IT WAS off to Hurlingham Park in sunny south-west London at the weekend for an action-packed few days at the second annual Polo in the Park tournament.
With the event extended this year from two days to three due to popular demand – and Friday earmarked as the official corporate hospitality day for the City – the attendees sipped champagne, Pimms and beer as they cheered on the teams from London, New York, Paris, Buenos Aires, Geneva, Moscow, Sydney and Durban.
The event is the brainchild of Daniel Fox-Davies, the helicopter-flying adrenaline junkie who founded the City broker of the same name. Fox-Davies was delighted to see so many people turn up to enjoy themselves, though he’s now also on a mission to promote polo as an amateur recreational sport.
The man himself speaks from experience, as he started playing without ever having ridden a horse a few years back, and now plays every week in the summer. Mind you, he left the playing at Hurlingham at the weekend firmly to the professionals, insisting he wanted to keep up his reputation. “I’m definitely not playing along with the best players in the world!” he chuckled to The Capitalist. “My clients actually think I’m good, and I don’t want that illusion shattered…” Well, the cat’s certainly out of the bag now.
Speaking of Fox-Davies, the boys and girls back at the company headquarters near Embankment were eager to capitalise on their boss’s enterprising efforts, ferrying a whole bunch of clients and eager hangers-on over to the polo on Friday.
The method of transport chosen by the firm’s jovial head of market making Russell Jackson was his renowned “Love Bus”, a vintage Routemaster bus. Arriving mid-morning to copious amounts of beer, wine and crème de menthe shots (don’t ask, just knock it back), the rules of the bus were quickly explained to newcomers, including the ever-popular “Stop the Bus” game.
This, for those unfamiliar with the rules, involves picking numbers out of a hat, with the chosen victim obliged to jump off the bus when it stops at traffic lights, dive into the nearest shop, buy whatever item they lay their hands on, and race back onto the bus before it disappears out of sight. A few lucky individuals just managed to make it back, including Lewis Charles’ Paul Kettle, who caught up with the bus at a leisurely stroll and was greeted as a hero when he produced a bag of Kettle Chips.
Jackson himself then had his number called, chased after the bus at full sprint and fell victim to his own strict rules when the bus chugged off down a clear road towards the next pub.
The event’s corporate sponsors, including City A.M. – whose team won the tournament – IG Index, Gaucho, Otkritie and Thomson Reuters, all made the most of the hospitality, with primary sponsor Mint, sponsor of the London team, taking the lead despite a less-than-stellar knowledge of the sport.
“My kind of horse has four wheels and is painted red,” joked co-founder Richard Barnett. “But seriously, we do love the game – it’s quite simply the best day out in London!” Hear, hear.