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Raring to go: Queenstown Polo's fields, on Malaghans Rd, will host two tournaments early next year

By TRACEY ROXBURGH

Despite closed borders, Queenstown Polo’s planning an ‘international exhibition’ match at its Malaghans Road facility next March.

Now heading in to its third season, the polo farm’s had a tough start in Queenstown — the first Silver Cup match in November, 2018, was hampered by rain, the second day of the Shield exhibition match the following January was canned due to bad weather and then another exhibition match, later in January, was called off due to rain hours before the sun came out.

The weather gods finally relented last December for the second New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Silver Cup — but Covid-19 interrupted the first planned international match here, originally scheduled for March.

Queenstown Polo boss Jonathan Gabler’s now got his fingers firmly crossed the bad luck’s behind him heading in to 2021 and two scheduled tourneys.

He’s talked to the South Island Polo Association and was able to push its planned tournaments back in the calendar, scheduled now for February and March, ‘‘ensuring perfect field conditions and giving us the greatest likelihood of enjoying the most spectacular, stable and enjoyable playing and watching weather,’’ he says.

Fingers crossed: Queenstown Polo boss Jonathan Gabler

The first tourney, on February 13 and 14, is planned as a casual family-friendly ‘‘picnic polo’’ event, with spectators able to bring their own food and drink.

From March 3 to 7, Christchurch will host the Savile Cup — dating back to 1891, it’s one of the oldest sporting trophies in New Zealand — but Gabler says several of the 20-odd teams competing there are keen to head further south and play at Queenstown Polo.

So, from March 10 to 14 they’ve organised a ‘Polo Festival’ of higher-level matches, culminating with the ‘international exhibition’ match, where a sanctioned NZ team will play a Barbarian home team, showcasing NZ’s best players at the highest level of polo — 14 to 16 goal — being played in the country this season, along with several medium-goal matches pitting the South Island against the north.

Gabler says that’ll be a ‘‘smart, country-chic affair’’ with corporate marquees available.

Additionally the facility’s launching its youth polo programme early next year, and is on the hunt for kids aged between 12 and 16 who want to learn to play polo and participate in exhibition chukkas during the March tournament, before competing themselves in Christchurch later that month in the Schools and Universities Polo Association tourney.

Gabler says interested kids have to have equestrian experience, but polo ponies can be provided, if needed.

Anyone interested can email polo@queenstownpolo.com

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz