Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson helped launch the 110th anniversary season of the Saratoga Polo Association on Friday, throwing out the polo ball for an evening match.
“Polo is an integral part of our community,” Johnson said at the start of the match between the Dos Perros team and Tackeria.
Polo is a sport played by eight players on horseback. They swing long polo mallets at a white, softball-sized ball. Each team of four mounted players attempts to drive the ball into the goal of the opposing team on a field three times as large as a football field.
Johnson said the Saratoga Springs community is proud of its heritage of health, history and horses. “Polo is part of our horse heritage,” Johnson said.
“The hard work of the Saratoga Polo Association benefits a number of local charitable organizations and provides an exciting focal point to every Saratoga summer,” Johnson said in a proclamation saluting the association’s 110th anniversary.
William Collins Whitney was instrumental in the creation of the polo field at Bloomfield and Denton roads in Greenfield in 1898.
Polo has been played on this field on the outskirts of Saratoga Springs, off-and-on, since then. The local polo matches took a major hiatus from about 1940 until the mid-1970s, when the field was again groomed and the thunder of polo “ponies” could again be heard.
Tony Coppola, the director of polo operations, said the season actually started last Friday with the first match of the year for the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce Cup.
Matches start at 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, weather permitting.
Competition for various cups will continue through Aug. 31.
Some of the world class matches will come in late July and in August when the teams are bolstered by the infusion of championship-level polo players from Argentina and the Dominican Republic.
“Things look good. We have some new teams, some new players,” Coppola said. The new teams include one from Austin, Texas, and two from Virginia.
Coppola, himself an accomplished player and member of the Polo Hall of Fame, said an excellent young player will be coming to Saratoga later this summer. He is a “six goal” rated player named Alan Martinez. Coppola said Alan’s father was a great player in the 1990s and made his mark during matches in that era at the Whitney field.
Michael Bucci, a Rochester businessman, and James Rossi, a Skidmore graduate and marketing expert, purchased the polo complex in 2004.
Since then many improvements have been made, including a sophisticated food and beverage operation coordinated by Ronnie Farber, founder and former owner of the “Dine” restaurant in Saratoga Springs.
Bucci said Friday that people coming to the clubhouse can pay one price ($25) and enjoy an “unlimited” variety of gourmet tapas during and after the match.
The food and beverage amenities are also available when matches are played on outer fields on Skidmore College property off Denton Road because the pizza and cooking ovens can be transported by truck.
Admission to the clubhouse side of the polo field is $25 per person. Admission to the general admission, tailgate side of the field, is $25 for an entire carload of people.
Bucci said a major factor in the success or failure of a polo season is the weather. Good weather makes playing conditions ideal. The good weather also brings out people who enjoy watching the “Sport of Kings” while having a tailgate party or eating tapas.
Coppola said field conditions are good this year because some of the heavy downpours of rain in recent weeks have missed the Whitney field.
Friday evening, Tackeria defeated Dos Perros 7-3. Tony Coppola’s 13-year-old son, Matthew, had one of the goals for Tackeria.
For more information and a complete listing of matches and dates see the Web site: www.saratogapolo.com.
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