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A right royal welcome as polo season kicks off on the South Coast

polo players.jpg
Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
Polo season gets underway at Santa Barbara Polo Club

It’s the oldest equestrian sport and as spectators are welcomed back to Santa Barbara Polo Club this weekend, they're set for a tournament fit for royalty.

Eight players - making two teams, are on horseback and using mallets to hit a ball in this competitive polo match at Santa Barbara Polo Club.

The season begins this weekend with a tournament which ends on Sunday.

It features some of the best-known players in the sport – including the man dubbed the David Beckham of polo - Nacho Figueras.

"When you're riding a thousand pound animal, a lot of things happen very quickly.

"The polo field is the size of nine football fields, so there's a lot of strategy and preparation behind the game," he explained to KCLU.

He’s playing on a team called Los Padres, after the National Forest – and let slip some exclusive news about a certain – now local – member of the British Royal family who is joining him on the team.

"Prince Harry is an avid polo enthusiast and player and has played polo all his life," he said.

"My polo team has a platform where we use the sport and the platform to raise awareness for charities. Harry's going to be a part of this team.

"Him and I wanted this team to be very local and to pay tribute to Southern California because of him moving here and paying tribute to his new home.

"It's going to be a platform for a lot of good things so I'm very excited, proud and honored to be doing this with him," he said.

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle live nearby in Montecito.

polo nacho.jpg
Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
Polo player Nacho Figueras - sporting a forehead injury - is on a team with Prince Harry

The general manager of Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club, David Sigman says he’s looking forward to welcoming back spectators at the club, after playing without crowds during the pandemic.

"These horses are the celebrity, they are the athletes and they have to be playing polo so we were playing through the pandemic but you do miss the spectators," said Sigman.

"Having spectators back adds a lot of energy and emotion to the game", said Figueras.

Sigman says the social scene may be what attracts the public, but the vast and well-kept fields, just off the 101 freeway, are what attracts the world-class players.

"It's a very sustainable polo field because obviously we are concerned about water all of the time. When we irrigate it goes back to our reservoir and back into our system."

So you may even be able to stomp down a royal divot on our doorstep!