Pukka chukkas and the polo set

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 August, 1995, 12:00am

THE swarthy Argentinian polo players in their tight white trousers could hardly hold the attention of the chic wannabes and flippant already-ares who were busy checking each other out as they sipped their cocktails at the Cartier International Polo Day held near Windsor Castle last month.

One of the 'pukka' highlights of the British social calendar, the swanky set were in top form, gathering first under the Cartier tent, where they were plied with champagne and quails courtesy of chef extraordinaire, Anton Mosimann, before heading over to the polo ground. Cartier has sponsored the International Polo Day - the biggest event of its kind in Europe - for the past 12 years but there were rumours that this would be their last. The reason: a ?300,000 ($3.66 million) bill and the suggestion that polo is simply no longer sufficiently de rigueur to justify the sponsorship cost.

Cartier's communications director in London, Pilar Boxford, has said: 'Polo is no longer so chic ... all the polo patrons say that polo needs Cartier more than we need them. Cartier gives it cachet.' While a number of British newspapers reported that Cartier was pulling out of polo, a company spokesman said 'nothing has been decided yet'. But she acknowledged that the nouveau riche, models and rock stars have taken over what was once the exclusive stamping ground of princes, heirs and husband-hunting debutantes. However, the Queen was there this year to present the trophy and Prince Charles has been a regular in the past.

Attracting just as much attention was catwalk queen Claudia Schiffer and her fiance David Copperfield, who were there as 'friends of the House'. Schiffer, shod in two-toned ballerina slip-ons so as not to dwarf her illusionist hubby-to-be, was dressed demurely in a pale-yellow Chanel suit. Also looking chic was American actress Stefanie Powers, ambassador of the International Federation of Polo and a regular on the circuit, who expressed disappointment at the possibility that Cartier might withdraw its support. Powers was seen in animated conversation with writer Jilly Cooper, who immortalised the game in her steamy best-seller, Polo, and who has described the sport as an addiction 'curable only by poverty or death'.

Also there were assorted aristocrats; the women all long-limbed and tanned,the men walking advertisements for Ralph Lauren and sporting floppy fringes a la Hugh Grant. Most of the women favoured Chanel or pretty, floaty dresses matched with straw boaters, basket-weave bags and strappy sandals. And a jewelled Cartier watch, of course.

But there was also plenty of action on the playing field as the Argentinians beat the English in a high-spirited game, much to the disappointment of Australian tycoon and English polo-supporter Kerry Packer.

The commentator, in a less-than-subtle bid to convince Cartier to stick around, repeatedly thanked the watch and jewellery house over the loudspeakers. And one good sign for the Hurlingham Polo Association, which organised the event, was the large board erected by Cartier bidding farewell to the departing Ferraris and Rolls-Royces. It said: 'See you next year.'