RECORD-BREAKER: Polo Championships draw big numbers

The eighth annual Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships in Scottsdale, Arizona, brought together the best of everything—polo players, cars, music and fashion— November 10-11, breaking records for tickets sales, food sales, performances and more.

Arizona might be best known for the Grand Canyon, but in the world of polo, it is increasingly getting attention for its Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships. According to organizers, this year further boosted its presence with crowds of over 11,600 people, a half-dozen polo matches, high-profile polo players, the world’s longest catwalk fashion show, collector cars and so much more.

On the smaller outdoor field, teams were played three per side rather than four. Ralph Lauren model and polo player Nacho Figueras made his debut in Scottsdale, teaming up with Melissa Ganzi and her son Grant on the Barrett- Jackson Aspen Valley Polo Team for the event’s signature Molina Cup on Saturday. The team took the title for the fourth consecutive year, 12-5, over Clogau Wales sponsored by Bentley Scottsdale. The Wales team included Ricky Cooper, Pete Webb and Ashley Busch, a U.S. Polo Assn. global brand ambassador. Grant Ganzi was MVP.

In other Saturday action, Scottsdale Maserati Arizona Polo Club (Bill Stalcup, Martin Vidal, Diego Florez, Andres Camacho) prevailed, 8-6, over Talking Stick Resort Italy Polo (Matteo Nacho Figueras de Paolis, Mario Elser, Massimo Elser); Molina Fine Jewelers Palm Beach Polo Club (Brian Boyd, Marc Ganzi, Juan Bollini) defeated Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty’s World All-Stars (Tony Yahyai, Juancito Bollini, Carlitos Gracida), 8-5; Safeway Albertson’s Work to Ride (Hulian Penados, Shariah Harris, Kareem Rosser) beat Spiritual Gangster Polo Azteca (George Estrada, Allison Freeman, Jaime Rizo, Theo Wakefield), 5-4. While the matches were being played, numerous musical and cultural performances were taking place, including The Phoenix Symphony showcasing Mozart; Phoenix Theatre performing some of the greatest Broadway musical songs of all time; performances by bagpiper Ford Dudley, The Phoenix Opera, the Phoenix Boys Choir, mute rapper Isaiah Acosta with vocals by Trap House and violinist Monica Nia Jones performing AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”; and a poetry slam.

The highlight of the day’s music was the Pilgrim’s Rest Gospel Choir, which represents the state’s largest African- American congregation, singing the national anthem as Red Bull Skydivers delivered the American flag to the field. The matches continued Sunday with the Battle of the Sexes match, honoring the late Sunny Hale. The ladies of the France Luxe team (Natalie Camacho, Sheryl Sick, Danielle Travis) crushed Sanderson Lincoln (Barclay Knopp, Felipe Ochos, Vinny Sagalin), 8-1.

The action concluded with an international match pitting Spiritual Gangster’s Melissa Ganzi, Nacho Figueras and Juan Bollini against Talking Stick Resort’s Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida and Juancito Bollini, a U.S. Polo Assn. global brand ambassador. The match was a bit of a domestic fight with husband and wife, Marc and Melissa Ganzi, and father and son, Juan and Juancito Bollini, battling it out. In the end, Spiritual Gangster pulled out the 9- 4 victory. Figueras was MVP.

Car enthusiasts strolled through the many collector cars on site, a preview of the Barrett-Jackson 2019 Collector Car Auction. The Apex Cup, courtesy of the landmark new Apex Motor Club in Maricopa, Arizona, debuted, recognizing the top cars on site, including collector cars courtesy of Barrett-Jackson, Ferrari Club of Arizona, Porsche Club, Scottsdale Corvette Club, Arizona Classic Thunderbird Club, AZ Lamborghini Club, Corvette Club of America, as well as cars of Apex members and dozens of other Arizona car owners.

For the first time, the world’s farthest rugby sevens match was played. Led by Arizona State University’s rugby team, the match was played on a field nearly two and a half times longer than normal.

Field-side tents had something for everyone including the F.A.B. (fashion, art and beauty) tent, featuring a pop-up art gallery by the Scottsdale-based Larsen Art Gallery and Auction; sideline manicures by the Talking Stick Resort Spa; fashion displays by Evan’s Furs and LoveOverH8, a socially conscious clothing line by local resident Cheryl Najafi; and Velveteria, a Los Angelesbased museum devoted to velvet art works.

A wine, cheese and chocolate tent offered samples of extensive selections of each available for purchase.

A romantic “couples cabanas” on the west side of the polo field provided a private tent for two with a complimentary bottle of champagne and a superb view of the polo action and McDowell Mountains.

The DJ-infused party tents had eight DJs playing on site at one time.

Hall Pass, the country’s most unusual pop-up sports bar debuted, allowing sports fans to enjoy football and other games on televisions throughout the day.

Fan favorites returned, including the Arizona Humane Society Canine Couture: A Dog Fashion Show Like No Other, presented by Lugari Pet Salon.

Additionally, Phoenix Fashion Week produced the third annual World’s “Longest” Catwalk fashion show. U.S. Polo Assn. outfitted 10 models in polo whites and polo brights to represent its summer collection in the fashion show. U.S. Polo Assn. also offered in-store promotions and ticket giveaways with instore purchases at partnering stores to drive consumer attention to the event. The U.S. Polo Assn. logo was also featured on players’ jersey in the polo matches.

Other attractions included a luxury tent experience by Neiman Marcus, Steak 44 and Barrett-Jackson; the Molina Fine Jewelers VIP tent; an unusual mid-field skybox where horses entered and exited the field; and numerous local restaurants and food trucks including Fried & Fizzy, Arizona’s first pop-up restaurant and food truck featuring fried chicken and champagne. The Sunday Brunch presented by Scottsdale Maserati anchored Sunday’s festivities.

“Whether it’s ‘the next Phoenix Open’ as one of our guests called it this weekend, or ‘the best polo event in the world’ as the captain of the Wales Polo Team does, there’s no doubt that this was another memorable year for the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships, and a moment that saw the event go from big and beautiful to bucket list,” said Jason Rose, co-founder of the Scottsdale Polo Party.

“It couldn’t have happened without the blue-chip roster of sponsors, partners and guests that make it all possible. We’re grateful. We’re appreciative. And we’re very fortunate to be in their very good company,” he said.

Rose’s goal is for the event to become to polo what the largest tournament in the world, The Waste Management Phoenix Open, is to golf. Plans for 2019 are already under way

-- Photos by Dave Seibert





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