BRI­TISH POLO DAY

This exclusive, in­vi­ta­tion-only event de­buts in Aus­tralia... Let the games be­gin!

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The scene is un­der­stated el­e­gance: Akubra hats, white shirts and breezy sum­mer frocks, with nary a fas­ci­na­tor or stiletto in sight. Chil­dren slide down a grassy slope on card­board boxes, squeal­ing with ex­cite­ment, while pic­nic rugs in the shade of spread­ing gum trees are the seat­ing of choice.

The spec­ta­tors are sip­ping Tait­tinger bub­bles and Royal Salute whisky; in the carpark, ve­hi­cles are stately Range Rovers and Euro­pean clas­sics.

We are on the side­lines of one of six im­mac­u­lately groomed polo fields, graced with its own view­ing pav­il­ion. No need to stomp div­ots here – be­tween games, elab­o­rate ma­chines mow and flat­ten the pitch. Sur­round­ing us are thou­sands of hectares of lush graz­ing lands; while on a hill sur­vey­ing the grandeur is an ar­chi­tect-de­signed art gallery hous­ing the most out­stand­ing col­lec­tion of Abo­rig­i­nal art in Aus­tralia.

This is Garangula, the pri­vate es­tate of the Sch­warzen­bach fam­ily, lo­cated at Har­den, around 100 kilo­me­tres from Can­berra; and the oc­ca­sion is the in­au­gu­ral Bri­tish Polo Day Aus­tralia event, co­in­cid­ing with Aus­tralia’s premier high-goal polo match, the fi­nal of the Garangula Spring Polo tour­na­ment.

It’s an aus­pi­cious mar­riage in­deed: the pin­na­cle of Aus­tralian polo meets the best of Bri­tish lux­ury, cre­at­ing a unique plat­form for net­work­ing and elite com­mer­cial op­por­tu­nity based around one uni­fy­ing el­e­ment: the horse.

Cap­i­tal af­fair in Can­berra

The brain­child of former Bri­tish House­hold Cav­alry friends, Ed Olver and Tom Hud­son, Bri­tish Polo Day was launched three years ago and has since staged 35 events in 14 coun­tries. These hugely suc­cess­ful events have gar­nered enor­mous in­ter­na­tional in­ter­est, hosted 12 royal fam­i­lies, 100 bil­lion­aires (in­clud­ing Richard Bran­son and Vinod Ku­nar) and over 10,000 lead­ing busi­ness fig­ures, and raised over US$1.2 mil­lion in char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions.

Far from be­ing a stiff and for­mal af­fair, how­ever, the em­pha­sis of Bri­tish Polo Day is on fun, friend­ship and sport. Pre­sented as a four-day ‘road trip’ (with in­ter­na­tional travel ar­range­ments cour­tesy of part­ner Aber­crom­bie & Kent),

the mood is con­vivial and buoy­ant as we head off from Syd­ney’s In­terCon­ti­nen­tal Ho­tel in a fleet of lux­u­ri­ous new Range Rover Sport SUVs (chauf­feur-driven, of course) to­wards our base for the week­end, Ho­tel Ho­tel in Can­berra.

Since it opened in De­cem­ber 2013, this ‘in­dus­trial chic’, eco-friendly ho­tel has chal­lenged Can­berra’s staid and con­ser­va­tive im­age, in­ject­ing the cap­i­tal with a much-needed sense of style. From its spa­cious guest rooms, each in­di­vid­u­ally dec­o­rated with be­spoke retro fur­ni­ture, to its hip restau­rant, Mon­ster, Ho­tel Ho­tel is Aus­tralia’s most talked-about new prop­erty.

Our first meet­ing with the polo en­tourage is far from for­mal: rather, an evening cock­tail re­cep­tion and din­ner at Ho­tel Ho­tel is full of laugh­ter, fun and co­pi­ous amounts of Royal Salute whisky, a 21-year-old Scotch tra­di­tion­ally served in a sil­ver ‘quaich’ goblet then turned up­side-down on your head once the wee dram has been de­voured!

Af­ter a well-de­served sleep-in (or an em­pow­er­ing yoga ses­sion pre­sented by Ho­tel Ho­tel’s in-house guru), we once again hit the road in our Range Rover limos for a quintessen­tially Aussie event – the lo­cal Har­den pic­nic race meet – be­fore head­ing to Garangula for stick and ball prac­tice, a cru­cial warm-up for the fol­low­ing day’s polo.

Gour­mands in an art gallery

Sev­eral hours later, how­ever, jod­phurs, boots and mal­lets are dis­carded as 100 VIP guests con­verge on Garangula’s magnificent art gallery for the of­fi­cial Bri­tish Polo Day Gala Din­ner. De­signed by the same ar­chi­tects re­spon­si­ble for Ho­tel Ho­tel and Tasmania’s MONA, this con­tem­po­rary mas­ter­piece houses an awe-in­spir­ing pri­vate col­lec­tion of rare Abo­rig­i­nal and Aus­tralian tra­di­tional art.

Af­ter good food, good whisky and an en­ter­tain­ing ‘Golden Egg’ share-plate dessert cour­tesy of the In­terCon­ti­nen­tal’s Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Ta­mas Pamer comes Bri­tish Polo Day’s se­ri­ous side – an auc­tion rais­ing US$48,500 to be split be­tween two char­i­ties: Head In­jury Through Sport (HITS) and the Na­tional Cen­tre of In­dige­nous Ex­cel­lence.

But it is on the polo field the fol­low­ing day that the true spirit of Bri­tish Polo Day shines. Fol­low­ing the fi­nal of the Garangula Polo Tour­na­ment, where the home-team de­feated Eller­ston Black eight goals to six,the fun be­gins with a demon­stra­tion ‘bi­cy­cle polo’ match, con­ducted on light­weight, fold­able Bromp­ton bi­cy­cles. There are spills galore in this highly en­ter­tain­ing spec­ta­cle, which re­sults in a three-all draw and sev­eral bruises.

The main event is slightly more dig­ni­fied, with Garangula once again com­ing up trumps over the Bri­tish Schools vis­i­tors. But the real win­ners of the day are our hosts: Bri­tish Polo Day, and the lux­ury brands that cel­e­brate Bri­tish her­itage, the sport of kings and the finer things in life.

01 01 Giles Adams, 3RD HOME founder, and Mur­ray Lang, Royal Salute Brand Am­bas­sador 02 Colonel Si­mon Ledger and His Ex­cel­lency Paul Mad­den 03 Hosted by the Sch­warzen­bach fam­ily 04 HIgh-goal fi­nal ac­tion

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05 05 Garangula’s home-team tri­umphant

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