Where others might have seen the opportunity for some wild times, Jacuzzi-hopping and shooting Web-ready video of “the moment,” Mr. Figueras had a much more sinister vision: To create, around himself, and Ralph Lauren, and in his social circles, a brand for polo that would make it an exhibition sport for the masses.
BACK AT THE STABLES, Mr. Figueras was ready to get a move on. He called out to his 9-year-old son Hilario to finish up making casas with the bundles of shavings. Now the tangy man-essence trailing off of the fragrance ambassador was duking it out with the smell of horse manure in the air, resulting in a new and exciting olfactory experience.
Looking over the stables, he noted that his dream was to one day win a championship with horses of his own breed. He envisions a family business that can be handed down to his son.
“There are no guarantees, but when you retire, the story continues,” he says.
“I’ve known at least six people who have died playing polo,” he told me. “It’s very much like cavalry going into battle with bayonets drawn.” —Art collector and 5-goal Polo player Adam Lindemann
Four or five years ago, he started embryo-breeding on his ranch outside Buenos Aires. This year he had 47 foals and fillies, and next year he may get 67. All told, he’s got 250 horses on the ranch, so every time he goes to the farm, “I’m like, ‘Wow!’”
Mr. Figueras himself was born in Buenos Aires. He says his father was not a wealthy man but had a wheat farm with a few horses. His father finally agreed to let Nacho, then 15, move out to the farm to focus on polo. Nacho’s main steed back then was called Lentil. Hilario is currently learning the game on Lentil’s son.
He envisions a day when polo could ignite a spark, like the one that inflamed his own modest upbringing, in an “inner-city” kid from the Bronx or Brooklyn or Houston or Atlanta. Indeed, Mr. Figueras has played polo all across America. He’s been talking to Work-to-Ride—a charity that puts inner-city kids on farms and teaches them horsemanship in exchange for farm work and agreements about finishing school—about getting the kids involved in an exhibition match.
It’s a noble dream, and not a totally ridiculous one, either, considering the deep roots of polo in New York.
In the ’30s, they used to have to schedule special trains to accommodate the masses going out to watch polo in—of all places—Meadowbrook.
But there is no train to billionaire hedge fund manager-slash-collector of luxury homes around the world Louis Bacon’s secluded Southampton estate for a “pick-up game” of polo. On the drive to one of these, Nacho ticks off the other private fields—a polo field requires 12 acres—in the area. Joe DiMenna, patron of the team Equuleus, has two fields; Michael Borrico has a small field in East Hampton, where the Certified boys hone their game. Then there are two at Bridgehampton Polo, and Southampton Polo Club has three more.
“Right now I’m in talks to do Manhattan Polo Classic but to do it all over, like in Abu Dhabi and China,” Nacho was saying, as the car bumped along on the seemingly endless driveway to Mr. Bacon’s polo grounds. “Like the Harlem Globetrotters but for polo.”
At the beautiful, sprawling fields, a surprisingly good crowd has turned up. Among them is Rich Rothschild of the Rothschilds, and established art collector and billion-heir Adam Lindemann, who at one point had a 5-goal ranking; in between switching horses, he told me that one of the wonderful things about polo is that it’s such a small world. He personally knew the artisan who made his boots. Same goes for the guy who repairs his mallets.
He also repeated a favorite dictum of polo enthusiasts.
“I’ve known at least six people who have died playing polo,” he told me. “It’s very much like cavalry going into battle with bayonets drawn.”
Having heard a lot of this kind of thing, I’d asked Nacho on the way over if he didn’t think Polo was a bit dangerous for mass consumption.
“It’s extremely dangerous,” he said, and went on to describe how, when he was 17, he took a ball to the eye and was in the hospital for six days. Hilario says something from the backseat, in Spanish.
“Ah, si,” says the father. “I also broke my wrist the week before my wedding.”