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Thundering hoof beats: the ponies in action at the Saratoga Polo Field.

Play Time for All

At Saratoga’s polo matches, the upper and middle classes enjoy the fun from opposite sides of the field

By Kirsten Ferguson

 

The 300-yard long Whitney Polo Field in Saratoga Springs, one of the oldest polo fields in the United States, separates two classes of spectators: the general admission tailgaters and the VIP clubhouse goers. On the general admission side, cars back right up to tailgate parking spots along the field, pop the hatches of their vehicles, set up their matching stadium chairs and folding tables, and lay out all kinds of refreshments, from brownies to pulled-pork sandwiches. They stare across the field at the VIP side, which has a separate entrance, an air-conditioned clubhouse, a de facto dress code, seats along the field, and a higher admission cost. There’s no discernable class tension; this is polo after all, and the well-behaved, well-heeled tailgaters lounge in the beds of their brand new pickup trucks or on the roofs of their fire-engine-red Hummer H3s, or sit by the sidelines holding the leashes of their blond Labrador retriever puppies. They could just as well be picnicking on the lawn at the opera or the ballet.

The field itself acts as an effective partition though, keeping the two sides separate for all but two occasions during any given match. While play is underway and horses thundering up and down the field, you cannot cross it without risking a stomping from flying hooves, a walloping from a player’s windmilling mallet, a crack in the head from a polo ball lofted high in the air—or a possible ejection from security personnel. But the two sides of spectators, who reach the field through separate entrances, do come together at halftime, when both sides are egged on to the green field to tramp down offending chunks of brown sod, known as divots, which are kicked up during play by the quick-turning polo ponies. And then at match’s end, after the conclusion of six “chukkers,” or periods, the announcer demands another round of applause for “the players and ponies,” and the victory podium is trucked over to the VIP side. Any still-lingering tailgaters are invited to cross the field to watch the awarding of the trophies and catch a closer glimpse of the sweaty polo players.

The casually dressed tailgaters find that the view is about the same from the other side, but there are sweet strains of jazz music filtering from the VIP tent, and a young Saratoga Polo employee offers up delicious looking cups of purple sangria, knowing how to delicately sidestep anyone who clearly doesn’t belong to the clubhouse side. The clothes are the dead giveaway: The clubhouse women are in dresses and hats, the men in jackets and open collared shirts or ties, both genders distinguished from the general population by their shameless wearing of pastel: a man in bright yellow pants and a yellow checked shirt stands next to a woman in a dress patterned like an elaborate Easter egg. This is the social side, where polo’s reputation as “the sport of kings” is realized. The polo players, dressed in tall brown boots and white jeans, with builds more akin to baseball pitchers than to horse-racing jockeys, mingle about, sipping champagne, signing autographs and making social plans for later. Many are Spanish speaking and split their polo seasons with warmer locales: Aiken, South Carolina; Florida; and Argentina, a country that dominates the world of professional polo.

The tailgate side may lack this feeling of organized socialization, of a group, albeit an exclusive one, coming together over a shared recreation. But it has more to offer for the fans that enjoy preparing their own elaborate picnic feasts and socializing among themselves with families and pets, or watching the trailers of polo ponies that line the tailgate side, horses waiting to enter the match or getting washed down after a busy chukker. But the pleasures of the game are largely the same from either side: the swift action of the field as a team sends the ball flying down the field on a fast break, the ground-vibrating thundering of galloping horses, the threats of stray balls flying over the sidebar, or the sounds of heckling yelled in Spanish.

 

Saratoga Polo matches are played every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday at 5:30 PM at Whitney Polo Field until Labor Day. General admission is $10 per person or $20 per carload; VIP admission is $20 per person. For more information, call (518) 584-8108.

 


Saratoga Calendar

Concerts

SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (Saratoga State Park, Saratoga Springs, tickets: 476-1000). Thu: Velvet Revolver, Alice in Chains, Kill Hannah. Fri: NextFest 2007 with Aly & AJ, Corbin Bleu, Drake Bell, and Bianca Ryan. Sat: Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Flynnville Train. Sun: Poison, Ratt, Vains of Jenna.

UPBEAT ON THE ROOF (Rooftop patio, Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, 580-8080). All shows at 7 PM. Fri: Doc Scanlon with Colleen Pratt.

 

Clubs

9 MAPLE AVENUE (9 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-CLUB). Fri: Tim Olsen Quartet. Sat: Joe Barna Group.

THE ALLEY BAR (Long Alley Road, Saratoga Springs, 587-9766). Tue: karaoke with Mark the Shark.

BAILEY’S (Phila and Putnam streets, Saratoga Springs, 583-6060). Thu: Rick Bolton, the Dwyer Sisters. Fri: Ernie Williams. Sat: Pangaea. Sun: Nate.

BRINDISI’S RESTAURANT (390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-6262). Thu, Sun: Al Bruno. Fri: Standing Room Only. Sat: the Heaters.

CIRCUS CAFÉ (392 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-1106). Thu: open mic with Nate Solomon. Fri: DJ Tommy. Sat: George Boone Blues Band. Wed: Jeanne O’Connor.

THE CLUB HOUSE (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686). Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D.

THE GROTTO NIGHTCLUB (388 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 584-CAVE). Thu: DJ Tec Nic. Fri-Sat: DJ JB. Sun: Poison after-party with C.C. DeVille, Nervous Wreck. Wed: DJ Boy Boy.

HORSESHOE INN (1 Gridley St., Saratoga Springs, 587-4909). Fri: the Audiostars.

IT’S CONFIDENTIAL (38 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 584-0130). Thu: Rocky Velvet. Fri: Bluz House Rockers. Sat: Groove Syndicate.

THE LODGE (1 Nelson Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-7988). Thu: Roger Held. Fri-Sat: George Giroux. Wed: Mark Finken.

MOUZON HOUSE (1 York St., Saratoga Springs, 226-0014). Thu: Joe Gitto and Mo Rancourt. Fri: Darren Lyons Trio. Sat: Sarah Pedinotti Band. Tue: Mouzon House Band. Wed: Colin McCoy and Frank Orsini.

ONE CAROLINE STREET (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026). Thu: Peg Delaney Duo. Fri, Mon: Sarah Pedinotti Band. Sat: Adrian Cohen Trio. Sun: Joe Finn. Tue: Joe Gitto. Wed: Azzaam Hameed Duo.

PANZA’S RESTAURANT (Route 9P, Saratoga Lake, 584-6882). Fri: Peg Delaney. Sat: Colleen Pratt and Peg Delaney.

SARATOGA CITY TAVERN (19 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 581-3230). Mon: Vesper CD release.

SIRO’S (168 Lincoln Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-4030). Thu-Wed: piano bar with Roger Morris. Thu: Capital Soul Review. Fri: New York Players with Jill Hughes. Sat: the Refrigerators. Sun: Johnny Rabb and the Jailhouse Rockers. Wed: Blue Hand Luke.

THIRTEEN (13 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 581-1316). Tue: Mike Grutka Project.

VAPOR NIGHTCLUB (Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, 342 Jefferson St., Saratoga Springs, 584-2110). Fri: Powerhouse.

VENUE NIGHT CLUB (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686). Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D.

 

Performance

The Mop & Bucket Company, Caffe Lena, 47 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs. “Improv Jam,” an evening of audience-interactive, improvised theater. 8/26, 7 PM. Adults $15, $12 students and seniors. 577-6726.

 

Museums & Galleries

462 Broadway, 2nd Floor, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132, (888) ART-1969. Come Together: The Artwork of John Lennon. 8/24-26.

70 Beekman Street Fine Art Gallery, 70 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs. 542-6688. Works by Richard Kane Ferguson.

Gallery 100, 462 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-0818. Horse of a Different Color, works by Audrey Romano.

Gallery on the Hudson, 92 Broad St., Schuylerville, 695-6131. Early and recent paintings by New York City artist Tom Vincent. Also, works by Susan Reynolds and Joyce Vincent. Ongoing.

National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, 99 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-2225. On Browaday. Also, The Dawn of Modern Dance: Music, Myth and Movement, chronicling the lives of Ruth St. Denis and Isadora Duncan; also, works by Frank Ohman. Also, Two Dancers, photography by Charles Bremer and poetry by Robert Bensen. Also, The Moving Figure. Ongoing. Also, Just Black and White, dance photography by Clifford Oliver.

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs. 584-0400. The Voss Family, Artists of American Sporting Life; also, California Images: The Racing Photography of William Mochon; also, the Racing Art Collection of Charles H. Thieriot Collection.

New York State Military Museum, 61 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs. 581-5100. Worth a Thousand Muskets: Civil War Field Artillery; also, Battleground for Freedom: New York during the Revolutionary War; also, World War II: United for Victory; also, Fiery Trial and Sacrifice: New York and the First World War.

Saratoga Automobile Museum, 110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 587-1935 ext. 20. East of Detroit, and New York Racing exhibit. Ongoing. Also, Barn Finds.

Saratoga County Arts Council, Arts Center Gallery, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Saratoga Inside Out.

Saratoga Springs History Museum, Canfield Casino, Congress Park, Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Along the Winding River: A Natural and Human History of the Kayderosseras Creek.

Saratoga Visitors Center, 297 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 587-3241. The Backstretch, Mostly, paintings by R.C. Ewell.

Schick Art Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-5049. Regis Brodie: A Retrospective.

Tang Teaching Museum and Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-8080. West African Masquerade, photographs by Phyllis Galembo.

 

Literary

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga. 8/23-24, 10 AM-noon: Steve Davidovitz will sign The Best and Worst of Thoroughbred Racing; Murray West will sign Dreams of Roses; and William Galvin will sign Ballads of the Turf. 584-0400.

 

Family

Saratoga Spa State Park, Route 9, Saratoga Springs. 8/30, 11 AM: Preschool Naturalists: Fish. Listen to stories, create crafts and play games associated with the outside world. $3/$5. 584-2000 ext. 119.

 

Farmers Markets

Saratoga Farmers Market, High Rock Park, High Rock Avenue, Saratoga Springs. Saturdays, 9 AM-1 PM; Wednesdays, 3-6 PM.

Saratoga Shots

By Martin Benjamin

The future’s so bright: A thoroughbred fan at the Saratoga Race Course.

 

 

Jockey Calvin Borel celebrating on Lady Joanne after winning the $600K Alabama Stakes, Saratoga Race Course, Aug. 19.

 

 


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