By Pamela Dozois

PHP’s Polo Classic was hot, windy, fast, and furious. This year’s sold-out event was held at a new venue, the Piocho Ranch in Happy Canyon, owned by Tom Barrack.  More than 365 VIP tickets were sold and an estimated 500 people attended the Club Seating and General Admission section of the field.

The morning started off with a VIP Champagne Reception followed by a Preliminary Polo match spotlighting up and coming young, local, and international players, supported by seasoned professionals.  On the Blue Team were Alfonso Giannico, Tommy Costello, Athena Malin, and Hilario Figueras. On the Red team were Lucas Escobar, Luis Escobar, Nicolas Escobar, and Lizzy Peck.

Charlotte Bredahl-Baker then gave a stunning dressage demonstration.

“I rode Hamilton (Leo) in a freestyle to a Grease Medley and he was an absolute saint. He didn’t mind all the hoopla and was totally focused on me and our performance. I just love this horse,” said Bredahl-Baker. “What made this extra special for me was that Olivia Newton-John, who has been my idol for years, was at our table and watched my performance. I really wanted to do a good job for her and she approved.”

A VIP & Wine Club Luncheon followed. It was then time for the feature Polo Match of the day. The flag was presented and the National Anthem was sung by Shaken Reed. The field welcomed players from Team Piocho, Tom Barrack, Guillermo “Memo” Gracida, Jr., Nacho Figueras, and Sterling Giannico. On Team USA were Joel Baker, Remy Muller, Jesse Bray, and Felipe Viana.

Bo Derek threw the first ball. The game was fast and furious with one of the riders, # 1 on Team USA losing his seat as his horse ran into some hay bales. The rider landed on his feet and kept hold of the reigns so as not to lose his horse too. During half-time guests were invited out onto the field for a divot stomp, replacing the clumps of grass that had been churned up by the horses’ hoofs.

With the field now in order again, winners of the Hat Contest were announced. Charlotte Becerra won for Most Classic; Terrie Patterson won in the Most Creative category; Alicia Hart took home the Most Dramatic Hat award, and Nancy Chuda won for Best Ensemble sporting a beautiful vintage ensemble.

Play resumed and Team Piocho won the match 7 to 5.

“We out-did ourselves this year,” said Mila Hart, co-chair of the event along with Nancy Hunsicker. “All our VIP tickets were sold out before we advertised it and people kept calling for tickets. We added six more tables and we then had to turn people away. This was the best year ever!”

Following the game, awards were presented to all the players. They each received helmet bags. In honor of his late brother, Gracida presented the Carlos Gracida Sportsmanship Award to Bray. Bray also won the award for the Best String of Horses while Gracida’s horse, a 5-year-old thoroughbred, in his first season, won Best Horse. The horse was from Santa Ynez.

Members of Team Piocho took home this year’s trophy for winning the match.

“What a glorious day for one and all! I couldn’t think of a greater cause and what fun it was,” said Laurel Roberts of Flag is Up Farm.

Freddy Zepeda put the finishing touch to the day by coming to the rescue in his “mule”, offering a lift to the car, which was parked quite a long distance away. Zepeda, who grew up on the ranch, was a charming and delightful example of just how special this event was.

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