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Royal Horseplay

Horsemen from Prince Charles to Outback Steakhouse's Tim Gannon Are Passionate about Polo
Eric O'Keefe
From the Print Edition:
J.P. Morgan, Mar/Apr 00

(continued from page 1)

Few know that despite his crowded schedule, Prince Charles regularly plays in a polo match or two each month for charitable causes. His efforts have raised more than $10 million for a wide assortment of organizations. The Sandhurst match, which Mark Cann coordinated for the Combined Services Polo Association, benefited Britain's Army Benevolent Fund. The match was underwritten by Fifth Avenue Channel, an Internet company.  

On most days, Charles plays only for the love of the game, garnering a few bumps and bruises. At today's match, however, the competitors receive handcrafted silver spurs much like the ones General Patton wore, forged in the style of a cavalry straight spur by Firmin & Sons, a venerable English firm that dates back to 1677.  

Once the match is over and congratulations are offered, the throng proceeds to a catered barbecue on the grounds at Sandhurst. A sense of celebration is palpable. To have witnessed a classic match in an unforgettable setting on a picture-perfect day is what draws so many to play and follow polo worldwide. Many of the guests have traveled from the States, from the Continent and from the Middle East, and Gannon, host of the reception, thanks everyone for joining him for the fund-raiser.  

To cap off the festivities, a magnum of Champagne is brought out. After a moment or two it's clear that something is afoot, and an unsuspecting Gannon is caught square in the middle. It seems as if the English are about to uncork the bubbly using everyone's favorite kitchen accessory, a sword.  

Gannon is selected to wield the weapon, a blunted saber also from Firmin & Sons. Firmin's chief executive, Frederik Hsu, says that although his company's Millennium Sword has become something of a rage as a fin de millénaire memento, "it wasn't really designed to guillotine fine Champagne." A polo player himself, Hsu knows a thing or two about the delicate operation Gannon has before him.  

"To pull it off," Hsu says, "he's got to have a chilled bottle and take that blade right up the neck along the seam. Even then, there's a good chance that everyone may have to take cover if he doesn't cut it cleanly." A moment later, Gannon swings for the fences--and executes a perfect opening. Champagne flutes are hurried round.  

"I don't mind telling you that now that he's done it, I can't believe he did it," says Hsu. Those who know better call it the Gannon Luck.  

Eric O'Keefe, the editor of Cowboys & Indians, formerly was an editor at Polo magazine.


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