Born to Ride

You may recog­nise him as the face of Ralph Lau­ren, but Na­cho Figueras’ pas­sion lies deep within the sport that brings peo­ple and horses to­gether, and for a good cause, writes Kath­lyn D’souza

Malaysia Tatler - - FACES -

“I can im­me­di­ately tell what the horse is go­ing to al­low me to do”

Yeah, yeah, I get peo­ple laugh­ing at me a lot when I say my name is Na­cho,” he said, an amused smile ac­com­pa­ny­ing his charming Ar­gen­tinian lilt. But then I thought, when you were once voted in a Van­ity Fair poll as the sec­ond most hand­some man in the world (we looked it up, he’s sec­ond to Brad Pitt), funny names would be far from the mind. ‘Na­cho’, is of course, a com­mon nick­name for Ig­na­cio, and for this par­tic­u­lar Ig­na­cio, he doesn’t mind it be­cause jokes aside, he would rather focus on more im­por­tant things—like polo. This was the com­mon ground for which we met and spoke of at St Regis Sin­ga­pore. Just a day be­fore our conversation took place, Na­cho was in a heated and in­tense match of polo with his dear friend Harry (that’s Prince Harry for the rest of us) at the 2017 Sen­te­bale Royal Salute Polo Cup. He was rep­re­sent­ing St Regis, play­ing against Prince Harry’s Sen­te­bale. The Prince’s team was vic­to­ri­ous, but more im­por­tantly, the game was held to aid the Sen­te­bale char­ity, which Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Le­sotho set up, to sup­port chil­dren who are af­flicted with HIV/AIDS in south­ern Africa. But phi­lan­thropy aside, Figueras’ love for polo stemmed far be­yond th­ese re­cent years. “I grew up in Ar­gentina, and started play­ing polo when I was nine. Polo in Ar­gentina isn’t some­thing that’s rare, we have lots of cour­ses, and so I grew up go­ing to a farm ev­ery week­end to ride horses and play polo.” Since then, Figueras has been all over the world for this sport, but this has been the first time he and Prince Harry have played to­gether in Sin­ga­pore. I asked about the horses, and whether he had them spe­cially flown in for the event. Sur­pris­ingly, they weren’t. “Fly­ing horses from one place to an­other is not so easy. You need to have quar­an­tines and such. And al­though I fly horses to the US when I’m play­ing there, the horses nor­mally travel and then stay in one place. So, we ac­tu­ally used ‘Sin­ga­porean’ horses this time.” As far as I knew at the time, he had only flown in a cou­ple of days be­fore the event, so how did he bond with the horses so quickly? “It’s what I do for a living. I ride horses ev­ery day. I can im­me­di­ately tell what the horse is go­ing to al­low me to do,” he ex­plained. “In 20 me­tres I can tell if the horse is fast, or if it will stop or not, so I ad­just to that and play ac­cord­ingly.” Figueras’ pro­found pas­sion for horses is so ad­mirable, but noth­ing says ‘in­fec­tious and in­spi­ra­tional’ when his love for the sport brought on a lit­er­ary idea, which led to his lat­est ven­ture—writ­ing fic­tion. He laughed when I asked about it. “That’s a very good ques­tion! I have a friend in New York who is a prom­i­nent lit­er­ary agent, and as we were hav­ing cof­fee at the Hamp­tons, he said, ‘I have an idea. I know how pas­sion­ate you are about pro­mot­ing polo. You should write a book—a ro­mance novel, be­cause women are go­ing to love it.’ I then said ‘You’re out of your mind! No way!’” He then added, “But, long story short, three months later, he con­vinced me, and I started talk­ing to this woman who helped me write this book. For one year, she came to the games, got re­ally into it and wrote five dif­fer­ent first chap­ters. My wife and I picked one, and one book ended up be­ing three… and we’re still go­ing to write some more. Why not?”

A PLAY­OFF WITH THE PRINCE Prince Harry strikes the ball on the right, as Na­cho closes in

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