazzled by its ornate, gold moldings and chandeliers. Tomorrow, a party is planned at the new Twiga Club, and on Sunday there's a ladies' hat competition, and a closing gala dinner with guest soprano, raising funds for Ecoute Cancer Reconfort.
Although first played in Persia, modern polo was formalized and popularized by the British in India in the 19th century. It's still a popular, upper-class British pastime, indeed Princes Charles, William and Harry of the royal family all play.
British settlers took polo with them to Argentina, which is now considered to be the sport's centre of excellence. Taking part this weekend are four Argentine professionals, including Lucas Labat, whose handicap of 7 goals is the best of those competing for the Cartier Trophy. We have a British player too, Tarquin Southwell with a handicap of 5, and riding for the USA.
Three other national teams, each with three players, have been formed from a mix of professionals and amateurs. Each is sponsored by a suitably swanky enterprise: Cartier for Monaco, Flavio Briatore's Twiga and Cipriani businesses for Ireland, Maserati for Switzerland, and EFG Bank Monaco for the USA.
As thunder rolled around the hills above Monaco at lunchtime, the players and their ponies trotted nonchalantly around Casino Square. Unfortunately, poor weather delayed the opening ceremony and inaugural match, originally planned for this afternoon. They both now take place on Saturday 5th July, from 17:30.
The matches are open to the public at Stade Devens above Beausoleil. If you'd like to experience the glamour, and discover if Jilly Cooper's full description is accurate, you'll have to contact the organizer for entry to the VIP stands and events. Phone +377 97 97 36 41 or email info[at]montecarlopoloclub.mc.
[This article was originally published on maBoum.com at Monte Carlo Polo Cup Weekend.]