Leighton S. Jordan, managing director of Greenwich Polo Club, has always had horses in his life, riding to the hounds at an early age in Easton, Connecticut.
He started playing polo in 1973 as a freshman at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, where he founded a team that took on those of Cornell and Texas A&M universities.
On the club’s website, he says his favorite polo memory was as a senior playing Oxford University Polo Club on Oct. 15, 1977 — the 200th anniversary of the Colonials’ defeat of the British at the Battle of Saratoga, the turning point in the American Revolution.
The same pluck that enabled him to invite the Oxford team to that match led him to contact another polo enthusiast, Peter Brant, regarding Saratoga’s faded polo fields, where members of the prominent Whitney family played in the early part of the 20th century.
“I said I wanted to revitalize the fields and he said, ‘Let’s do it.’” Jordan would go on to manage the Saratoga Polo Association while Brant founded the White Birch polo team in 1979 and Greenwich Polo Club two years later. When Brant wanted to create the Bridgehampton Polo Club on Long Island, he knew whom to call.
Brant, Jordan and players Mariano Aguerre and Nick Manifold today are part of the winning team that oversees Greenwich Polo Club.
“The club has moved ahead,” says Jordan, who’s also Northeast circuit governor of the United States Polo Association. “It’s really operational. And Mariana Castro (director of marketing and events) has done a great job with the marketing.”
While 80 percent of polo is the horses, he says, a key to attracting top teams for the Monty Waterbury Cup, the Silver Cup and the East Coast Open (Aug. 27-Sept. 10) is the field.
“You can’t have a field that is slippery and it can’t be too hard or too soft,” he says. “It has to be well-maintained with good footing and that’s a challenge when you have 10 acres.”
The club uses a special polo bluegrass mix that takes the sun, but there’s also draining, chemistry and aeration involved.
“We spend a lot of time on it and it shows,” Jordan says. “We have the best field in the country.”
In polo what happens off the field is almost as important as what happens on it. Luxury food, car, travel and retail vendors make up many of the billowing white pavilions that line the green expanse.
“Our goal is to work with our partners to create continuity every Sunday,” Castro says.
The Pony Bar continues, with the Pony Hour from 2 to 3 p.m. right before match time, featuring food and cocktails by area vendors. Hublot, the Swiss watch manufacturer, will have a display during the East Coast Open and will be awarding a watch to the Most Valuable Player at the tournament’s conclusion on Sept. 10, while equestrian Realtor Maria Mendelsohn will present a blanket to the best pony in the event and a cash prize to its groom; and the island of Barbados, celebrating its cuisine at the Open, will be giving away a trip for two.
Audi will have a VIP tent during the open for the third year in a row. Audi and Tesla are partnering with Greenwich Polo in the club’s season, and handbag designer Jeffrey Levinson will be honoring them with custom clutches for their marketing directors — Nathalie Carpenter and Ashley Vaness respectively. The Hospital for Special Surgery will also be celebrating its third year at the event.
As the USPA Network and website streams the action, Greenwich Polo will also look to its future. Between the second and third chukker, or period, of the finals, Polo Training Foundation will honor two young players who have contributed to the game. Work to Ride, a nonprofit that provides underserved youth with educational, vocational and equestrian training, will have a pop-up booth. Its ambassadors include Kareem Rosser and Shariah Harris, who rode for the Postage Stamp Farm team during the recent Silver Cup at the club.
Sounds like a party every Sunday.
Says Jordan, “It is.”
The draw for the East Coast Open takes place Aug. 23 with riders, horses and Audis greeting the public outside of Shreve, Crump & Lowe on Greenwich Avenue from 6 to 7 p.m. For more, visit greenwichpoloclub.com.