Famous both for his playing and for his handsome mug featured in all those Ralph Lauren advertisements, polo player Nacho Figueras is coming to Los Angeles.
On Sunday, Oct. 9, he and his Black Watch team will face off against some of the best players in the world at the 2nd Annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic at Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades.
But while the dress code says 1920s and 1930s-inspired attire and Rachel Zoe is expected as a co-host, Figueras says that he has loftier aims than putting on just an upper-crust social event. The 34-year-old Argentinean player wants to increase appreciation for the sport in the United States and is also helping raise funds for the park, which has seen budget cutbacks in recent years. "I'm trying to bring it back and I think it has all the ingredients a sport needs to be successful," he says.
The site has a long history. The park was originally Will Rogers' own estate. According to the website of the Will Rogers Polo Club, the 13th-oldest polo club in America, the humorist and movie star "landscape the polo field in 1926, before he even built his home." After his death in 1935, his widow gifted the property to the State of California with the condition that equestrian activities continue there.
The Hollywood Reporter reached Figueras at his farm -- 45 minutes outside Buenos Aires, Argentina -- a few days before the event (details below):
The Hollywood Reporter: Who knew that L.A. had a long polo history?
Nacho Figueras: There used to be 22 polo fields in Los Angeles in the 1930s and Will Rogers is the only one left. I was very glad to see that the Angelenos really responded well to the idea of bringing polo back to Will Rogers. Rogers, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Walt Disney all played polo on that exact same field.
THR: How did you end up holding the classic at Will Rogers?
Figueras: I heard that the park was struggling finance-wise. I got in touch with the Will Rogers Polo Club and with Will Rogers' family. When we told them we wanted to not only get involved but also raise money to make sure that the club and the park would remain open, that's how that whole thing started.
THR: I know you started a similar event in New York a few years ago. How is that going?
Figueras: We started that on Governors Islands in New York and this past June we had the 4th Annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic. We had 18,000 people show up which was really a big number. That's the first time ever Governors Island got more people to come there than the to the Statue of Liberty in one day.
THR: Well, I hope there aren't 18,000 people at Will Rogers this Sunday. Parking last year was a nightmare.
Figueras: Last year we had way too many people, so many more people than we expected. This year we changed it a little bit from the way it was done. Last year it was for free and anybody could show up. This year, we are selling tickets for $15 and proceeds from all the tickets will go to the park.
THR: One of your goals is to have polo seen as not just a sport for the rich. So why have a fancy costume theme if you are trying to make polo more accessible to the public?
Figueras: You don't have to dress up if you don’t want to. The tickets are available to anyone. I don't think polo will ever be baseball but I want people to enjoy polo and feel like they are invited. That’s the message I'm trying to send. So far it's been working. We keep growing.
THR: Prince William was recently in Santa Barbara playing a charity polo tournament. Have he and his brother, who also plays, helped increase interest in the sport?
Figueras: I think they do a lot for polo with their high visibility and what they do with their foundation and the fact that they play. Also, a little bit at the same time, it takes polo back to the assumption of what polo is when you have a prince play. They are great kids and they really enjoy playing polo but it takes a bit out of what I’m trying to do.
THR: What's new with your modeling gigs for Ralph Lauren?
Figueras: That's been going on for 10 years. We just shot a campaign at my wife's farm in Argentina where we got married. It's our place, our kids, our dogs, our horses. And I just signed a contract for three more years and
MATCH DETAILS: Tickets are $15. Play begins at 1:30 PM. Gates open to the public at 11 AM. There is no parking at Will Rogers; detailed parking ($10) and shuttle instructions will be sent to ticket purchasers. Lunch will be available to purchase from gourmet food trucks.