Laurent Feniou, managing director of Cartier UK, makes little bones about his passion for polo and some favourite memories on the lawns of England, which include meeting HM The Queen and Facundo Pieres.
And his admiration, as Cartier sponsors the Queen’s Cup at Guards Polo Club this year for the fifth time, for how “Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is able to achieve these impressive results both in polo with King Power Foxes as well as in football with Leicester City.”
Feniou took over from Arnaud Bamberger only from last summer, but has already experienced polo’s subtle powers at the inner sanctum.
“I cherish meeting Facundo Pieres,” he explained of the sport’s Lionel Messi, “for me he’s one of very the best players in the world, who’s a highly skilled and just as passionate a player.”
“Facundo has won the last two Cartier Queen’s Cups, in 2014 with Zacara and last year with the impressive King Power Foxes, scoring four goals in the final.”
Then also a glowing admiration (perhaps in a business sense) from the Frenchman, for the young King Power patron and his family, on track to win The Premier League, given their huge investment into their ponies, player and infrastructure at last season’s double winning British high goal champions.
A little lesson in history here. Cartier first sponsored the International Day at Guards Polo Club in 1984 – which grew to become the largest and most spectator-led polo event in the world, attracting over 25,000 people to the club at Windsor Great Park at its height.
The Princes played, the best nations in the world went 4-on-4 with England each year, and at the conclusion of play, as the sun set across its long flat plain to the woodland of green baize at its backdrop, revellers and players and friends and families looked back on the season with a feeling that it was ‘the end of term’.
It was always a day for pomp and night for nostalgia. Cartier helped create that. It was the Hurlingham Polo Association locker day, and for a long time, a banker for revenue to run the governing body, create scholarships and so forth.
That association with Cartier ended in 2013 with International Day, yet Cartier have stayed with Guards, and its Queen’s Cup tournament.
Feniou said that Cartier has “built up a unique legacy over the past 30 years”, and it will not be going anywhere, anytime soon.
Feniou told Telegraph Sport: “Cartier’s relationship with polo is historically distinctive and we have built up a unique legacy. Particularly, the Cartier Queen’s Cup is an iconic, English event, Cartier’s flagship tournament in its global polo sponsorship campaign, which also includes Dubai and the snow polo in St Moritz.”
Cartier has chosen perspicaciously. The trophy was first presented to the Club by HM The Queen in 1960 and she historically attends on finals day to present the silver cup to the winning patron. It is regarded as 22-goal pro-am polo at its very, very best.
Feniou added: “These events are perfectly in line with the values of the maison and our longevity as a sponsor in the sport gives us credibility within the polo community. Now I want to build on the unique position that we have within the game and create closer relationships with Guards Polo Club, the players and the wider polo community in general.”
Cartier’s headline sponsorship of the Queen’s Cup and commitment to the sport has also created an ambition at Guards to consider building a wider profile for the final stages of the tournament, going forward.
With more pitches being advanced in standard, Guards polo manager Antony Fanshawe explained to Telegraph Sport only a few weeks ago that the aspiration will be to have a possible quarter-finals day for the public, possibly even next season.
That’s the ambition, anyway. Last year the new force in English high goal polo King Power did indeed mine double gold at the Cartier Queen’s Cup.
The two King Power teams – patroned by brothers Top and Top Srivaddhanaprabha – dominated the finals day, at which around 15,000 spectators filled the stands.
King Power Foxes retained the Cartier-sponsored tournament in an unbeaten 22-match run in this 22-goal competition in extra time against an equally brilliant Dubai quartet. It had proved to be the second King Power win of the day.
Earlier, King Power’s team B had won the subsidiary Cartier Trophy, also after extra time, a golden goal and an 11-10 score line.
It set alight the Queen’s Cup for which Cartier will aim to become synonymous – the first set-piece tournament in May and early June which reverberates with polo taking place all over Berkshire, Hampshire, Sussex and surrounding counties, before coming together for the finals.
As much as the brand, it is about friendships for Cartier and polo’s movers and shakers. Feniou’s favourite polo memory, for instance, is meeting HM The Queen. And why wouldn’t it be ? “Definitely my fondest polo memory is having the honour of meeting Her Majesty The Queen of England the first time I attended the Queen’s Cup polo,” he said. “I am truly privileged to be a part of this occasion.”
Little wonder. The Queen’s Cup final is one of those days when the Head of State sits in a pavilion at Guard’s, the Royal Enclosure, which has been used for decades as some of the finest horses and players grace Windsor Great Park, one of Her Majesty’s gardens.
You only have to take the drive there from Black Nest Gate, and enjoy the forests of rhodadendrone and the variety of fauna before passing the lake and emerging up a sloping hill to a flat plain of perfectly manicured fields to understand why the aficionados of this thundering, risk-inherent, yet ultimately graceful game hold it so dear.
Polo is a ‘lifestyle sport’ for those who pursue it as professionals; it is a hobby for the ultra rich patron and a field of competitive dreams; and the Cartier Queen’s Cup is in the top three in the ultimate pro-am tournaments in the world.
Perhaps even more important for the continuance of the Cartier/Guards/Polo axis is that Feniou is a genuine fan of the sport. “I had always been following this beautiful English sport since moving to London, so for me it was a special experience to watch the game live the first time I was invited to attend the event together with my wife.”
Long may that love affair continue between Cartier, Guards – and polo.
The Cartier Queens Cup takes place May 17 to the final on Saturday, June 11.