The 25th anniversary of the Harvest Cup Polo Classic in Folsom, which kicked off in late April, was long overdue.
Traditionally the biggest annual fundraiser on the North Shore, the charity event was halted by COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. But on a recent weekend the Summergrove Farms polo ground was bustling with spectators , decked out in hats and their finest Sundays, can’t wait to see these long-awaited matches.
“We didn’t want to wait to hold the event in October when it normally takes place because it had already been 21/2 years,” said Jennifer Jeanfreau, vice president of fund development for the Junior League of Greater. Covington, who is chairing the event.
“We really had to thread the needle when choosing a date because we had Easter in early April and Mother’s Day in early May, and of course April is known for showers, so we were just hoping for no rain. .”
The weather was good. But there was some drama when one of the amateur players on the Lee Michaels-sponsored team fell off his horse, breaking his collarbone and several ribs during the featured match.
An ambulance rushed across the gigantic pitch – three times the size of a football pitch – to take the player, a local pediatrician, to hospital.
There is one pro per team. But of the six amateur players who took part in the event’s star game, three were doctors, including two neurosurgeons. Dr. Sebastian Koga, a neurosurgeon who practices in Covington, is also president of the New Orleans Polo Club and owner of Carpathia Farm.
A contact sport
Koga is a man who knows the history of polo.
“It’s one of the few sports where amateurs play with professionals, so there are different levels of ability,” Koga said. “The doctor who fell off his horse was on my team. But, to be clear, it’s a contact sport, and the last so-called violent sport on horseback in the western world. others, it’s not croquet.”
Indeed no. In fact, David Fennelly, the owner of Summergrove Farms, where the event has been held for 10 years, hasn’t played this year as he recovers from an injury.
“I certainly wouldn’t paint our sport as a straight-up fight,” Fennelly said. Although there are risks, most injuries are to the collarbones, arms and ribs, doctors said. Helmets protect against head injuries.
“We have all levels of play, from young kids to an 81-year-old playing here. And, we have as many women as men, so there’s a polo shirt for everyone. Not just the 10 scorers.
The best in the world
The 10 goalscorers, as they are known, are the creme de la creme of polo players, and nearly all come from Argentina, the breeding ground for the world’s best players, whose ponies have dominated the sport.
Most “goals”, or handicaps, over 5 belong to the pros. With handicaps ranging from -2 to 10, a team of four players can have many different levels.
At the Harvest Cup Polo Classic, pro Segundo Ortiz, originally from Argentina, played on the winning Mercedes-Benz sponsored team of Covington. He has a storied past and was part of the Pony Express team that won the US Open in 1988. He’s still a mercenary for polo matches, but he spends most of his time raising horses at his Turning Point horse farm in Folsom.
“I’m 62 now, and I was a 6-goal player in my prime, now I’m a 2,” Ortiz said. “I’m one of three or four pros who stay at Folsom year-round, but my main focus is to breed horses that will be the next great racehorses, showjumpers or polo ponies. “
The love of horses
Neurosurgeon Dr. Lori Summers was on the winning team with Ortiz at this year’s Classic. When Summers isn’t operating, she raises horses. Her love of horses dates back to her days as a rodeo queen, growing up in Kansas City.
“I have about nine ponies now, bred with Argentine horses, and I had a few with me to go to the charity event,” Summers said. the slaughterhouse. They can play polo until their last years. I have a 23 year old playing with me.
The Harvest Cup began in the 1990s when French Quarter Jennifer Rice moved to a horse farm in Folsom and wanted an event that would entertain her New Orleans friends. It has become quite the showstopper under the management of the Junior League.
With additional sponsors including NOLA Lending, Champagne Beverage with Stella Artois and Inside Publications, the event raised $110,000 this year for North Shore charities. The 800 participants are eager to find their favorite ponies in 2023.
Contact Leslie Cardé at [email protected]