ALULA: Amr F. Zedan, chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation and board member of the Saudi Equestrian Authority, said that the second Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo tournament held on Feb. 11-12 will be a “game-changer” for the sport in the Kingdom.
With the return of the world’s first desert polo event, set to take place in AlUla for its second edition after its debut in 2020, the polo enthusiast and owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky said: “Last year, I described the world’s first tournament played in the desert as an ‘appetizer’. This year, it will be the full ‘main course,’ and I’m convinced it can be a game-changer for the sport in the Kingdom.
“As well as a world-class polo tournament, where spectators will witness the world’s best players in action, we’ll also be seeing some of the young up-and-coming Saudi players who were inspired by the first event. For me, that’s legacy in action, and I’m not surprised at all.
“Winston Churchill once said, ‘A polo handicap is a person’s ticket to the world,’ and he was right. That’s why we’ve seen young men and women in the Kingdom take notice and want to get involved.”
As well as the elite tournament, there will also be a series of polo masterclasses, one led by La Dolfina founder Adolfo Cambiaso, who is widely regarded as the best player in the history of the game.
“Prince Bader Al-Farhan, the minister of culture and governor of AlUla, has been one of the driving forces behind this initiative. He saw the potential straight away, and what we delivered last year set a high bar and has provided a great platform to build on for this year,” Zedan said.
The polo event will see four teams compete in a purpose-built desert arena close to the ancient site of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Those taking part will be a mix of invited patrons and professional players drawn from the global polo community.
Players from the legendary La Dolfina Polo team will lead one team each. Many consider La Dolfina to be the perfect team as they have a 40-goal handicap together and are the only team ever to win three consecutive Triple Crowns: the Tortugas Open, Hurlingham Open and Argentine Open in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Recently, the Royal Commission for AlUla and La Dolfina announced the establishment of a long-term partnership as a further step toward the realization of AlUla’s equestrian strategy to establish the city as a premier destination for horse enthusiasts from around the world and develop polo as the “sport of kings” in Saudi Arabia.
Cambiaso has become a destination advocate for AlUla.
“We are excited to return to AlUla and play with fellow patrons and players from all over the world. Since the first edition of Desert Polo, it’s been great to see the interest in polo grow in the Kingdom, and we look forward to developing the sport in newly explored regions such as AlUla,” said Cambiaso.
Zedan said: “We are very excited to welcome back La Dolfina Polo stars and leading polo patrons this year from the US, France and UK. The SPF is committed to supporting the RCU in implementing the vision for equestrian events, infrastructure and activities and in continuing to build on the Arabian horse heritage of the region.”
The vision includes significant infrastructure and facilities, more riding trails and itineraries for visitors to immerse themselves in the majesty of the cultural landscape.
The experience of horseback riding against the desert splendor and rock formations and in the footsteps of past civilizations will create unforgettable memories.
Organized by the RCU in partnership with the SPF, the only major polo tournament staged in the desert is the finale of the 2022 Winter at Tantora festival.
The event also falls on the same weekend as the opening of AlUla Arts, featuring the flagship Desert X AlUla exhibition and the recently announced Alicia Keys “One Night Only” concert at Maraya.