PHILADELPHIA, September 22, 2022–In the heart of this historic sports city, polo makes its debut Saturday at the inaugural Philadelphia Polo Classic on Edgely Field at Fairmount Park.
By Sharon Robb
In front of an expected sellout crowd, the Work To Ride fundraiser to renovate its center will feature top players and Work To Ride alum in a polo doubleheader.
The daylong event, live streamed worldwide by ChukkerTV, will also feature human and dog divot stomps, carriage parade, men and women hat and ensemble contests and awards ceremonies.
Two matches are set for 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. In the featured match at 2 p.m., Argentine Nacho Figueras and Work To Ride alum Kareem Rosser will captain the teams.
Rosser’s team includes eight-goaler Nic Roldan, the second highest ranked American player; Grant Ganzi and Val Carlotti.
Figueras’ team features Melissa Ganzi, Daymar Rosser and Shariah Harris, two other players who got their start in the Work To Ride program.
Kareem Rosser earned a scholarship to Valley Forge Military Academy and later went on to play at Colorado State. Rosser was the 2015 Polo Training Foundation Male Intercollegiate Polo Player of the Year. He published a memoir, Crossing the Line: A Fearless Team of Brothers and the Sport that Changed Their Lives Forever.
Daymar Rosser and his Roger Williams University teammates won the 2017 USPA National Intercollegiate Championship.
Harris is the first black woman to play in a 20-goal high goal polo game. Harris earned a scholarship to Cornell, where she led the polo team to the national finals. She was named USPA National Player of the Year.
Melissa Ganzi, Grand Champions Polo Club president and owner who grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Penn, and Dundas patron Sarah Siegel-Magness are co-chairing the committee to raise money for building the new indoor arena. The multi-million dollar campaign broke ground in November for the new state-of-the art equestrian center.
“This building will make a huge difference in ensuring the future of Work To Ride,” said Ganzi, who is providing 24 to 30 horses for the Classic. “Having a permanent place dedicated to polo will be helpful to East Coast polo and will allow the sport to flourish here.”
If the non-profit reaches its fundraising goal, the arena could break ground in 2023. The campaign has raised $7.3 million of the projected $10 million needed for the new state-of-the-art indoor arena and endowment to cover future operational program costs.
Work To Ride is a non-profit organization that provides horsemanship education and equine sports training to low-income youth, ages 7 to 18, from under-resourced communities.
Since 1994, Work To Ride has provided activities that promote discipline, self esteem, motivation, social development, life skills, academic achievement and physical fitness through year-round equestrian programs that encourage long-term participation.
“I certainly think polo, but only horses, especially, provide an alternative,” said Rosser, now a Work To Ride board member. “We think about the success of Work to Ride and all the opportunities they have given me and all the other children who have grown up in some disadvantaged areas of Philadelphia.
“More importantly, in fact, polo provides an impact that not many people in America have access to, given the wealth and people involved in the sport. You tend to see very successful businessmen and women. So people like me who came to Work to Ride were able to get to know another world that many of us really had no idea existed outside of Philadelphia. ”
The new arena will enable Work To Ride to increase its’ youth participation, expand programming year-round, build co-operative partnerships with local institutions and host local, regional and national polo matches.
In addition, educational and cultural resources are provided for participants and the community at-large along with vocations and opportunities for careers in related fields.
All of the non-profit’s programs are free to the students. It’s funded primarily by paid lessons offered from April to December, and through donations from the public. Students enrolled in the program work to maintain the stables and care for the horses in exchange for lessons in equine sports.
Most students tend to navigate toward polo but the program also offers English riding lessons with show jumping and fox hunting as well as amateur steeplechase and pony racing. Most participants stay for eight to 10 years on average.
Said Lezlie Hiner, Work To Ride founder and executive director, “The Work To Ride barn has been a home away from home for young people from nearby dense urban communities for nearly 30 years.
“These young men and women are an inspiration every day. The proposed indoor arena and renovations will allow us to expand our program to reach even more young people and transform more lives.”
Work To Ride is accepting online donations at its website.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm, preparing for its upcoming fall season that begins Oct. 10-16 with the Pedro Morrison Memorial, is the largest and most unique private 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with more than 150 stalls in several self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV will live stream the entire fall season. ChukkerTV’s state-of-the art technology including 4K TV, also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its well-manicured fields during the fall, winter and spring seasons.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program at the turnkey facility.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.