The Sport Of Kings Gallops Into Bridgehampton.

By Eileen Casey

Bridgehampton - The Opening Day of the Mercedes-Benz Polo Challenge at Blue Star Jets Field held on Saturday, July 24, was a star studded event that drew an enormous crowd despite the oppressive heat. This event is THE place to see, be seen and, hey, maybe even watch some world class athletes compete in the Sport of Kings.

Headed by event organizers, Strategic Group, the season will continue for six consecutive Saturdays, ending August 28, featuring players from around the world competing for the coveted Mercedes-Benz Cup and the Hamptons Cup.

This season partners include Mercedes-Benz, SWAGG, Blue Star Jets, Ralph Lauren, Patron, La Societe Stella Artois, Smart Water, Pop Chips, Coca-Cola, Bertaud Belieu Wines, Jarlsberg cheese, Zino Platinum Cigars, Crumbs Cupcakes and Bakery, Financial Times, Susan Foster Jewelry and Hamptons Magazine.

Among the numerous 'tailgate' tents adjacent to the main tent were private parties being hosted by various companies, corporations and organizations. This year's SWAGG Lounge is complete with its own bar and different DJ's for the duration of the matches. SWAGG is launching a new application that will allow consumers to purchase, exchange and redeem gift cards from their phone. Polo Ralph Lauren was again situated outside the main tent. As the exclusive apparel retailer the shop features Ralph Lauren's Black Watch collection and The World of Polo Fragrance. Spectators are being offered the opportunity to win a Polo lesson with Black Watch team member Nacho Figueras.

Polo Ralph Lauren became an official sponsor of the Black Watch Polo team in 2007, providing apparel created exclusively for team players.

Some Quick Tips About The Game According to below are some quick tips to help you enjoy the matches: • In the equestrian sport of polo the object of the game is to move the polo ball down-field, hitting it through the goal for a score.

  • Polo is an equestrian team sport, usually played outdoors, with four polo players on each team.

  • A polo field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide, the largest field in organized sport.

  • A polo match lasts about two hours and is divided into six timed periods called chukkers.

  • During half time, spectators go onto the field to participate in a social tradition called divot stomping.

At Saturday's opening event the main tent was filled to capacity with spectactors, families, friends, guests and fans (of the sport and the bold-faced names) - all, however, were HOT! The weather was brutally warm and shaded areas were sparse. Many were seen fanning themselves, and gulping water in an attempt to stay hydrated. Above the din of chit-chat, some were heard expressing concern for the well-being of the magnificent horses on the field. These equine creatures appeared to be more than holding up and exiting the field adjacent to the parking lot one could see many horses receiving a well-deserved and cool hosing down from attentive handlers.

The traditional divot stomping drew many to the field with appropriately named 'Miami Heat' basketball star Chris Bosh posing for pictures with numerous young fans. In a short observation this gracious man stopped no less than 10 times to sign an autograph and/or pose for a photo - welcome to The Hamptons, Chris - hope you come back soon.

Spotted creating a photographic frenzy were the ladies of "The Real Housewives of New York City" including Jill Zarin, Ramona Singer and Countess LuAnn de Lesseps, as well as Kourtney Kardashian, among others. The warm weather may have contributed to the lack of professional courtesy on display, however, perhaps a gentle reminder is in order to some of the photographers - be nice - everyone has a job to do - and it's only Week One.

A portion of proceeds from the Mercedes-Benz Bridgehampton Polo Challenge will go to South Fork Breast Cancer Coalition. The VIP tent will host an invitation-only cocktail reception for exclusive guests each Saturday afternoon during the tournament, and matches will take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Blue Star Jets Field is located at Two Trees Farm, 849 Hayground Road, Bridgehampton.

A Few More Facts To Enjoy

  • "The exact origin of polo, the oldest team sport, is unknown. Polo was probably first played by nomadic warriors over 2,000 years ago. Used for training cavalry, the game was played from Constantinople to Japan in the Middle Ages. The first recorded polo tournament was in 600 BC when the Turkomans beat the Persians in a public match. The Persians and the Mogul conquerors of India, spread the game of polo across the eastern world.

  • In the mid-19th century an Irishman, Captain John Watson, of the British Cavalry 13th Hussars, created the first set of written rules for playing polo. In 1874 the Hurlingham Rules were created. They limited the number of players to five on a team and included the offside rule. Polo matches are played at three levels (low goal, medium goal, high goal) depending on a polo team's total of each player's handicap. The highest handicap is a 10 goal rating.

  • Captain Robert Stewart and Major General Joe Sherer were responsible for introducing the West to the galloping game. They saw a polo match while stationed in Manipur, and in 1859 held the inaugural meeting of the first polo club, the Silchar Polo Club. The British Army and British tea planters in India quickly took up the sport of polo. In 1863, the Calcutta Polo Club, the oldest active club in the world today, was founded. Today, the oldest polo clubs outside India are the Malta Polo Club (1868), the All Ireland Polo Club in Dublin (1872), the Monmouthshire Polo Club in Wales (1872), and the Meadowbrook Polo Club in the United States (1877).

  • By the 1870s, the sport of polo was well established in England. In 1876, James Gordon Bennett, a noted American publisher, introduced the sport of polo to New York City. He organized the first polo match in the United States at Dickel's Riding Academy at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue. In the spring of 1876, a group of polo players established the first formal American polo club, the Westchester Polo Club, at the Jerome Park race track in New York. On May 13, 1876, the Jerome Park Racetrack in Westchester County was the site of the first American outdoor polo match. The Westchester Polo Club alternated their playing seasons between New York and Rhode Island before making Newport their permanent home. The Meadowbrook Polo Club is among the most historic polo clubs in the United States, with its roots dating back to 1877. The Meadowbrook Polo Club's first polo field was created in 1884, leading to Long Island's role as "Polo Capital of the World" during the 1920s and 1930s. There are now more than 250 active polo clubs in the United States Polo Association."

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