Ever wondered where your globetrotting friends spirit off to at some point during the last autumn leaves of late November, leaving only the echo of snapping Vuitton buckles in your ears?
It must be the Argentine Open.
Come early December, Palermo seethes with high octane glamour as brooding polo players in white trousers eye up jaw-droppingly beautiful girls who prowl after the bulging wallets of international moguls. While the entertainment in the post- match Chandon tent may be draw enough, there is the game itself: 8 chukkas of the fastest, sleekest and most aggressive polo to be found the world over, where the world’s top 8 players and their million dollar ponies do battle over 8 intensive chukkas (a gruelling 60 minutes) for the title. Combine an F1 nail-biter with a World Cup final and this is what the Open is to Polo. A long time favourite fixture on Dehouche’s social calendar for a brilliant insight into Argentine high society if nothing else, we have put together our guide on how to do the Palermo Open like a Ten Goal Pro.
How to get in: Tickets to the Argentine Open final are mythical things, one day there are thousands and the next they are almost all gone- so make sure you book ahead ( and we mean weeks ahead). To live it up as a head honcho for the day, splash out on a seat in Tribuna C Central where, for around $450 dollars a pop, you can rub shoulders with rich patrons and avoid squinting into the sun. However, with the recent hike in ticket prices, a seat in an almost parallel position on the opposite side of the field at Dorrego Central is looking like the increasingly intelligent choice. While traditionally the more popular stand, filled with the die-hard local fans of the battling finalists, Dorrego has recently upped the stakes with a new bar courtesy of the chic Argentine-Italian restaurant NoveCento. At 200 pesos and the chance to sit by the pony lines, pick up a sun tan and not be glared at for mid-chukka chatting, this is the laid-back, atmospheric option that leaves a lot of pocket change for post match champagne. Tickets can be bought online at Ticketek and info on match start times at The Argentine Polo Association . For the ultimate experience, Dehouche will provide you with your personal polo guide, a professional player who will act as an expert window into the polo scene and talk you through the action both on and off the field.
How to do Post Match– The Chandon bar under the Tribuna stand is where the action happens post match, as players role off the field and the well-heeled crowds descend on the bar to buy bottle after bottle of pink bubbly. Anyone who has ever pondered the enduring popularity of Black Eyed Peas ‘I Gotta Feeling’, will find their answer here: Euro-trash classics hype up a whole slew of international characters and for pure people watching purposes alone this one is not to be missed. With a cash only bar, make sure you come well prepared.
How to do Dinner: At some point you are going to remember that champagne is not, in fact, food and be suddenly, ravenously hungry. Slip out the back gates and you will find yourself in the charming streets of Las Canitas, a chic barrio and polo stomping ground where top spots include Italians Novecento and Doppio Zero and the Japanese Moshi Moshi. Woe betide those who have not made a reservation however, who will find themselves fainting on the pavements beside post-match revellers who queue for a table long into the night. If neither foreword planning nor waiting is your strong point, then hop into a taxi to nearby Palermo Hollywood for cocktails and Scandinavian specialities amid the trees in Olsen’s alfresco courtyard.
How to dress: This is one of those occasions where it pays to dress up and fit in, however much your Bermuda shorts and flip flops may be calling you. Sleek hair, big sunglasses and chic summer dresses will blend into the crowd and Girls, if you are on the hunt, the general rule goes that the higher the heals, the richer the catch. For Guys: shirts, chinos and loafers- yes, it’s the preppy look but we promise you will finally understand what Ralph Lauren was on about.
The Rules: Each player’s handicap is rated out of ten according to their hypothetic scoring capacity, the game is divided into sections called chukkas that last 7 and a half minutes, when the referee… wait, hold your horses, there is no way we can explain the elaborate intricacies of polo in a mere paragraph, and while no one expects you to be a specialist, you wouldn’t turn up to a football match without even a vague understanding on the off-side rule. Understanding what is happening on the field makes it infinitely more interesting and impressive, and means questions about the state of play can be kept to under a 100 and you can slip in some passable post-match chit chat if put under pressure. For the studious, there is a library full of rule and etiquette books that will manage to make one of the world’s most high powered sports as enthralling as watching paint dry. We know it’s wrong, but for a complete debrief of the polo scene and rules that can be skim read on the plane, Jilly Cooper’s Polo is still the ticket.
Do say: Cambiaso’s grey in the fourth chukka won best playing pony in the Gold Cup last year
Don’t say: You would think that as professional polo players they might manage to stop the horses bumping into one another.
How to do After-Parties–
Like Cinderella on the stroke of midnight, at a certain point of the eveningeveryone suddenly disappears and if unprepared, you could be left bopping awkwardly to Rihanna with not even a glass slipper in hand. Where do all the party people go? While some swan back to their estancias in the campo, the rest divide between private parties held by the international jet-set across the city. Keep your ears open to catch where it is happening.
How to do it yourself-
While sipping champagne on the sidelines and flicking through 80’s blockbusters might constitute dipping a baby toe in the polo waters, there is nothing like learning yourself to understand the complexity, drive and all consuming passion that characterizes polo. For the real deal, Dehouche will arrange for you to spend a few days out in the Campo, with a tailor-made polo schedule complete with coaching from a former Palermo champion, long lazy asados and late- afternoon practice matches. For the more experienced, our extensive network of contacts can help with buying horses and transporting them home. A word of warning though, Polo is horribly, wonderfully addictive. As the saying goes, ‘The easy part is learning how to play, the hard part is learning how to make the money’.
How to to get the look: Inspired by the days dashing heroes to rethink next year’s summer look? Let’s be honest, the reason people dress like polo players is because they want other people to suspect that that is what they, in fact, are- so steer clear of the ubiquitous La Martina jersey at all costs (currently on parade from Sao Paulo to London, Miami to Tokyo) as it won’t do you any favours. Instead opt for one of the smaller team’s polo jerseys, preferably a second hand one nabbed off a real player. For the off-duty look, Etiqueta Negra has all the classics, but if you fancy channelling gaucho chic, then head to traditional store Arandu (Paraguay 1259, Retiro), stocked with leather belts, Alpargatas and Boinas at a third of the price. As the vibe in this year’s Dorrego stand proved, laid back is where it is at.