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Sport: South Beach Ball

Sheila Gibson Stoodley

What do you do between chukkas of a polo match when there are no divots to stomp back into place? At the Miami Beach Polo World Cup, where the matches are played on a sandy beach instead of a grassy field, you could dance: A DJ spins records during the intermissions between the matches’ seven-minute quarters. The playing surface and the sideline entertainment are two of the features that distinguish the Miami Beach matches from those played less than 90 minutes north at the Palm Beach Polo & Country Club. In addition, the horses move slightly faster on sand, the grapefruit-sized ball that the riders chase is inflatable, and many of the thousands of spectators are viewing polo (live, at least) for the first time. The 2007 contest, involving six teams, will take place from April 13 through 15. The festivities will begin with a parade from Collins Avenue to 22nd Street—participants will include bikini-clad women on horseback—and end with a post-awards ceremony party on the beach. The teams will play on a 300-by-145-foot field behind the Setai hotel, competing for a spot in Sunday’s championship match.

 

The tournament is the brainchild of Reto Gaudenzi, a Swiss hotelier who is credited with inventing the game of snow polo more than 20 years ago in St. Moritz. He came to Miami in 2004 to serve as general manager of the Casa Casuarina club and hotel and soon realized that the city would provide a fine setting for polo. “Miami Beach is the perfect spot, a sexy spot, to stage it on the beach. It had to happen,” he says, expressing puzzlement over why someone did not think of playing polo on Miami Beach decades before he did.

When he organized the first Miami Beach Polo World Cup in 2005, Gaudenzi, a longtime polo player himself, had little trouble convincing fellow athletes to sign on. “I thought it was a good idea,” says Melissa Potamkin Ganzi, who plays regularly at the Palm Beach club, “and Reto is such an enthusiastic person, it’s almost impossible to say no to him.” She and her husband, Marc Ganzi, participated in each of the first two Miami Beach tournaments and plan to return for this year’s event.

Potamkin Ganzi and her husband played together on the losing side in the first cup final, but last year, they joined opposing foursomes. Ultimately, they faced each other in the final, and Marc’s team defeated Melissa’s by two goals. “We’ve got it down pat,” she says of managing the emotions that arise when spouses compete. “What happens on the field stays on the field.” Harmony is also maintained in the Gaudenzi household, because Reto insists that he and his 22-year-old son, Tito, play for the same team. “I hate playing against my son,” Gaudenzi says jokingly, “because then there are two fights, one on the field and one at home.”

Miami Beach Polo World Cup
866.468.7630
www.miamipolo.com

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