A GREAT POLO WEEKEND IN DUBAI

Santiago Sports December 2, 2016

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by Diana de Souza Leão Jensen

Dubai is synonymous with progress, innovation and luxury and the new
Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club fits that description perfectly.

Like a mirage in the desert, but impressively real, this all-encompassing equestrian haven in the heart of Dubai Land boasts the best grass polo fields in the region, surrounding a 5-star 136 rooms St Regis Resort and villa community, which is due to open in January 2017.

The upmarket gated community includes 120 luxury rental villas ranging from 3 to 5 bedrooms in a stunning contemporary setting alongside a cluster of St. Regis-branded villas. Each villa has a unique view of exquisitely landscaped development devoted to all aspects of equestrian life. The impressive collection of opulent villas is designed with the horse lover in mind. Tastefully decorated throughout with natural hues, these elegantly designed homes are full of character and charm.

A world-class polo club with exceptional facilities in the Polo Academy and Riding School, offers equestrians in all disciplines the opportunity to learn to ride or further their skills. With 520 stables, 4 polo fields, exercise tracks, a trail ride track and 2 international standard arenas for show jumping and dressage, the Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club is the largest equestrian facility in the UAE.

“Horses have been a big part of my life for many years, playing polo is one of my biggest passions,” says Mohammed Al Habtoor, Chairman of the Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club, “My vision for the Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club is to create something unique for all equestrians, not just about polo. It is an equestrian haven, which incorporates multiple disciplines including polo, dressage and show jumping and traditional horseback riding.”

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A Busy Polo Season

The local community will be able to enjoy a jam-packed calendar of international polo events including the highly-acclaimed Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series, an 18 Goal Handicap tournament, entering in its eighth year under the Patronage of HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.  The tournament series are the highest ranked tournaments in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, ranking it also amongst the best polo tournaments worldwide and played under the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA). This coming Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series will be from 20thof January until 14th of April 2017.

Passion, tradition and sporting elegance… a unique lifestyle symbolized and reflected in the Julius Baer Gold Cup. Every year, this tournament gathers together royalty, celebrities, VIPs from the Dubai social scene and fans of the ‘sport of kings’ to a spectacular performance by the world’s best polo players competing for the Gold Cup trophy, an intense battle to the top, to be the best team in the Middle East and Asia.

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Polo: the sport of kings and the king of sports

Polo has been played for over 2000 years and is thus recognized as one of the oldest team sports in the world. The game is played on horseback with 2-4 players on each team depending on the type of polo turf (beach, arena, grass, snow), a chukker is a period of 7,5 minutes of play, the clock stops when a foul is committed. A foul is when a player makes an unsafe maneuver. Most of the rules in polo are for the safety of the horse and rider. Polo matches last between 4 to 8 chukkers depending on the level and type of polo and players must change their mount after
every chukker.

The polo season started in October and on November 4th the Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club had the pleasure of welcoming the Monte Carlo Polo Team for a cup in their honor, named the Monte Carlo Polo Cup Dubai.

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Reuniting through polo

Rashid Al Habtoor, co-founder of the Habtoor Polo Organization, and Rommy Gianni, patron of the Monte Carlo Polo Team, have known each other for many years and meet up in different countries for events and polo tournaments. They had played polo together before, but not against each other. This summer in Monaco the two agreed that the Monte Carlo Polo Team was due for a visit to the city of wonders, Dubai, for a polo cup at the new Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club.

“I love the way polo unites people from all over the world. During my travels I always meet interesting people and it is a pleasure to be able to welcome them in my home country and play the sport we love. I am excited to show Rommy the new Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club and the great facilities. I am so proud of my brother Mohammed (Al Habtoor) for carrying out his vision on this project under the Habtoor Group and creating a truly spectacular equestrian oasis”

The quartet travelled from Monaco to Dubai for a week of polo culminating in the final day on Friday the 4th of November under the beaming Arabian sun.

Spectators and supporters came from near and far to witness the polo match between the Habtoor Polo Team (Mohammed Al Habtoor 0, Rashid Al Habtoor 0, Justo Cuitino 3 and Alejandro Gowland 3) and Monte Carlo Polo Team (Rommy Gianni 1, Giles Greenwood 0, Andrea Moretti 0, Martin Espain 6).

Four chukkers of intense polo were played, with Rommy Gianni from the Monte Carlo Polo Team opening up the score board in the first chukker. Followed by a goal from Mohammed Al Habtoor to even out the score. The two teams followed each other throughout the game, with very good defense plays and some fast attacks. Rommy Gianni scored all the goals for his team.

In the final chukker the two teams were even at 3 goals each. As often happens in this exciting game, just as we thought they would go in to overtime, Alejandro Gowland swiftly took the ball and passed it on to his team mate and patron Rashid K Al Habtoor who hit an “under-the-neck” shot and scored with only seconds left on the clock.

Rommy Gianni enjoyed his day: “It was a tough match, the fields here are amazing, one of the best I have played on. I think the home team, Habtoor Polo, had an advantage of being acclimatized to the weather, it is a bit warm still for us guys from Europe. I look forward to the re-match, maybe we should play on snow and see who has an advantage then.” Gianni said with a grin on his face, since his team won the 2016 Snow Polo World Cup St Moritz. “I am grateful to our host Rashid and the Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club for welcoming us here and taking very good care of us, we already look forward to coming back.”

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