15/04/2010 - 00:00

Saddling up in the valley

15/04/2010 - 00:00

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REGARDED by purists as the true ‘sport of kings’, polo has undergone something of a resurgence in Western Australia in recent years, with five significant events in six months entertaining the sport’s local supporters.

Saddling up in the valley

REGARDED by purists as the true ‘sport of kings’, polo has undergone something of a resurgence in Western Australia in recent years, with five significant events in six months entertaining the sport’s local supporters.

And the equine action is no longer the sole preserve of the well-to-do, as indicated by the increasing presence of the sport in Perth and across the state, with long-time supporters suggesting the regal pursuit’s popularity is growing across various demographics.

One such devotee and co-host of this weekend’s inaugural Barbagallo Polo in the Valley event is Prendiville Enterprises chairman and Sandalford Wines owner, Peter Prendiville.

Mr Prendiville told Business Class he was excited to host what’s expected to become an annual event at his family’s private estate, Duncraig Stud, in the Swan Valley.

“I’ve been playing polo in WA for 20 years,” Mr Prendiville says.

“There’s been polo here for 100 years now out at Kings Meadow in Guildford; it’s one of the original polo areas in Australia, so it’s not a new sport by any stretch of the imagination.”

History suggests a type of polo was first played about 2,000 years ago by Chinese and Persian elite cavalry units, which used the game as a training exercise.

Mr Prendiville and his wife, Debra, will host the event, which will feature some of the state’s upcoming local talent as well as the best professional players from Australia and New Zealand, including Australian captain Glen Gilmore.

Aside from the sport, Mr Prendiville says the event is being held to raise awareness of youth suicide, and he is encouraging others to follow his lead in this regard.

“My wife and I decided we wanted to give to an organisation that was best placed to make a difference to youth suicide,” he says of his family’s $50,000 donation to Youth Focus, a charity for the prevention of youth suicide.

“More people commit suicide than die on our roads and that’s a tragic statistic.”

Back on the field, unwavering battle lines have been drawn between father and sons.

“Not only do I love the sport and horses but I also enjoy the opportunity to play with my sons, and I have four sons and they all play,” he says. “It’s one of the sports you can do with the whole family and where a father and son can play together in a very competitive style.”

Mr Prindiville believes he still has the wood on his children but admitted his dominance won’t last forever.

“One day the kids will be better, they’re coming up at a rate of knots and they’ll be very good players, but at the moment I’ve still got the drop on them,” he says.

“The handicap says it all; their handicaps are going up at a rate of nines and mine is only going one way.”

In December, the Paspaley Polo in the City event, an annual polo series held in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, ventured west for the first time, landing in Langley Park offering free viewing for interested punters.

Taking place in May will be Paspaley Beach Polo 2010, Australia’s first and only beach polo event, to be staged at Broome’s Cable Beach.

It’s the initiative of Paspaley Pearls matriarch, Marilynne Paspaley, and Polo Enterprises Australia owner, Janek Gazecki who launched the Polo in the City series.

Mr Gazecki says Paspaley Beach Polo heralds an exciting new era for Australian polo as Cable Beach joins a handful of locations around the world, including Miami, Dubai and Goa, to host beach polo.

“Beach polo tournaments are rare because they require a specific mix of sand consistency, tidal considerations and beach gradient; Cable Beach has it all, along with sweeping sands, turquoise waters and the distinctive red pindan earth of the Kimberley,” he says.

And just last month the City of Swan held the inaugural Swan Autumn Polo Festival at King’s Meadow, including the WA Open Polo Tournament, sponsored by WesTrac.

 

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