Hats and the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic go together like Princes and Polo ponies. The estimated 12,000 plus crowd on Sunday's Governor's Island match between Black Watch (Nacho Figueras et cie) and Black Rock (Prince Harry and co) were extremely happy for their hats in the heat of the day. The temperatures rose, but the breezes held back, so to cover heads, horses, and happy picnickers, umbrellas floated in the Veuve Clicquot yellow along with the tented areas reserved for the very VIPs who came over on their launches and ferries.
Movie stars, celebrities local, international, and hitherto overlooked regaled each other and the hordes of press who came to shoot the wealthy and the fans who cheered on the teams from the newly improved sidelines. The $50,000 tables were full, the $250 picnic tickets were sold out days before the event, and the bleachers were stacked with freebies. Ferries from Manhattan and Brooklyn came and went all the day, with crowds not so used to having a Royal on their very home turf.
The hats made the scene, but by and large, Americans don't yet dare to outdo the Ascot crowds of England's horsey set. We tend to stay safe, so lots of practical, pretty, and sane headgear made it's way to Governor's Island. Yes, off in the crowded tent I did see a Phillip Treacy butterfly hat, and a red satin satellite. Lots of Ellen Christine out there, too, but we haven't beaten them yet. On the hat front, that is. Nacho did beat Prince Harry this year, in a 3 1/2 minute overtime.
The horses kept their sleek haunches in tight formation, as the game kept it's pace with the expectation of the crowd. Dust rose as the riders swung their mallets, and forced the Veuve Clicquot signature ball back and forth across the greensward. At the divot stomping break, the public gamely joined the tradition of milling about and crowing about the Prince, while settling the erstwhile clump back into it's manicured place. Excitement mounted when Prince Harry took a headover tumble, and Black Watch may have suffered because of that fall, even if the young Prince did not.
A day in the sun, with a Prince on an island, surrounded by happy, familiar folk and lots and lots of champagne. Ah, life.
Sentebale was the recipient of this good will, and hopefully the charity, dear to Prince Harry's heart, benefitted enormously from the souvenir sales, the gate, and the publicity.
Champagne flowed, the hoi-polloi mingled with the corporate, and the day was a glorious exercise in American:"See-What-We-Can-Do?!".
Thank you, Veuve Clicquot. I'm already planning my hat for next year!
And thank you, Mario Diab, for making me beautiful all day long.
photo courtesy of Veuve Clicquot