Who to Know | He’s Got Game

by Cathy Whitlock
luxpop_20150904_center.pngNacho Figueras at the Veuve Cliquot Polo Classic on Governors Island

Polo enthusiast Winston Churchill once noted, “No hour of life is wasted spent in a saddle,” a sentiment undoubtedly shared by Nacho Figueras the world’s most famous polo player.

Often described as the David Beckham of polo, Nacho’s mantra is simple, “Polo is my life, it’s what I live and breathe.” The Argentine Adonishas done more to raise awareness for the game than anyone else. His passion and dedication to the sport are endless while his mission to change the perception of polo, as a rich man’s folly remains constant.

With the aim of introducing to the mainstream and democratizing the sport he organized the annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classictournaments played on Manhattan’s Governors Island and Liberty State Park and Will Rogers State Park in Los Angeles. Open to the public, the events draw local celebrities and fans alike with proceeds benefiting the City of Harvest, a non-profit organization that feeds nearly two million hungry New Yorkers each year and the preservation of the Will Rogers State Historic Park.

We caught up with Nacho recently who let us know that we can catch him and his Black Watch team in action on Sunday, October 17th at Will Rogers State Historic Park.

“I was reading about polo fields in decline in Los Angeles,” says the 45-year old Nacho. “There is only one polo field left where there used to be 20. Will Rogers played polo there with Walt Disney, Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. I think the problem is that polo is still seen as a very elitist sport.”

Nacho feels polo can be a great day out with the family and wants to democratize the game much like Beckham has done for soccer.

“I want to elevate the sport into something everyday Americans care about.”

Nacho also filled us in on a few facts about himself that you may not know.

All Things Equine

He owns an astounding stable of 500 horses, all impeccably housed on his 90-acre ranch outside Buenos Aires. Even more incredible is the fact that Nacho can recall the names of every single horse from Jagger and Lady Gaga to Hotel Costes and St. Regis. (His other horses are named after magazines, artists and museums). Forty-four of the pampered creatures will soon move to his new futuristic, functional and environmentally friendly barn designed with friend and architect Juan Ignacio Ramos.

A Day In The Life

Nacho (short for Ignacio) shares breakfast with his wife Delfina and four children before his daily ritual – a drive in his Dodge Ram pickup to the polo fields for a morning practice followed by lunch and an afternoon workout with his horses. After dinner and bathing the children, evenings are often spent watching television (The Netflix series House of Cards is a recent favorite).

He’s Got Game

Polo is a natual progression for those growing up in Argentina with athletic prowess and a competitive edge, and such was the case with Nacho. His father put a mallet in his hand at the age of nine, and his uncle gave him a Ralph Lauren polo shirt when he was twelve; by the age of 17 be became a professional player. Today he is a member of the tournament winning team Black Watch sponsored by Ralph Lauren and has a #6 handicap.

Polo’s Pin Up

A chance meeting in 2000 with famed fashion photographer Bruce Weber at a Hampton’s dinner party resulted in the launch of Nacho’s second career as the international face of Ralph Laurent’s Polo fragrance and Black Label collection. The symbiotic marriage of a line synonymous with the logo of a man on horseback swinging a mallet and the sport of polo has helped Nacho further promote his cause. “I am an athlete who is an ambassador for a brand, I am not a model,” he notes.

A Passion for Painting

In rare moments of downtime Nacho indulges in another of his passions – art and painting. Inspired by Kandinsky, Klimt, Pollock and Rothko, his contemporary oil and acrylic abstracts vie for space with his wife Delfina’s photography on the walls of his modernist ranch home.

“I love to paint and do it just for fun without putting pressure on myself,” adds Nacho. “It’s one thing I can do without having a goal or purpose. Because I played for publisher and art collector Peter Brandt, I have been exposed to art all my life. It’s pure self-expression and no-one can judge!”