The First Family of Bridgehampton Polo
by PETER BRANT
When the Bridgehampton Polo Club launched 16 years ago, it was less the Saturday social happening it is today and more of a quiet yet exclusive afternoon where people gathered to picnic and watch the sport of kings. And while the event has blossomed in the ensuing years as activities were added under the tent, the polo has always been of the highest caliber, with some of the best players in the world appearing at Two Trees Farm. Among them is Nacho Figueras, the captain of Black Watch, who this year joins Peter Brant as the new co-owner of the Bridgehampton Polo Club. “It’s an honor for me to be able to take on what Peter and Neil [Hirsch] started and join on this new project," says Figueras, who started playing in Bridgehampton in 1999, at one point joining Brant on his team, White Birch. "The past few years, the polo was passing into a secondary part of the event itself, so we felt very strongly about making it the most important part of the day, making it more family oriented, and bringing that original atmosphere back again."
It makes perfect sense that the family aspect of the sport would be important to Figueras—his wife, photographer Delfina Blaquier, and their three children, Hilario, 12 (a budding polo player himself), Aurora, 7, and Artemio, 2, can often be spotted alongside the field in Bridgehampton. As a family fully immersed in the sport, the Figueras clan will appreciate the return to tradition that Nacho and Brant are instituting this year. “We aim to attract a crowd that is totally focused on the game, one that can appreciate polo players’ speed, agility, and horsemanship while keeping those world-renowned athletes who enjoy coming to the Hamptons, going to the beach, having a nice social life, and playing the sport that they love,” says Brant. “I’ve played there every year since they started, I’ve never missed a year, and I look forward to playing this year probably more than any other year.”
PETER BRANT: For people who have been watching polo in the Hamptons for years, what will be the biggest difference this year?
NACHO FIGUERAS: I think the idea is to have an environment where people will be able to sit down and watch the game and not feel that they are being pulled in 20 different directions. I want to really make it a lot more like what the Greenwich Polo Club has been for the past 30 years, which is a place where people come with their families and friends, tailgate and have a picnic, and enjoy the great afternoon watching polo, watching horses.
PB: What is your goal for the Bridgehampton Polo Challenge?
NF: There is a great tradition of polo in Long Island, starting at the Meadowbrook Polo Club, the oldest polo club in America; they had 20,000, 30,000 people showing up to the games, so the idea is to keep the tradition of polo in New York [alive]. Polo works in seasons: We have the winter season that occurs in Palm Beach, and we have the summer season, which starts the first week in June through the second week in July in Greenwich; then we play for six weeks in the Hamptons, and then go back to Greenwich for three more weeks. Polo players look at it as a whole season, so hopefully once we accomplish this project of bringing Bridgehampton back to what it was and where it started, the second phase of the project is really to make these tournaments function together, so followers of polo in the Northeast can really see this entire season.
PB: Many people don’t necessarily know the rules of polo. What is your suggestion for helping Hamptonites understand what a great sport polo is?
NF: I think the fact that we are focusing the entire event on the polo itself will make people focus on it and then understand. We have an announcer who is always there every Saturday, announcing who’s carrying the ball and which horses we’re riding and explaining the rules, and I think that, little by little, education occurs.
PB: Another big part of Bridgehampton Polo has been the charity component.
NF: Car fees for the cancer foundation have always been very important and will remain that way. Also this year, we will use Saturday, August 18, as a big charity exhibition polo match for the Robin Hood Foundation. It’s a big part of my life to help others, and I think that polo is a great platform to do so, so this will be a very special day for the polo club.
PB: When you chose to partner with me to take over Bridgehampton Polo, did you talk about the idea with Delfina? What was her opinion?
NF: Delfi and I make every decision together. We have been friends with you for a long time, and so we loved taking the challenge of making Bridgehampton Polo a wonderful place again, so she is also very involved in the club.
PB: Are your children still learning to play polo?
NF: Hilario is playing a lot of polo, and Aurora just loves to ride. Artemio still needs to eat a lot of Wheaties.
PB: Bruce Weber took these photos of your family. Tell me about where they were shot.
NF: They were shot at La Concepcion, which is Delfi’s family estancia in Argentina. It is the place where Delfi grew up going every weekend and during the summer as a kid, and also the place where we got married.
PB: Your polo schedule takes you from one end of the globe to the other. Does your family travel with you? How does the schedule affect Delfina and the kids?
NF: We try to travel as a family as much as we can. The kids are at school in Argentina, so we have been trying to reduce the amount of time that we travel, but we try to be together as much as we can.
PB: What does your family enjoy the most when you’re all on the East End?
NF: We like everything about the Hamptons—we go to the beach, we go riding at Two Trees, and we spend time with friends. We really like it here. Hilario loves to surf, Aurora likes to go to Sagg Pond for pony camp, and Artemio loves the beach.
photography by bruce weber; Delfina Blaquier (group shot with horses)