Saturday 21st March 2015 British Polo Day marked the start of the 2015 Global Series, presented by Land Rover, with the return of British Polo Day Abu Dhabi.
Over 200 VIPs and guests including HH Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Falah Al Nahyan, HH Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur and his father HH Maharaj Narendra Singh of Jaipur, His Grace the Duke of Argyll, HM Ambassador to the UAE Philip Parham CMG and Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Marc de Panafieu and his wife Princess Alexandra Cantacuzene-Speransky attended this prestigious black-tie evening event. Held at Ghantoot Racing & Polo Club, the private Royal Club of HH Sheikh Falah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, British Polo Day Abu Dhabi raised £35,000 for Women and Health Alliance (WAHA) and Help for Heroes.
Keeping the British polo ‘buzz’ alive across the region, British Polo Day Abu Dhabi followed HRH Prince Harry’s recent visit, where he too swung his polo mallet for the crowds at Ghantoot Racing & Polo Club. Some of Britain’s best young players including George Meyrick and Jamie Morrison flew in, courtesy of Etihad Airways, to take to the prestigious pitch of Ghantoot – one of only three floodlit pitches in the world. What followed was an evening of exhilarating polo, fervent fundraising and superb pitch-side fine dining.
Whisked from the InterContinental Abu Dhabi in chauffeur-driven Land Rovers, guests arrived to a Champagne Taittinger reception, beautiful blooming pop-up Harrods garden party – complete with caricaturist and Harrods Green Man, Robert Taylor – and a traditional game of camel polo. The Hackett Camel Polo Trophy saw members of the British Army’s elite Cavalry and Guards regiments go head-to-head in a lofty battle which ended in a draw.
From camel hump to bicycle pump, the British Exiles and Rest of World teams took to the pitch for an amusing and quintessential British game of Brompton Bicycle Polo. The British Exiles put the pedal to the medal and won 3 – 2.
The highlight of the evening’s polo was undoubtedly the British Polo Day Plate, presented by Land Rover. A closely-fought battle between The British Exiles and Ghantoot Polo Team, the Exiles had a strong start with a surprise two goals in the opening minutes of the game, but the Zavaleta brothers soon took Ghantoot into the lead with their carefully-honed tactics. Despite fighting back, the Exiles couldn’t manage to turn the game around and the home team once again triumphed with a 9 – 6½ lead, taking home the splendid bespoke trophy by British Silverware.
With the crowds gathered for the official British Polo Day Abu Dhabi prize-giving, HH Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, HE Saeed Bin Houfan Al Mansouri and Philip Parham CMG, HM Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates took to the stage to present the evening’s prizes. The Hackett Camel Polo Trophy was jointly-presented to the Cavalry and Guards regiments for their rather diplomatic draw, while triumphant home team, Ghantoot took home the British Polo Day Plate.
Royal Salute’s ‘Most Valuable Player’ George Meyrick was presented with a bottle of Diamond Tribute, while the Holland & Holland ‘Shot of The Day’ was awarded to Ghantoot’s Abdullah bin Desmal and ‘Best Playing Pony’ – sponsored and presented by Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Official Timekeeper for British Polo Day – went to Despreciada, ridden by Clemente Zavaleta of Ghantoot Polo Team. British Polo Day’s Harrods Green Man – Robert Taylor – then presented the Harrods ‘Luck of the Draw’ to Mikaela Lovelund from InterContinental Abu Dhabi.
On the terrace overlooking Ghantoot’s pitches, guests then sat down to a three-course dinner by Gaucho – expertly paired by fine wines from Royal Warrant holders Justerini & Brooks. Colonel Simon Ledger then raised his gavel to start the evening’s charity auction for the benefit of WAHA and Help for Heroes. With lots including an iconic handmade Brompton bicycle, a stay for two at Marrakech’s Royal Mansour, four nights in the private residence on Velaa Private Island and a week in one of 3rd Home’s luxurious properties, the auction raised an impressive £35,000.
Travelling with Abercrombie & Kent, guests, players and polo enthusiasts spent the preceding days exploring Abu Dhabi – the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a boat trip across the Persian Gulf for brunch at Zaya Nurai Island and two exclusive dinners at Bentley’s and Frankie’s Italian Restaurant & Bar, Abu Dhabi.
On Friday (27th March) marks the second leg of British Polo Day’s UAE Tour – British Polo Day Dubai. Hosted by the Habtoor Family at the Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club, this is the birthplace of British Polo Day and the setting for its very first event in 2009.
Tom Hudson, Co-Founder of British Polo Day commented: “We were delighted to launch the 2015 British Polo Day series in Abu Dhabi – and in such spectacular surroundings, where we welcome new partners Harrods and Etihad Airways The matches were closely-fought and we are extremely proud to raise significant amounts for two incredibly worthy causes.”
Philip Parham CMG, HM Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates adds: “Style, speed, skill, dash, fun and excellence – the very British attributes of the very British Polo Day’s in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Polo, along with other equestrian sports, exemplifies the strong links between British and Emirati heritage past, present and – I am sure – future. The British Polo Days also exemplify the UAE’s role as an international sporting arena. So, many thanks to all our British and Emirati friends whose hard work makes the British Polo Day possible.”