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Prince Charles admires Turf at Cartier Polo

Prince_charles_cartier_poloSunday 27th July saw the highlight of the 2008 Polo Calendar - The Cartier International Polo held at Smith's Lawn , Windsor Great Park, Berkshire. Another truly magnificant summer season sporting event held on natural grass!

The main event of the day was the international game between England and Australia with England lifting the Cup with a 10 - 9 score after some thrilling polo. Prince Charles, a keen polo player himself, presented the Cup to the wining team.

Apart from the game and the many celebrities attending the event, the other highlight was the three streakers who deceided to 'have a go' within the dying minutes of the last chukka! The two Umpires bemused why the crowds were suddenly cheering so loudly.

Guards Polo Club was founded on 25th January 1955 with HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, as President. Originally named the Household Brigade Polo Club, the name was changed to its present form in 1969. Since inception the Club has grown considerably and it is now the largest polo club in Europe in terms of membership and number of grounds.

Cartier_polo_2008_2There are currently about 1,000 non-playing members and about 160 playing members, among whom are some of the highest rated players in the world. Approximately 25 per cent of the players are overseas visitors from Europe, the Middle and Far East, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand. Around half of the playing members are professionals.

Within the Great Park at Windsor, the Club is set in the outstanding natural surroundings of Smith's Lawn, which is thought to have been named after a game keeper at the time of the Restoration in the 17th century. Nearby are the renowned Savill and Valley Gardens.

There are 10 grounds extending over an area of some 130 acres. At nearby Flemish Farm, the Club has some 120 stables, an exercise track and a practice ground. Each polo ground is typically 300 yards long and 200 yards wide. The grass surface is made up of a sandy loam and sown with predominately Smooth Stalked Meadow Grass as this grass species forms strong underground rhizomes that are quickly able to bind the playing surface.

The highlight of each polo game is the mid game 'divoting' where the chunks of turf torn from the surface by the fast moving polo ponies hoofs' are pressed back into the surface to repair the pitch. Even the Ladies in their high heels have a bash at it. To watch this spectacle of mass divoting is just so amusing especially when someone tries to press in a 'steaming divot'. If the divots are replaces quickly, the grasses are able to rejuvinate and repair. Left to dry in the sun, the repair effort would go up ten fold. The beauty is that there is a lot of 'free labour' available at a polo match so why waste those thousands of feet than can each push in a few divots inbetween the champagne and canapes? To give you some idea, 35,000 people attended the event, myself and family included although it was a bit hot!

Cartier_polo_pony_3A little bit about the game of Polo - there are 4 to 6 'chukkas' in a match and each one lasts for 7 minutes of actual play. At present, though due to change, when the ball goes out of play, or the whistle is blown, the clock is stopped and only restarted when the umpire calls 'Play'. At the end of the period a bell goes to signify that the 7 minutes are up, however there is a further 30 seconds of play unless the whistle is blown, the ball hits the boards, or the ball goes out of play. This extra 30 seconds does not apply to the last chukka unless the scores are equal. Should a match be drawn a 'sudden death' (i.e. first to score) chukka maybe played, and if still a draw at the end of that chukka, another one is played with the goalposts widened. There is an interval of 3 minutes between chukkas but 5 minutes at half time when traditionally spectators are invited to tread in the divots.

More details about the game of Polo in the United Kingdom

Image of Prince Charles acknowledged Copyright of Associated Newspapers Ltd


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