Photo By Walter G. Arce Photos
The world knows Ashley Busch (née Van Metre) as an accomplished model, polo player and entrepreneur. An award-winning equestrian and glowing newlywed, she has big hopes for the future, including being a mom someday soon. But, for now, Busch is set to make her first debut at the Seventh Annual Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses & Horsepower, something borne out of her early love for the sport.
Busch started her equestrian career at the tender age of 5. Raised in Middleburg, Virginia, Busch admits that there was a sense of power and connection the first time she rode a horse. She was 11 years old when she held her first polo mallet, and after trying out for her first polo team, she had found her niche. Her excitement for the new sport also encouraged the rest of the Busch family to give it a try.
“For years, I begged my dad for my own pony. It takes six ponies to really be able to play the game and I didn’t even have one,” Busch says. “But first, he wanted to make sure I was really committed to the sport. He would take me to the stables daily, and then one day I walked in and there she was, Chocolate. A horse of my very own.”
Over the course of her career, Busch went on to play in competitive polo tournaments across South America, Europe and the U.S. Her career highlights include winning the Port Macaya 14-goal alongside Carlos Gracida Sr., winning the Polo Club (IPC) 12-goal, and being undefeated in the Hobe Sound 8-goal tournament.
In 2015, Busch was named MVP after her team, Altair Polo, won the 8-Goal Spring Challenge Tournament at Grand Champions Polo Club. In April 2017, her team won the Grand Champions Cup for her second spring tournament victory in three years.
In addition to being a competitive polo player, Busch also modeled with renowned Wilhelmina Models. Best known as the face of the United States Polo Association (USPA), she has been featured in several global campaigns, including the association’s 125th anniversary campaign in 2010.
“After years as an athlete, modeling gave me a new sense of purpose,” says Busch, who is also a brand ambassador for La Isla Swimwear. “Not only was I able to celebrate something I truly believed in [USPA], I also had a hand in making the sport of polo more relatable.”
The same sense of purpose extends into Busch’s dedication to numerous philanthropic ventures. She frequently hosts polo exhibitions such as Polo for a Purpose benefitting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Van Metre 5-Mile Run for Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
In 2011, Busch really met her match: Kurt Busch, a 27-time winner in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series and reigning Daytona 500 champion. He had the charisma of a champion and the humbleness of the guy next door – two things that captured Busch’s attention. Six years later, in January 2017, they married in a star-studded affair.
Now she admits, “He is more like me than people realize. We’re both competitors, we both understand time on the road and the commitment that this lifestyle takes. I am lucky that I have a guy like him, [one who] respects me as an athlete and loves that I am as committed as he is to my sport.”
In fact, the newly named Mrs. Busch says he is an incredible cheerleader for her polo team – and sometimes more.
“He always tries to play waterboy,” Busch laughs. “You can see him at my polo matches bringing water to the players. I always tell him not to, but he’s all about keeping my team hydrated. It’s really incredibly sweet.”
He’s not the only supporter in the family. Busch has been known to be a consistent sideline figure at Kurt’s NASCAR races. She even has one track that is a favorite, right here in the Valley.
“Phoenix International Raceway is a favorite of mine. I love the track, the staff and the fact that every day has perfect conditions for racing,” Busch says. “I also have to say it’s one of my favorite destinations for food, fun and shopping. This city is one of our favorites because we can really enjoy a workday, yet it feels like a destination. I’m not sure how Phoenicians do it!”
Busch has her own workday coming up, as one of the star players in the upcoming Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships. She’ll kick off the event Oct. 5, making her Scottsdale debut at The Evans Furs and Leathers Polo Preview Party at Dominick’s Steakhouse. The party, which will be held in the rooftop dining room from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., will include hors d’oeuvres, a no-host bar, a performance by the Phoenix Opera, and the opportunity to mingle with Busch and other polo players.
Then, on Nov. 11, Busch will represent the undefeated Aspen Valley Polo Club as they take on the Monte-Carlo Polo Club. Also joining the same team will be polo legend Mike Azzaro, who will make his debut appearance at The World’s Greatest Polo Party.
Last year, The Polo Party drew the biggest polo crowd in the country with more than 11,000 fans, and, this year, attendees can expect more of the same excitement. Favorite returning events will include The Canine Couture Dog Fashion Show, The World’s “Longest” Catwalk Fashion Show, and previews of the 2018 Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction and 2018 Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show.
Of course, there are also plenty of new (and delicious) additions, including a field-side Sandbar tent, a fried chicken and Champagne lounge aptly named “Fried and Fizzy,” and a VIP tent called Prime: A Luxury Tent Experience. And be sure to get your tickets ahead of time for the Scottsdale Maserati Brunch on Sunday, an ideal way to round out a weekend of nonstop thrills.
It’s an event perfect for the Busch duo. And Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships Director Jason Rose can’t wait.
“Ashley Busch has the charisma, culture and panache that really makes this a star-studded event,” Rose says. “We were even more thrilled when Kurt Busch said he will be on hand not only to cheer on his wife but do the ‘first drop’ for her match. Their affection for each other is really infectious.”
Busch has experienced so much, yet she’s not quite ready to stop. She dreams of building polo teams, designing her own swim line, traveling the world, and being at her husband’s side as he vies to win another NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. And, of course, she has a few other plans.
“I’ve accomplished a lot, and it’s been an incredible year with Kurt. We’re ready for whatever the future holds,” Busch says. “Maybe even putting a few little baby Buschs in a NASCAR or atop a pony. Truly, I can’t wait.”
And, like many others, the Buschs will be gearing up on Nov. 11 to experience the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships and witness what is one of the most exciting events in the Valley.
“I am thrilled to be playing in the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships,” Busch says. “For years now, I’ve been hearing about the event, the party, and the sheer numbers of attendees. I am so honored to be playing for Aspen Valley and look forward to bringing the Molina Cup home to Aspen Valley again.”
Find Busch on Twitter and Instagram at @mrsashleybusch and purchase tickets to The Polo Party at www.thepoloparty.com.