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EMILY'S POST/Argentina Polo Player and Ralph Lauren Model Nacho Figueras Storms DC

Emily Miller
By Emily Miller
Posted on Jul 02,2009
Filed Under Local Sports,
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Photo by Cheryl Anderson/for Local Kicks <br />Nacho Figueras, the most famous polo player in the world -- both for his athletic prowess as well as his recognizable face from the Black Label Ralph Lauren and Polo Ralph Lauren ads that are taped on the bedroom walls of teenage girls worldwide -- sat quietly on a stool, eating sushi.
Photo by Cheryl Anderson/for Local Kicks
Nacho Figueras, the most famous polo player in the world -- both for his athletic
prowess as well as his recognizable face from the Black Label Ralph Lauren
and Polo Ralph Lauren ads that are taped on the bedroom walls of teenage
girls worldwide -- sat quietly on a stool, eating sushi.

Nacho Figueras, the face of Ralph Lauren and the world's most famous professional polo player, took the region by storm -- both literally and figuratively – this past weekend.

On Friday evening, an actual Ralph Lauren Polo commercial came to life at the uber-chic Donovan House in the District for Celebrity Polo Night.

The scene: drop-dead handsome men, clad in blue blazers, white pants, and black team polo shirts (natch), casually lying on beige linen "night beds" by the rooftop pool.

Photo by Cheryl Anderson/for Local Kicks <br />The polo players were in town for Sunday's third annual Capital Hospice Polo Cup benefit match at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va.
Photo by Cheryl Anderson/for Local Kicks
The polo players were in town for Sunday's third annual
Capital Hospice Polo Cup benefit match at Great
Meadow in The Plains, Va.

Pretty 20-something girls in very short silk dresses and very high stiletto heels circled the polo players like bees to honey.

Policy-wonk Washington has never had so many gorgeous, athletic men in one place; it was a DC-girl eye candy heaven.
The polo players were in town for Sunday's third annual Capital Hospice Polo Cup benefit match at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va.

The hottie male players included sweet-natured Jose Lezcano and charismatic, turquoise-eyed Juan
Salinas-Bentley.

Suddenly, the perfect Ralph Lauren ad scene was overwhelmed by wind gusts so strong that champagne glasses tumbled and girls frantically grabbed their short dresses to prevent a, um, Britney Spears viewing. Within seconds, a violent summer storm brought quarter-size hail and horizontal rain; forcing panic-stricken girls to push to the exits before the rain ruined their perfectly straight blow-dry hair.

As the crowds pushed me toward the exit, I felt a tap on my shoulder and a hand gave me my pen (which I must have dropped in the chaos). Having seen the interaction, Juan Salinas-Bentley said to me, "You know that was Nacho who picked up your pen?"

I quickly turned around to scan the crushing crowd to see him, but Prince Charming was gone.
Once inside from the storm, the Donovan House's impeccable service had the lobby opened within seconds for the party to continue and rubber mats put down to avoid slipping in high stilettos. Now ensconced in the banquettes of the lobby, the polo players were eating, drinking and talking to their adoring female fans.

Photo by Emily Miller/Local Kicks <br />In policy-wonk Washington, we have never had so many gorgeous, athletic men<br />in one place; it was a DC-girl eye candy heaven. Here, Nacho Figueras with admirers.
Photo by Emily Miller/Local Kicks
In policy-wonk Washington, we have never had so many
gorgeous, athletic men in one place; it was a DC-girl eye
candy heaven. Here, Nacho Figueras with admirers.

Nacho, the most famous polo player in the world, both for his athletic prowess and for his face in ads for  Black Label Ralph Lauren and Polo Ralph Lauren ads that are taped to bedroom walls of teenage girls worldwide, sat quietly on a stool, eating sushi.

As we talked, he bent over to put his arms on the white-pant clad muscular thighs and leaned in within inches of my face. He occasionally pushed a lock of his curly long brown hair behind an ear. He locked eyes so intensely, like politicians who are known for making you feel you are the only one in the room. I had to force myself to occasionally look down at my notepad or I would have been lost in his intense gaze.

Ignacio "Nacho" Figueras started riding horses in his native Argentina at age nine and by 15 he was playing polo regularly.  He travels year-round to follow the polo matches, mostly in the Hamptons, Palm Beach, England and Buenos Aries. Clearly a natural athlete, he also regularly plays tennis, golf and runs.  He practices polo every day and seemed almost apologetic to admit that he had not exercised Friday because he spent the day traveling.

I asked about the physical challenges of the sport. "You have to have constant control of the horse, and good hand-eye coordination of the mallet," he said in his South American accent. "Remember, it’s all moving at the same time- your horse, the ball and the other guys horses."  

Asked if he ever fell off the horse, Nacho responded, "Oh quite often. You know you can die from playing polo. It can be quite dangerous."

Photo by Emily Miller/Local Kicks<br /> <br />The male players included gorgeous and sweet-natured Jose Lezcano<br />and charismatic, turquoise-eyed Juan Salinas-Bentley.
Photo by Emily Miller/Local Kicks
The male players included gorgeous and sweet-natured Jose
Lezcano and charismatic, turquoise-eyed Juan Salinas-Bentley.

Then he looked away briefly as if in his mind he was on his polo pony racing towards the goal. He turned back and looked me in the eye and said, "It's the adrenalin that turns me on."

Be still my beating heart.

The waitress handed him a cold beer, and he offered to get me a drink. I was so bewitched by this adrenalin-chasing, blue-blazered Argentinean that I said, "I can't drink or I really won't be able to focus."

Nacho seems completely oblivious to his charm and attractiveness. He is focused on his goal of bringing attention to the sport of polo and to make it "more accessible to everyone, and not just the elite."

I wondered if Ralph Lauren's decision in the 1970s to make his corporate logo a polo player was helpful in making polo more accessible. Nacho said that Lauren is his partner in growing the sport of polo beyond the Palm Beach-Hamptons crowds. This is why, he said, Ralph Lauren sponsors their team "Black Watch."

He suddenly pushed back the blue blazer to show me the black shirt he was wearing with an oversized polo logo over his heart and the "Black Watch" emblazoned across his broad chest.

Breathe Emily, breathe!

When asked about the most memorable match of his life, he said it was against Prince Harry just a few weeks ago in the Veuve Clicquot Manhattan Polo Classic, played on Governor's Island in New York Harbor.  

Explaining why that match was special to him, Nacho said, "While we had a VIP section for the elite, we also had a free general admission section and 5,000 people came! These people could see the fun of a polo match close up and enjoy a family friendly day. All the New York papers did stories on polo. That match really is what I have been trying to do to change the way the public views polo."

I hated to ruin this beautiful moment, but I had to ask a couple questions that might not go down as smoothly as the cold beer in his glass. How, though, would someone who wasn't rich be able to play polo?

Unlike tennis, which changed from an elitist sport to mainstream, polo requires quite pricey things like ponies and fields. Nacho brushed off my question. "If you live in Texas or Virginia, you have access to horses. So you just need to buy boots and you can borrow a horse and a mallet."

I wanted to follow up by asking if he could name owners of expensive polo horses who would lend them out to strangers or move them to a polo field. But I just couldn't burst his beautiful Ralph Lauren ad bubble, so I just asked, "What brand of boots do you recommend?"

As more food was brought to his table, I said I'd leave him to enjoy his sushi and his friends. Though he invited me to stay and eat with them, I declined, mostly out of my need for water and oxygen.

By Sunday, the big storms had passed but the sky remained overcast at Great Meadow for the polo matches on the big green field to raise money for the Washington Hospice.

Nacho played a magnificent match, wowing the crowd, wielding the mallet like Sir Lancelot and making several goals with seeming ease. He had his horse at practically a 45-degree angle at times to reach for the ball.

Also playing in the match was Italian designer Salvatore Ferragamo, Jr., the grandson and namesake of the shoemaker who founded Florence, Italy-based Salvatore Ferragamo S.p.A., and John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted," a show coordinated by Old Town's National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. After the match, Nacho and the other handsome players were mobbed by girls in desperate need of photos with him, and boys asking for his autograph on polo balls.

By Monday, the storms had passed, the polo players were gone and Washington became, once again, the oft-used phrase, "Hollywood for ugly people."
 
See more photos here

Contact the writer at emily@emilymiller.org.



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