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Plant City Observer Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 3 years ago

Charity Polo Classic gallops into Plant City

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by: Justin Kline Sports/Associate Editor

The “Sport of Kings” makes its return to Plant City this weekend.

For the third year, Plant City’s DI Polo will host the Charity Polo Classic this Saturday. The annual fundraiser will feature polo matches, a lunch buffet, a fashion show, a hat contest, a silent auction and award presentations for Most Valuable Player and Best Playing Pony.

Money raised will benefit three organizations: Children’s Cancer Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County and the Children’s Dream Fund.

“We are honored to be participating in the third annual Morgan Auto Group Charity Polo Classic,” Children’s Cancer Center COO Patty O’Leary says. “There is a great synergy between the three benefiting children’s charities and we’re grateful that the funds raised from the event will directly assist our programs to support the emotional, educational and financial needs of the families we serve.”

A pair of Tampa Bay residents, Chris Gannon and Patrick Moralites, created in 2011, the Charity Polo Classic. Gannon, a professional polo player, and Moralites, a member of the Children’s Cancer Center board, realized a polo event would be a great way to raise money for local non-profits — especially because it would automatically be unique in the area.

Children’s Cancer Center provides support to children and their families battling cancer or chronic blood disorders. Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs its volunteers, called “Bigs,” with younger children, “Littles,” from single-parent and low-income families, to provide mentorship and support. Children’s Dream Fund helps fulfill dreams for children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and who live in West Central Florida.

All proceeds go straight to these charities, and this five-hour event does a lot of work in a little time. In 2013, the Charity Polo Classic had 700 people in attendance and raised more than $130,000 for these non-profits. This year, the event committee hopes to double that number.

Anyone attending the Charity Polo Classic for the first time can expect to rub elbows with some of Tampa Bay’s most prominent names and catch an action-packed, sometimes bloody sport that you can’t often catch on television. And, though the ticket price doesn’t suggest a cheap day out on the town, all spectators can rest assured that every single penny is going to a good cause.

Contact Justin Kline at [email protected].

POLO PRIMER

Maybe soccer is the best comparison for this game: One could consider it “four-on-four soccer with horses and hammers.”

The field is 300 yards long by 160 yards wide, and the goals are eight yards wide by 10 feet high. Teams are divided into four players, numbered by their role on the field: No. 1 is a pure scorer, No. 2 plays a little bit of defense, No. 3 does everything well (and, much like a No. 10 in international soccer, is considered the best player on the team), and No. 4 strictly plays defense. They all have to hit the ball right-handed and are penalized for reckless riding and dangerous mallet use.

Each match is about 90 minutes long and broken up into periods, called “chukkers.” There are generally six chukkers per match, divided by three-minute intermissions. There is also a 15-minute halftime period, in which spectators traditionally walk onto the grounds and stomp the divots the horses created.

And that’s just one of the rules for spectators, who generally have to use binoculars to better see what’s going on. The rest of the rules are all about aesthetics.

Men are required to dress in semi-formal attire — chinos or dress pants, with a button-down shirt or polo, is the bare minimum. Women wear dresses, long or mid-length, and are encouraged to accessorize. They’re also encouraged to not wear stilettos or similar high heels, but that’s clearly a terrible idea when attending a sport that requires them to stomp divots into the ground.

IF YOU GO

CHARITY POLO CLASSIC

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22

WHERE: DI Polo, 1003 Cowart Road

DETAILS: Event will feature polo action, a lunch buffet, silent auction, fashion and hat contests, and more.

TICKETS: $175 per person

WEBSITE: CharityPoloClassic.com

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