Long before modern-day models danced across Indio's Empire Polo Club for Coachella, Hollywood legends flocked to LA's grassy greens for a fest of the equine kind. The Pacific Palisades' Will Rogers Historic State Park — the last remaining polo field in Los Angeles — will once again host stylish stars when the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic returns to this Saturday.
Now in its seventh year in LA, the horseback event will feature world-renowned Argentinian polo player and model Nacho Figueras, who's made it his mission to bring the matches to the masses. On top of repping Ralph Lauren, the pro athlete recently released Polo Season, a trilogy of romance novels set around the equestrian sport.
"I always say whenever I play [at Will Rogers], I feel like there's good horse [and] polo karma," Figueras tells us. "Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Walt Disney, all those guys played polo there — it's a special place. All the history of that era of Hollywood is really special."
Ahead of this Saturday's stylish event, we met up with Figueras at Culver City's stylish Platform to find out his first memories of Los Angeles, his favorite LA neighborhood, why he thinks it's important to get nervous before every game, and more.
Although tickets are sold out to the luxe champagne brand's fashionable fête, we're offering three lucky readers the chance to win one pair of tickets each. Read on for Figueras' top LA haunts and more, then scroll down below to find out how to score a spot at Saturday's event.
What do you remember about the first time you visited LA?
"I think the first time I ever came to LA was in the year 2000 [and] I loved it here. What's not to love about LA? The weather is great, the people are great. If you've never been to Hollywood, when you think of LA you mostly think of the movies and the Hollywood sign.
Then you realize that LA is so much more than that…you realize LA is much bigger. I expected it to be smaller; everything is very spread out. I don't remember the traffic. So the first time you see the sign, the first time you see actually go to Beverly Hills and you see the homes, and you kind of start to feel that Hollywood Golden era time, that's what I [love] most."
You come to California fairly often. What did you do the last time you were here?
"I went to Santa Ynez, which is on the other side of the mountain [from] Santa Barbara. I've visited Ojai, too. I found out that after all these years [coming here] there's a big horse culture in California."
What are a few of your must-visit spots in LA?
"At least once we go to Nobu Malibu, it's beautiful. [My wife, photographer Delfina Blaquier] likes to go to The Ivy for the artichokes and the flowers. There's also a great vegan restaurant in Venice, Cafe Gratitude. We always go to the Sunset Tower restaurant, and then we just try new things. We see lots of friends."
Would you ever consider moving here?
"At one point in my life I thought about coming here and staying here for a long, longer periods of time and opening a polo school at Will Rogers. I'm too busy and I have too many kids [laughs]. It would be a very big commitment — but you never know, maybe one day."
Do you have a favorite neighborhood?
"I love Malibu; I think that if I lived here, I'd live in Malibu."
You've been playing polo since you were 9, which makes you a 30-year veteran of the sport. How have you seen it grow?
"I think in general the attention has picked up, and Veuve Clicquot had a lot to do with it. In New York we sell out tickets in literally minutes. It's still a sport that is still quite small but having more events like the Polo Classic would really help; we don't have enough of those.
I think more and more people are learning it's a fun sport to watch [and play]. Will Rogers has a polo club year-round so anyone can take lessons there. There's an indoor polo place [in] Burbank; it was pretty big and famous in the '80s. You can play polo in Palm Springs at the Empire Polo Fields [where] you have Coachella."
Since you've been in the game your whole life, do you have a pre-game routine?
"I play polo year-round; I played professionally for 22, 23 years and like every athlete, it requires discipline, you have to eat healthy, you have to be fit, you have to be mentally prepared, you have to be focused. I'm older now, [and] getting ready for a game kind of becomes almost automatic and methodical.
But whenever I have to play a game and I'm [not] nervous, I give myself a hard time because you must be nervous; it makes you focus more. You have to feel the pressure. [Experience] helps you not be nervous and helps you not feel so pressure sometimes because you've been there and done that many times. I still get the butterflies, which I think are important."
Want in? We're offering three lucky readers each a pair of tickets for this Saturday's event — simply shoot an email to [email protected] with the subject line "I want VC Polo Classic tickets!" for a chance to win.