Blinged out polo ponies to help Barbara Sinatra center

bling1The painstakingly painted and blinged out polo pony positioned along the busiest hallway at the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage begs for attention.

It’s decked in glitter, pearls and shiny rhinestones. The polo player is wearing an open tuxedo tie. It’s a fitting addition to the elegant resort.

“It’s dramatic,” gushed Doug Watson, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton, about the temporary art piece in his resort. “People stop and look at it. It looks great. We’re proud to have it here.”

Three other statues featuring polo players on horseback — each delicately decorated and painted by other artists — are located at The Gardens at El Paseo, Merrill Lynch in Indian Wells and Griffin Ranch in La Quinta.

But they are just temporary displays.

The statues will eventually go home with the highest bidder on March 28 during an auction to benefit the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children in Rancho Mirage.

The auction, held at the Eldorado Polo Club, is part of a larger fundraiser that will include a polo game, fashion show and battle of the chef including The Ritz-Carlton executive chef Bruno Lopez.

“It’s so exciting because it’s so different than what we’ve done in the past,” said Nelda Linsk, a member of the children’s center board of directors.

“People have been wanting to have polo again and because it’s the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, it attracts so many people – they want to support the children’s center. This concept is so different. I think it’s going to be a sell-out,” she said.

The polo sculptures already are attracting attention in their temporary homes.

Ritz-Carlton guests have been asking how they can bid on the sculptures. And at The Gardens at El Paseo, shoppers are taking turns getting their photo taken with the “Polo Africa” statue that has the horse painted to resemble a zebra.

“We had to wait in line, everybody was taking their picture. It really became quite a tourist attraction,” said Randy Russell with Polo American, who is helping organize the fundraiser with Linsk.

He anticipated the painted statues could go for anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000. Each artist will get a commission from the auction price.

When Watkins found out his statue, sponsored by Phyllis Washington Antiques and Maison Felice, would be placed at The Ritz-Carlton, he knew it had to be sophisticated with a flair.

“I came up to the Ritz and looked around and said OK I know what I want to do. I got the idea for the saddle, and blanket, the rhinestones — I blinged it out,” Watkins said.

It now has four to five coats of acrylic paint and many embellishments.

Other statues on display include the “Champagne Divot Stomp” statue, which was painted by Dana Donaty. This one sits outside the Merrill Lynch building and features a spraying bottle of Veuve Clicquot.

The “Polo Royal” statue, by Joe Tracy and sponsored by Griffin Ranch, features Britain’s royal family, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Prince Harry and Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Trilogy at the Polo Club is sponsoring “Polo Shopper” by Pat Levey, which is adorned with luxury cars and fancy ladies carrying high end shopping bags.

Many others will soon come on board, said Russell, who expects at least 11 painted ponies by auction.

“The desert is synonymous with polo,” he said. “The statues are such a great way to get everybody excited.”

If you go

The Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children will hold a charity polo game on March 28 at Eldorado Polo Club in Indio that will include a fashion show, polo player statue auction, and Battle of the Chefs competition featuring The Ritz-Carlton executive chef Bruno Lopez.

Tickets are $150.

Call (803) 652-1181 for tickets or more information.

People or companies interested in sponsoring a statue can call Polo America at (803) 341-3882.