Saturday 18th November the weather forecast was one that would have most staying on the couch and watching chick flicks such as Pretty Woman. The gloomy weather did not deter the Thoroughbred Events Australia team.
We left our fascinators and stilettos at home, instead dressing in our flowy dresses, grabbing our wide brimmed hats and headed to Centennial Park for our own Pretty Woman experience. This was the day of the annual Landrover Polo in The City, for some of our team it was the first time at the Polo. Due to the team having a ton of “chukka” fun it was hard to go past this experience as this week’s Winning Wednesday.
History of Polo
It is believed that Polo was created some 2,500 years ago in Persia and was originally seen as a way of keeping people in the calvary trained and fit. It was not until the sport spread into the Middle East and Asia (during the Tang Dynasty). It was from India where English tea-planters imported the concept into Europe.
Variations of Polo
There are many variations of the sport, some using different mounts such as Camels and Elephants. The surface in which the game is also played on is often changed as well including Beach, Snow and Sand.
The version of Polo that is on display at this event is what is referred to as Urban Polo.
Urban Polo was first played in Australia in 2005 and is the brainchild of former Sydney Lawyer, Janek Gazecki. When asked where did the inspiration come from, Janek states that at the time of starting Polo Enterprises Australia he was doing a lot of client entertaining and also had only just started to learn playing polo a short time before. The lightbulb went on in his head and he found a way of packaging polo to the corporate sector and bringing it to the city- the result is the now highly successful Polo in The City series, which is now one of the most successful polo circuits in the game.
The founder- Janek Gazecki
During the day, we were fortunate enough that Janek gave us some of his time so that we could get to know a little more about polo. Here is the short interview that we did with the founder of such a fun event.
Tell us, what is the difference between Urban Polo and the Traditional Version?
The field is much smaller than a traditional field, in the traditional game the field is usually around 300m long- urban it is only around 140m. That way it brings the game much closer to the spectators, but it also helps the players to improve their reflexes. The ball is also 10cm bigger and made of a lighter, plastic composite. This is a much safer option as it flies a shorter distance while maintaining true trajectory, it still allows the experienced polo player to curve throw the ball.
For the absolute polo beginner, how long is a game?
A polo game can be around 1 hour long.
The game is consists of 6 Chukkers (a chukker is essentially the same as a quarter in football) which are usually around 7 to 8 minutes long. In between each chukker there is a short break that allows the player to change pony. Like rugby there is a half time, which is longer in time that allows the players a chance to refresh and again change their pony before the next chukker begins.
Half-Time seems to be a popular time with spectators, why is this?
This is the opportunity for all the ladies to have a chance to have their own Pretty Woman moment.
The half time entertainment is inviting spectators onto the playing field to stomp divots. It is great to see not just the ladies getting into it but the men as well.
How would you describe Polo to a beginner?
Rugby on horseback!
You are charging towards other players at speeds of up to 60 km/hr and on a half tonne animal, with this in mind polo is therefore one of the most dangerous sports played in the world. Some of the injuries can be severe because of this reason, you see guys fall off their horses and can end up with broken bones, getting hit by a mallet can see a player end up concussed, the list goes on. Due to being such a dangerous sport, the insurance taken out by polo players is one of the highest premiums in any sport- that is how dangerous it really is!
We thank Janek for sparing some of his valuable time while in between playing polo, mingling amongst his guests and ensuring that everyone was enjoying themselves.
Just like racing, one of the other highlights of a polo match is the fashion! The fashion worn to polo is very different from the fashion trends and disasters you see at the races. The fashion 101 for both females and males is:
Hat: Fedora Hat
Shirt: Linen, cotton, open collar or polo shirts
Ties & Jackets: Blazer is a must while a tie is optional
Bottoms: Shorts is the way to go and if so they should go to the knee. If wearing long pants, then tailored is best.
Shoes & Socks: Loafers with no socks
Recommended Colours: Navy and Cream with pops of colour
Hat: Wide brimmed hats (leave the fascinators at home)
Dress: Put away the high hem lines and go for something with more length (great time to bring out the flowy maxi dress) or having separates (blouse and skirts). Conservative playsuits are also acceptable. Outfits made of lace are usually quite popular. Colours are also important with most usually going for white.
Shoes: Stilettos go away as you are now not walking the smooth paved runways at race tracks, nor are you walking on cement. Wedges or shoes with wider heels are much more suitable for tackling the grass terrain.
Accessories: Of course a bag or clutch is a must for any outfit.
The Stars of the Day
Last but absolutely not the least, we owe our day of fun to the stars of the show- the players and horses.
Game 1- Aashi vs. CGU
|Lucas Rogers||Matt Barnett|
|Marty Ingham||Michael Maritz|
|Luke Rowley||Adam Meally|
|Janek Gazecki||Lochie Graham|
Game 2- Australia vs. Haiti
|Gus Campbell||Nick Wayland|
|Gus Graham||Claude Bertrand|
|Gus Aguirre||Francisco Pizarro|
|Nick Willis||Rick McCarthy|
During the two games played before the large crowd and the main reason why we attended- the horses. While there were a number of horses used during both matches, we were fortunate enough to have a small handful of Off The Track Thoroughbreds. Our role was to pick the best in Game 1 and 2, these mounts would then be awarded with a specially made rug to recognise their achievements for a life after racing. The stars on Saturday were:
Hippo ridden by Janek Gazecki in the first game. Hippo was also lucky enough to get up close and personal with the captain of the Haiti team and the Ambassador, the gorgeous Jennifer Hawkins.
Blaze ridden by Lochie Graham & Luke Rowley. A very impressive chestnut mare who is quite hard to miss with her white blaze. We awarded one of the rugs to Blaze and when we asked Lachlan what she was like as a polo pony, we were told that she has great acceleration, she is always very fit and is not afraid of getting into the action and is known for getting physical with the other ponies.
Flix ridden by Lochie Graham. This particular pony is very relaxed when standing next to his rider or waiting on the sidelines to be changed over, however, different when in action on the polo field. Flix also played in the recent World Polo Championships at Windsor and then played on Saturday as well. For this reason we also awarded a rug to Flix.
The winners of Best Off The Track Thoroughbred- Flix (left), Blaze (Right). Handler Steph, Rider Lochie Graham & Sharon Lenton of Thoroughbred Events Australia.
The After Party
The siren blasts as the clock comes to a stop on the last chukker, Australia cheer as they score victory over the Haiti team. Just like racing the celebrations are just as extravagent with both teams uncorking bottles of champion and spraying each other along with the spectators close enough to cop a champagne shower.
Once all the awards are handed out, people are invited to locate the shuttle buses and head to the official after party. This year the chosen venue is Pelicano in Double Bay, where upon arrival we are greeted with cocktails (The Polo Passion Martini) and opportunities to mingle with the players or meet new friends and discuss the day, or whatever else was the topic of discussion.
For more information on the Polo in The City series click here.
Overall, a great day of chukker fun and yet another successful year for The Thoroughbred Club in supporting the Best Off The Track Thoroughbred. If you have never been to Polo in The City we highly recommend it.
Thoroughbred Events Australia would like to thank and congratulate the organisers for an amazing event, we look forward to covering future matches.
Article by Kylie Johnson photos by the Team