Polo as a Sport for the People? Maybe for People in Seersucker

For a few hours on Sunday, Governors Island became something of a Hamptons satellite, dotted with people in Nantucket reds, linen suits, Lilly Pulitzer pinks and sunhats that seemed as wide as a city block.

They came for an exhibition polo match put on with the intention, according to the organizers, of bringing the elite sport down from on high. But the thousands of spectators, who sipped Champagne costumed in high Hamptons style, seemed intent on just the opposite.

“I don’t think the sense of polo being so elitist and unachievable is fair to the sport,” said Ignacio Figueras, the Argentine polo star and Ralph Lauren model who said he had conceived the event, the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic.

Mr. Figueras, who is known as Nacho, said the event was intended to “bring polo to the people.”

“For a kid to wake up in the morning” he added, “and say, ‘Dad look, let’s go watch the polo instead of the Yankees game’ – ultimately that would be my dream.”

On the west side of the polo pitch was a rarefied scene that reflected little of Mr. Figuera’s ambition to democratize the sport: plates of quail eggs circulated at a V.I.P. party hosted by Marc Jacobs, with Hugh Jackman the M.C.

Tickets cost up to $50,000 for a field-side luncheon under white tents. The luncheon was intended to raise money for Donna Karan’s charitable initiative, Hope Help and Rebuild Haiti. Ms. Karan herself briefly danced up to Wyclef Jean, who was performing an acoustic set.

For people content with taking their meals on a bedsheet-turned-picnic blanket on the east and south sides of the field, the polo outing was free.

Gussied-up spectators arrived on a ferry ride from Lower Manhattan throughout the day; early birds shared the boat with a trailer of about a dozen horses, including a chestnut mare with a white blaze named Pitufina, a Spanish name for the Smurfette cartoon character. Pitufina, said a handler, is a top horse.

Mr. Figueras estimated that high-level horses – “we are talking about Formula One horses,” he said – cost up to $250,000.

But even with the free admission and ferry ride, polo populism still seemed a far-off dream. Champagne, at $17 a flute, seemed to be the drink of choice. And though there might have been some who went to Governors Island instead of a Yankees game (the Yankees were playing in California, anyway), most of the pinstripes were on seersucker suits.

“It’s a bit of an upper crust sort of set,” said Jesse Weeks, 30, who manages a bar in Hoboken, N.J., and was wearing seersucker from head-to-toe on the public side of the field. “Baseball is a little bit more approachable for the masses,” he said.

Near him, people posed for photos with a life-size cutout of Mr. Figueras.

As the game reached halftime, the announcer called for spectators to head to the field and stomp down divots churned up by the galloping animals, as is tradition – but not before a rope was run down the center of the field to keep the V.I.P.’s and the not-so-V.I.P.’s separated.

Could polo become an American pastime?

“It’s way too expensive,” Mr. Jackman said, “it’s way too high maintenance, and way too dangerous – let’s keep it a sport of kings.”

“Do you know how much a polo pony costs?” he added. “You literally could buy four cars.”

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