Polo paves the way for St Regis to make a grand entry in India. And everyone, dressed in finest fashion and etiquettes, is applauding
By: Suman Tarafdar
Posted on: January 27, 2015
Polo paves the way for St Regis to make a grand entry in India. And everyone, dressed in finest of fashion and etiquettes, is applauding
The afternoon could hardly have been more propitious for St Regis as the global luxury hotel brand held its first ever public event in India.
Perfect weather with soft sunshine, packed audiences that included members of the erstwhile Jaipur royal family, celebrities from far and near, and of course, the presence of the ‘Beckham of polo’ – Nacho Figueras and the prancing horses – all made it an afternoon befitting some of the grandest events St Regis has been known for.
St. Regis, part of hospitality group Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and a top global luxury hotel chain, has had a long association with polo. The genesis lay at the turn of the 20th century when polo matches on Manhattan’s Governors Island were the highlight of the New York social calendar and St. Regis’ founding family, the Astors, were pre-eminent patrons of the sport.
St. Regis partnered with Rajasthan Polo Club (RPC), Jaipur to sponsor the Maharaja Bhawani Singh St. Regis Cup 2015. Paul James, global brand leader, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, and W Hotels Worldwide, said, “We are pleased to support polo for the first time in India. We look forward to offering St. Regis guests, spectators and their families the opportunity to experience this exhilarating sport here in India, as we have done around the world from Bangkok to Buenos Aires and from Abu Dhabi to Aspen.”
Commenting on the event, Maharaj Narendra Singh, son in law of the former ruler of Jaipur, said, “It is a matter of great pride and celebration that St. Regis Hotels & Resorts has partnered with the Rajasthan Polo Club, Jaipur to sponsor the Maharaja Bhawani Singh St. Regis Polo Cup 2015. This will have a long lasting effect in popularising the glamorous sport of polo. I am personally grateful to the St. Regis for their magnanimous sponsorship and hope that this is the beginning of a long and lasting partnership between them and the Rajasthan Polo Club, Jaipur.”
The Maharaj himself led the RPC team in an exhibition match against the St Regis team in a thrilling game. The St Regis team won eventually by 6-5, and the match remained very close right through, with the RPC team leading for the first three chukkars (a Hindi term originated in India interestingly and used throughout the world today in polo). Figueras cut a dashing figure, but the star of the match was his son Hilario, who scored a hat trick. Figueras incidentally is the first St. Regis Connoisseur, and has helped cement the brand’s historic involvement with polo and the sport's ubiquitous style around the world.
Incidentally Maharaj Narendra Singh’s son, Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur, also played in the other match of the day – the final of the Maharaja Bhawani Singh St. Regis Polo Cup 2015 between 61st Cavalry and Sahara Warriors. A number of top-level Indian players were also present including Syed Shamsheer Ali, India’s highest ranked player, Sameer Suhag and many others. Ali delighted in particular with his skillful mallet histrionics which had the audience rooting for him.
The Jaipur Polo grounds is one of the most picturesque with the erstwhile royal residence Moti Doongri in the backdrop. The grounds themselves were awash with colour and experience. The match was preceded by a parade of horses, with the players riding their steeds. Mr James was the chief guest and a dashing figure as he rode a vintage car. Guests were just as colourfully attired, with many who could have fit in perfectly at Ascot. An even more festive look was created with the multi-hued flags and pennants.
The St. Regis heritage was on full display at the high tea that followed in beautiful white tents. Prepared by a special team of chefs from Delhi, the guests were greeted with the iconic St. Regis Bloody Mary cocktail, as well as the Polo Mary, a special concoction created for all St. Regis polo events around the world. The famed cocktail has been a part of the St. Regis brand history since 1934 when Fernand Petiot, bartender at the King Cole Bar at The St. Regis New York, first created the ‘Red Snapper,’ which would later be renamed the Bloody Mary. Sandwiches to meringues, cocktails to ‘champagne’ - the 300 odd guests tucked in as they caught up with old friends and made new ones.
Polo’s historic association with India is acknowledged the world over, and many of India's leading polo players have been courted and feted across the world. The erstwhile royals patronised it, and their descendants continue the tradition, especially in Rajasthan. Add to that Jaipur’s colour and exotica, and polo could hardly have a more ideal home.
Suman Tarafdar is a journalist and writer based in Delhi. He has worked with a number of leading Indian media organisations, and writes on various aspects of luxury, lifestyle and culture. When not writing to earn a living, he likes to travel, read, cook, chat, shop and watch all kinds of soppy stuff on TV. Yes, current politics bothers him