Though first played more than 2,000 years ago by nomadic warriors, polo was officially introduced to the U.S. in 1876 at the prestigious Westchester Polo Club. This “sport of kings” has long been known as a rich man’s game. But America’s first pro polo player was a man of humble means: 1930 Monty Waterbury Cup winner Cecil Smith, a Texas rancher with a 10-goal rating (the highest possible skill ranking given by the United States Polo Association).
“I don’t want to say that it’s a cheap sport, but it’s not just for the rich anymore,” says Andrés Camacho, Arizona’s top-ranked polo player. The 32-year-old equestrian comes from a long line of polo enthusiasts. In his youth, the Colombian-born Camacho would accompany his family on weekend jaunts to the Polo Club of Bogotá. Not much has changed since the sport’s ancient beginnings, says Camacho. “Despite any technological advances, we are still playing on a horse with a leather saddle and reigns,” he quips. “Playing polo is like going back in time.”
When he’s not working his day job at an aerospace company, Camacho can usually be found on the field. “Polo helps you disconnect from a hard-working day,” says Camacho. “You see how, with a little patience, you can transform horses and people.” He even met his wife, Natalie, while playing at the Arizona Polo Club – though he wisely ducks any questions about which member of the couple is the better polo player. Camacho is currently ranked a 3 handicap for indoor and outdoor polo, with an eye toward educating future generations in the sport. “Polo is great because it’s competitive and exciting,” he says. “But also because it’s family-friendly, and there’s a big social component. Everyone is like family.”
Camacho will ride with the Arizona Polo Club at the 5th Annual Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships on Saturday, October 24th at WestWorld of Scottsdale. His team is set to tackle the San Diego Polo Club, with Polo Azteca, Club Cabo, Arizona Polo Club and reigning champions the Clogau Wales Polo Team also battling for the title. The event also includes a symphony performance, car show, high tea, jazz lounge featuring Doc Jones, and a sneak preview of the 2016 Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, all followed by an afterparty presented by Wasted Grain.
If you go:
Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships
Tickets start at $17.50, 10 a.m-4:30 p.m.
WestWorld of Scottsdale
16601 N. Pima Rd.
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