By Alison Bailin Batz
Photo by Delfina Blaquier Recall
Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras was born in Argentina in 1977.
“While soccer is far and away the most popular sport in my country, children like me who lived on small farms surrounded by horses often got into playing polo from very young ages,” says Figueras, who began playing himself at age nine just outside of Buenos Aires.
By age 17, Europe – and the chance to play professionally – beckoned.
“I had a friend already playing professionally in France, and he told me the team was looking for someone with my skill set,” says Figueras, who would go on to play across Europe from 1994 to 1999, dividing his time between continents.
Then, in 1999, Figueras made his way to the U.S. to begin playing for the Greenwich Polo Club.
“Within the club, I began my American polo career with White Birch, one of their most successful teams historically,” Figueras says.
Figueras would also have a chance encounter with fashion photographer Bruce Weber that same year, which would quickly change the course of his entire life.
“Bruce shot all of Ralph Lauren’s campaigns,” Figueras says. “Within the year, I was a polo player modeling for the Polo brand, which was pretty kismet.”
And he did more than simply model. Over the past two decades, Figueras’ face has become synonymous with the brand, so much so that since 2005, he has been the face of Ralph Lauren’s Black Label line, and since 2009, has represented its entire line of fragrances. (Take a look at the outline of the man on horseback on the fragrances’ polo logo – that’s Figueras.)
His looks would gain more than just Ralph Lauren’s attention. In 2009, Figueras was voted among the most handsome men in the world (ranking second only to Robert Pattinson but beating out Brad Pitt) by the readers of Vanity Fair. That same year, he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show for an episode titled “Meet the Most Famous People in the World.”
More recently, Figueras lent his name – and face on the covers – to a series of romance novels set in the polo world. While he didn’t write them, he did serve as inspiration for the writers as well as provide suggestions on characters and real-world examples of what happens before, during and after matches. To date, there are three Nacho Figueras Presents novels – High Season, Ride Free and Wild One – in print by Hachette Book Group.
Today, Figueras plays for the Greenwich Polo Club’s BlackWatch team, which he also co-owns.
“The team is named in homage to the Scottish Black Watch regiment that served the British Crown for more than 260 years,” Figueras says. “Like when I first got my start, I still divide my time between continents, living and playing half of the year in the U.S. and then the rest in Argentina, where I also still play as well as serve as an ambassador for the country and run my own businesses.”
And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of his projects and works.
“My mission is to bring polo to the world, be it through novels, modeling or actual hard-fought play,” says Figueras, who went so far as to bring polo to Manhattan – in front the Statue of Liberty, no less – with the founding of the now-annual Veuve Clicquot Manhattan Polo Classic in 2009.
Beyond the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, now in Los Angeles as well as New York and attended by celebrities and sports figures from across the globe, he supports Sentebale, a charity co-founded by the Duke of Sussex (better known in America as Prince Harry) to help children in Botswana and Lesotho, Africa, who live in extreme poverty, especially those living with HIV/AIDS.
“I started with Sentebale by playing in charity polo matches with Prince Harry all over the globe with the mission of raising funds for the organization but quickly found myself motivated to action,” Figueras says. “For the past several years, I’ve been proud to serve as an appointed ambassador for the organization, allowing me to bring hope – and even a little polo fun – to the children firsthand.”
Figueras is also in the process of launching a polo club in Napa Valley. And, back in his home country, he and his wife have a successful horse-breeding business while raising four children ranging in age from 5 to 18.
And then, of course, there is his visit to Scottsdale next month.
“I’ve been wanting to be a part of the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships since its inception, but the timing just never worked out until this year,” says Figueras, who will be playing thanks to the Aspen Valley Polo Club. “Aspen Valley is the event’s three-time defending champion, and I want to help them fight toward number four.”
The Polo Party
The Eighth Annual Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses & Horsepower, also known as The Polo Party, will take place Nov. 10 and 11 at WestWorld of Scottsdale. The weekend spectacle will also see model and polo player Ashley Busch, who is married to NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, return to Scottsdale for her second year. Busch will play with the Wales Polo Team, taking on Figueras and the Aspen Valley Polo Club in the signature match on Saturday. There will also be teams from Italy, Santa Ynez Wine Country and Miami joining the Arizona Polo Club, Polo Azteca and Work to Ride, the first all African-American high school polo champions in U.S. history. The inspirational story of Work to Ride has been featured on 60 Minutes, HBO and ESPN.
“Saturday will have four matches with two on Sunday including the final match, The International, which will feature the best players from the weekend playing each other for the highest goal match of the event,” Figueras says.
The International will be preceded by a “Battle of the Sexes” match in honor of the late Sunny Hale, who is considered one of the greatest female polo players of all time and who played in the Scottsdale event on two occasions.
Last year, more than 13,000 people enjoyed The Polo Party, with even more expected this year, thanks in great part to Figueras’ involvement.
In addition to Figueras, new additions to the 2018 event will include DJ-infused party tents courtesy of the Scottsdale-based Riot Hospitality Group; a Champagne-tasting experience in the Barrett-Jackson Champagne and Jazz Lounge; and a fashion, art and beauty tent – the F.A.B. – featuring a pop-up art gallery by Scottsdale-based Larsen Art Gallery and Auction, sideline manicures by Talking Stick Resort Spa, and fashion displays by Evan’s Furs, LoveOverH8 and more. There will also be a new pop-up sports bar, Hall Pass, allowing sports fans to catch football games while also watching polo.
Fan-favorite returning events include The Canine Couture Dog Fashion Show, The World’s “Longest” Catwalk Fashion Show by Phoenix Fashion Week, a preview of the 2018 Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, PRIME: A Luxury Tent Experience by Neiman Marcus, and the Molina Fine Jewelers VIP Tent. Anchoring the weekend festivities will be The Sunday Brunch: Presented by Scottsdale Maserati.
Find more information and purchase tickets to The Polo Party at www.thepoloparty.com.