Scottsdale Polo Championships offer the air of elegance at the ground level

On Saturday, Nov. 10 and Sunday, Nov. 11 thousands of patrons are expected to descend upon WestWorld of Scottsdale for the 2018 Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses and Horsepower presented by the Talking Stick Resort. (Submitted photo)

For two days in November, WestWorld of Scottsdale will become the center of affluence as the event grounds welcome a polo showcase redefining the idea of what a specialized event can become.

Continuing to offer two full days of entertainment, the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses and Horsepower presented by the Talking Stick Resort brings the Sport of Kings to the masses offering a spectacle of the intangibles of prosperity.

On Saturday, Nov. 10 and Sunday, Nov. 11 thousands of patrons are expected to descend upon WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road, to experience the one-of-a-kind event bringing together champagne flutes, caviar dreams and everything in between.

The Polo Party features beautiful people, beautiful cars and has evolved into what many consider the largest polo event in the United States.

Polo Party revelers at last year’s event that showcased beautiful people, animals and automobiles. (File photo)

Two figureheads of the sport — Nacho Figueras and Ashley Busch — are expected to play and make appearances during the Scottsdale Polo Party, event promoters say, as the showcase continues to defy expectations and draw top-tier talent and personalities.

Mr. Figueras will be playing in Scottsdale thanks to the Aspen Valley Polo Club, which is owned by Marc and Melissa Ganzi. Aspen Valley is the event’s 3-time defending champion.

Ms. Busch, an accomplished international player and current brand ambassador for the U.S. Polo Association, will be playing alongside the Wales Polo Team, which is lead by Capt. Ricky Cooper, who is considered one of Europe’s finest players.

In addition, this year’s Polo Party features  teams from all over the world and country hailing from locations like Italy and Santa Ynez. Collectively, they will join the Arizona Polo Club, Polo Azteca and Work to Ride team, which is the first all African-American high school polo champion in American history.

Highlighted favorites and new elements this year consist of live performances by the Phoenix Opera, Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre. In addition, new VIP tents and experiences complimenting Polo Party favorites are:

  • The Canine Couture Dog Fashion Show;
  • The World’s “Longest” Catwalk Fashion Show;
  • An exclusive preview of the 2019 Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction;
  • An exclusive preview of the 2019 Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show;
  • The “World’s Farthest Rugby Sevens Match” led by Arizona State University’s rugby team;
  • The debut of The Apex Cup;
  • The all-new FAB Tent, which stands for fashion, art and beauty, featuring a pop-up art gallery by Scottsdale-based Larsen Art Gallery and Auction and sideline manicures by the Talking Stick Resort Spa; and
  • Hall Pass, the country’s most unusual pop-up sports bar will debut in 2018.

A member of the Arizona Polo Club chases after the ball during a match against the Seattle Polo Club during the 2017 Scottsdale Polo Championships. (File photo)

A passion for polo, a love for horses

Growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kareem Rosser discovered an affection for the American cowboy and the horses they rode. Growing up in Philly, Mr. Rosser says, some may be surprised to learn of a thriving black cowboy community.

a view of Kareem Russer in action on the polo pitch. (Submitted photo)

“Growing up in the inner city of Philadelphia one might assume there is not (a) large amount of opportunities to ride a horse,” he said. “But actually, there is a huge black cowboy presence. As a kid, I would see them and just be amazed by guys riding through the city.”

Mr. Rosser, who today is a municipal financial analyst in Philadelphia and serves as executive director of the Work to Ride program, contends the reason for the love of horses is a hard thing to describe.

“I fell in love with the idea of owning a horse and operating a stable,” he said. “My affection for them is hard to put into words. It’s a very symbiotic relationship as you and the horse become one and that is just something you don’t discover unless you are around a barn every day.”

Mr. Rosser says riding and caring for a horse comes with a special responsibility — something he says transformed his life.

“You learn the horses demeanor and you have a responsibility to treat them right,” he said of his time as a high school player learning how to care for horses and playing the sport of polo through the Work to Ride program. “Little do you know, being around the horses you are developing skills that help you deal with the day-to-day challenges of growing up in poverty in Philadelphia.”

From seemingly two different worlds, Ms. Busch and Mr. Rosser, share a deep sense of belonging as they work with, ride and compete with the equestrian species.

Ashley Busch

“I started riding when I was 5-years old,” Ms. Busch said pointing out she hails from a small town in Virginia, but known locally as horse country. “It’s so tough for me to think back. I was always around horses. I almost feel, as early as I remember, I have been around horses — I loved the fact that I was on this huge animal that was at the same time very cuddly.”

Ms. Busch, the wife of NASCAR champion Kurt Busch, says the competitive spirit runs in the family. But, while Mr. Busch is pushing hundreds of horsepower, Mrs. Busch assures the equestrian power feeds off the rider.

“They can make or break you when it comes to playing well,” she points out of the symbiotic relationship between horse and rider on the polo pitch. “I am very thankful that I knew how to ride when I first started playing. I feel that without the love for horses, I would not be as good of a player. If you have a good connection to your horse — they will take care of you and keep you safe.”

Ms. Busch says she has been playing competitive, amateur and professional polo for 17 years.

“Altair Polo, I established the team when I was 15 and that’s when my dad realized I was taking this very seriously,” she said of her lifetime of polo play. “Polo has just opened so many doors and taken me all over the world. As a woman in a generally male-dominated sport, I feel lucky when I am playing in what I believe to be a level playing field as I don’t play in many women’s tournaments.”

The Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships features some of the best players the world of polo has to offer. (file photo)

Man with the plan

Town of Paradise Valley resident and Scottsdale public relations chieftain, Jason Rose, has created something from nothing.

Jason Rose

“I have specifically benefited from sitting at the Barrett-Jackson table for many years watching and learning,” he said of what he believes to be one of the greatest American business stories: the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction.

Mr. Rose says under the guise of Craig Jackson’s leadership the brand has become much more than a car auction — a similar feat, and accomplishment, of the Scottsdale Polo Party.

“He has made it much more than a car auction. He inspired us to make it much more than just polo matches,” Mr. Rose said. “And, that has been the secret to our success.”

From dog fashion shows, Red Bull skydivers assailing WestWorld of Scottsdale and pop-up entertainment venues, the Scottsdale Polo Party is in a league of its own.

“The marketplace has responded to it and we are grateful for that,” Mr. Rose said. “While Barrett-Jackson is a much bigger event they are our model and inspiration. We are appreciative of them on several fronts.”

As the event has grown from a one-day event, to a two-day extravaganza, Mr. Rose says too has the personality of the experience.

“On Saturday, you have an incredible party going on. People are having a really, really good time on Saturday,” he said. “But we have also heard that some would like a more relaxed and traditional polo setting. So, Sunday, it’s a little bit more elegant. We are getting more demand for polo.”

The Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses & Horsepower will bring an air of affluence to WestWorld of Scottsdale this November. (Submitted photo)

Moving the Scottsdale brand forward

The No. 1 industry in the city of Scottsdale is tourism, and municipal officials agree, the Polo Party moves that needle forward.

Scottsdale Vice Mayor Guy Phillips says nearly half of the local economy is dependent upon bringing people to town.

Scottsdale Vice Mayor Guy Phillips during a recent Issues and Experts event hosted by the Scottsdale Independent. (File Photo)

“Tourism in Scottsdale provides 40 percent of our tax base, which in turn allows the many amenities our residents enjoy without the high taxes,” he said of the circle of macroeconomics. “It is crucial Scottsdale continues to nurture and promote tourist events to keep or even raise our economic base.”

And, for Mr. Phillips, he knows the big events fuel that economic machine.

“Scottsdale is known for its big events that draw tens of thousands each year,” he said. “It is important from a tourism perspective to bring a variety of venues and the Scottsdale Polo Championships has fit that bill perfectly.”

As Mr. Phillips says he does not follow the sport of polo, he does say he believes in hard numbers — and those suggest the Scottsdale Polo Party is hitting on all cylinders.

“Although I admit I’m not a polo enthusiast, the numbers prove that many are and as an alternative sport I think people like the fun and excitement it brings,” he said. “The city has invested over $30 million in WestWorld to make it a world-class venue and events like Barrett-Jackson, Arabians, Parada and polo are the anchors that draw even more event planners to our city.”

Event promoters say they expect about 13,000 people to attend the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses and Horsepower presented by the Talking Stick Resort.

WestWorld of Scottsdale is at 16601 N. Pima Road. (Photo credit: ‘Horseworld’ by Snell Johnson)

For Experience Scottsdale officials, having expected visitors in November is music to the ears of local proprietors and hoteliers.

“November is a need period for Scottsdale’s tourism industry, when the area’s hotels and resorts need a boost in occupancy,” said Experience Scottsdale Community Affairs Director Stephanie Pressler.

“The more events Scottsdale hosts in November, the more we at Experience Scottsdale have to promote as we encourage potential visitors to book vacations this time of year. And, quite fortunately, the Scottsdale Polo Championships returns each November.”

Under a 501(c)6 nonprofit umbrella, the private company known as Experience Scottsdale holds contracts with both the city of Scottsdale and Town of Paradise Valley to conduct marketing efforts on behalf of the municipalities.

Ms. Pressler points out the Scottsdale Polo Party continues to grow in all the right ways.

“The Scottsdale Polo Championships is already the most attended polo competition in the country, and it continues to attract some of the world’s best competitors,” she said. “It’s exciting that the Scottsdale Polo Championships is expanding to two days in its eighth year, giving locals and visitors alike even more opportunity to enjoy Scottsdale’s pristine fall weather during the tournament.”

Just as the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction is more than automobiles, the Scottsdale Polo Championships is more than polo, Ms. Pressler agrees.

“Just as the Waste Management Phoenix Open is more than just a golf tournament and Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction is more than just a car show, the Scottsdale Polo Championships is more than just a polo tournament,” she said. “Because of that, people of all walks of life can enjoy the weekend’s festivities at WestWorld, whether they come for the food, the drink, the dog show, the symphony performances or the polo.”

Polo partygoers at last year’s end-of-the-event concert featuring a unique blend of classical sounds with 21st Century bravado. (File photo)

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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