Top-rated polo player Ashley Van Metre’s wedding to NASCAR driver Kurt Busch this past January was like a major entertainment event, with 265 guests serenaded by violins and a performance by Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler.
The couple brings its star power and the promise of sporting entertainment to another major event in November, when the seventh annual Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses & Horsepower takes over WestWorld of Scottsdale. Ashley Busch will be competing in The Women’s Sunset Match, billed as featuring the most beautiful women of polo. Busch, who competes regularly at Grand Champions Polo Club in Florida, won her first tournament as a newlywed at Grand Champions.
“For years now I’ve been hearing about the event, the party, and sheer numbers of attendees,” says Busch, whose husband is set to perform a celebrity first drop (the equivalent of a first pitch in baseball; it starts a polo match).
The Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses & Horsepower event has turned the rarefied “sport of kings” into an epic shindig that’s equal parts pomp and party. This year the event is jam-packed into an entire weekend at WestWorld on Saturday, November 11, and Sunday, November 12. In addition to six rousing polo matches, expect a bevy of unique experiences to engage your senses. Back are the Polo Party favorites including The Canine Couture Dog Fashion Show by Oh My Dog! Hotel Boutique & Spa, The World’s “Longest” Catwalk Fashion Show by Phoenix Fashion Week, and previews of the 2018 Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction and 2018 Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, along with local Ferrari and Lamborghini car clubs lining the field.
New this year: Fried and Fizzy––a fried chicken and champagne lounge, a new field-side Sandbar tent with sand, the Bottled Blonde Polo Lounge: presented by Stella Artois, and an exclusive VIP tented venue called Prime: A Luxury Tent Experience presented by Steak 44, Neiman Marcus and Barrett-Jackson. You can also catch a live performance by the Phoenix Opera and the Southwest Shakespeare Company.
“This is definitely not your grandmother’s polo event,” says event founder Jason Rose, who calls Saturday the party day and Sunday the day of tradition.
“Think the Phoenix Open on a Saturday versus Sunday at the Phoenix Open. Saturday is the party with four matches. Sunday is more refined with the Scottsdale Maserati Brunch and two matches––Battle of the Sexes: Men versus Women and St. Moritz Switzerland versus Clogau Wales Polo Team.”
The most decorated and greatest American polo player of all time is set to make his debut at the Polo Party. A fan favorite known for his aggressive style, polo legend Mike Azzaro has held the sport’s top ranking of 10 goals in 1994 for 14 years. He won seven U.S. Open Championships, third most of any players. He also won three Silver Cups: Butler Handicap, Inglehart and World Cup. Azzaro will represent Aspen Valley Polo Club, when the defending champions of the Molina Cup take on first-time attendee, the Monte Carlo Polo Club, in the featured match on Saturday.
Of the Women’s Sunset Match, which also takes place on Saturday, Rose says, “There are some terrific players and they’re smart. They’re not just pretty women. They’re great ambassadors of the sport.”
One such player is attorney and model Pamela Flanagan, who’s competed in the sport since childhood. Although she’s played polo all over the world, including Argentina, Mexico, Guatemala and China, Flanagan is excited to return to Scottsdale.
“I was blown away last year,” she says. “They way they lay out the event, they make it something that everyone can enjoy––and polo is a sport that anyone can enjoy.”
“Not only is it an unbelievable event, the polo players typically don’t get to play in front of this many people,” says Rose, who has attracted top competitors year after year. He hopes to one day see Prince William or Prince Harry playing on the WestWorld polo field during the Polo Party. It’s possible, he says, considering it’s one of the most attended polo events in the world, attracting over 12,500 guests a year.
Attracting a diverse crowd who come to experience the events within events is possible when general admission starts at just $20 and there’s a special $12 twilight-only pass good after 3 p.m. Want to luxe it up? Try Prime: A Luxury Tent Experience by Steak 44, Neiman Marcus & Barrett-Jackson that includes prime steaks, fresh seafood, and chef-inspired dishes by Arizona’s top steakhouse, Steak 44. All drinks and food are included for $300 a ticket. There are also numerous admission options in between, along with a number of creative seating options by sponsors.
“For instance, Dircks Moving & Logistics will have their moving vans on site and opening the backs of their trucks and that’s going to be some incredibly unusual general admission seating. You’re in the shade; you’re up high; and you’re in a seat that’s funky and different,” Rose says.
Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses & Horsepower, WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale, thepoloparty.com, 10 a.m. Saturday, November 11, and 10:45 a.m. Sunday, November 12, prices vary.
Saturday: The Party
(Think the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Saturday)
10 a.m.–Gates open
10:15 a.m.–Santa Barbara vs. Polo Azteca
11:45 a.m. The World’s “Longest” Fashion Show, produced by Phoenix Fashion Week
12:15 p.m.–Seattle Polo Club vs. Arizona Polo Club
1:45 p.m.–The Canine Couture: A Dog Fashion Show Like No Other, Presented by Oh My Dog!
2:15 p.m.–Featured Match: Aspen Valley Polo Club (Defending Champs) vs. Monte-Carlo Polo Team
4:15 p.m.–The Women’s Sunset Polo Match
Post-Match–After-party until 6 p.m.
Sunday: The Tradition
(Think the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday with a more traditional polo atmosphere)
10:45 a.m.–Gates and the Scottsdale Maserati Brunch begins
11:30 a.m.–Battle of the Sexes: The Sunny Hale Memorial, celebrating the greatest female player of all time.
1:30 p.m.–St. Moritz Switzerland vs. Clogau Wales Polo Team
Can’t wait to have your fun on the field? To kick off the next greatest show on grass with the face of American polo, USPA cover model and personality, Ashley Busch, as she headlines The Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships’ Evans Furs and Leathers Polo Preview Party on Thursday, October 5. Held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the rooftop dining room at Dominick’s Steakhouse, 15169 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, it’s a chance to tide you over until the main event starts. Space is limited. For more information, visit email@example.com.