Photos courtesy of Douglas Lees

“A polo handicap is a person’s ticket to the world.” —Winston Spencer Churchill, a polo player for 4th Queen’s Own Hussars.

Pennants flutter, sterling trophies glimmer, tack gleams, tables beckon and players and horses anticipate. The NSLM Polo Classic returns to Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia, on Sunday, Sept. 10, to the luscious Sheila C. Johnson Grass Polo Field. Traditions started last year promise to flourish at the Seventh Annual Classic.

“Traditions start somewhere,” declared Manuel H. Johnson, Chairman of the Board for the National Sporting Library & Museum, “and many of the traditions for the Polo Classic started last year when we moved to Great Meadow. We sensed something special would happen last year under our banner, ‘Great Expectations at Great Meadow,’ and this year our banner ‘Building Traditions Along the Boards’ seems especially apt.”

“The Polo Classic is a wonderful expression of the NSLM’s mission and supports the sporting life in all its manifestations.” -Melanie Leigh Mathewes, NSLM Executive Director

Traditions abound indeed. Play on the field, accompanied by the pageantry of honor guards, bagpipers and hunting hounds found root last year. Viewing and dining under a pavilion, tailgating along the boards and picnicking from an elevated end zone all return. Many players from last year’s matches will play again. Artist Greg Montgomery returns with specially commissioned art appropriately titled “The Pinnacles.” The two-match format, first inaugurated last year, continues again this year.

The Founders Cup Match, set at four chukkers, features a returning British Military Team captained by Major Mark Cann, last year’s MVP for the Cup. Opposing the British Team is a new entrant, a Dubai Team, captained by Steve Thompson, founder of the Dubai Polo Academy, adding an international flair to the Founders Cup, first played last year. The match will start at 11 a.m.

John Gobin (left) and Bill Ballhaus (right) battle for control at the 2016 NSLM Polo Classic.

John Gobin (left) and Bill Ballhaus (right) battle for control at the 2016 NSLM Polo Classic.

The Mars Cup Match, the six-chukker afternoon match, will feature two teams returning from last year. The Beverly Equestrian/Cria Yatay team will be captained by international polo star Nacho Figueras and sponsored by local business executive Bill Ballhaus. “We have successfully organized winning teams in Argentina, South Africa and the U.S., and partnered to bring high performance Argentine polo ponies to the American market,” said Ballhaus.

The Greenhill Winery & Vineyards Team will be captained by John Gobin, Great Meadow Polo Club Manager, and sponsored by David Greenhill. Greenhill is the Co-owner of Satcom Direct, providing satellite communications to business jets and military government aviation worldwide, and also the owner of Greenhill Winery and Middleburg Life.

“I look forward to captaining the Greenhill Team again,” said Gobin. “We had a great time last year and promise another exciting Polo Classic at Great Meadow.”

Greenhill was last year’s Mars Cup MVP. Gobin repeats this year as the Classic’s Polo Master, responsible for everything on the field.

Adding to the pageantry of the day, the U.S. Army’s mounted “Old Guard” from Arlington will again present the colors and players for both matches, led across the field by the St. Andrew’s Society Pipes & Drums. Orange County Hounds, led by Huntsman Reg Spreadborough, will repeat their parade between matches.

“More than 800 guests are anticipated this year,” said Polo Classic Chair Juliana E. May. “We’ve added additional tables under the Founders Pavilion, and a limited number of tents and furnishings along the tailgate boards.”

May also expressed how grateful she was for the wonderful support from sponsors and patrons. Salamander Hotels & Resorts returns as the “Event Sponsor” and is joined by many repeat and several new sponsors. “This is the only fundraising event for NSLM each year, and we plan to make this year’s Classic as memorable as we can,” May said.

“The Polo Classic is a wonderful expression of the NSLM’s mission and supports the sporting life in all its manifestations. It showcases not only our splendid Virginia countryside, but more importantly, the NSLM’s role in preserving and promoting the sporting life through literature and art,” said Melanie Leigh Mathewes, NSLM Executive Director. “We welcome everyone to join us for this exciting day.”

Traditions are building. ML

National Sporting Library & Museum’s
– 2017 Polo Classic –

Sunday, Sept. 10
Great Meadow, Virginia
Gates open 10 a.m. Match 1 – Founders Cup 11 a.m.
Match 2 – Mars Cup 2 p.m.

For ticket availability and additional information, visit NationalSporting.org or call 540-687-6542 ext. 26.

All proceeds benefit the National Sporting Library & Museum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.