- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

THE EVENT: The America’s Cup of Polo commemorating the 400th anniversary of British settlement in America.

THE PLACE: Historic Morven Park, the former 1,200-acre estate of the Westmoreland Davis family, just outside Leesburg in the heart of the Virginia horse and wine country.

THE CAUSES: (1) Giving “the sport of kings” its rightful place in a local equestrian scene already renowned for fox hunting, steeple-chase racing and horse breeding; (2) boosting Loudoun County as a high-end travel destination; (3) contributing funds to the fight against leukemia, lymphoma and multiple sclerosis.

GETTING STARTED: Guests gathering in Morven Park’s lush garden for Friday’s VIP reception were buoyed by the presence of British and Americans scheduled to fight to the finish the following day on a polo field surrounded by a vast soundstage and a dozen party tents. “They’re all six-to-nine goal players; I’m a zero,” Tareq Salahi, the extravaganza’s ebullient organizer, joked before a program that included team introductions and the playing of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by the Loudoun County Symphony, conducted by co-patron Sheila Johnson. Mr. Salahi, 37, a 20-year polo veteran and an owner of the nearby Oasis vineyard, seemed confident he could broaden polo’s image as more than a rich man’s game, and with an eclectic crowd of 5,000 expected the next day, it was a daunting task. “There’s going to be something for everyone,” he promised.

THE SCENE: Saturday’s dizzying schedule more than fulfilled Mr. Salahi’s pledge with carriage, hunt and hound, and side-saddle demonstrations, performances by a hip hop choir and Virginia Indian tribal dancers, a U.S. Navy F-18 flyover and a sure-to-please parachute drop (with British and American flags) as the band Journey played acid rock renditions of both countries’ national anthems.

Lower-price ticked holders tossed frisbees while picnicking on the lawn in shorts and T-shirts while the swells (ladies in sundresses and picture hats, gents in blazer-and-tie) promenaded among hilltop tents where the teams’ sponsors, Cartier (U.S.) and Ritz-Carlton (Britain), had champagne, crab cakes and tenderloin of beef at the ready for hours on end.

WHO WAS THERE: Aquaman Philippe Cousteau, Jim Kimsey, Afghani Ambassador Said Jawad, John Cecchi, Holidae Hayes, Cindy Jones, most of Potomac’s polo-playing Muldoon clan and Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta, who found out his country would be squaring off against the Americans next year even before the Brits beat the Yanks 7-3 late in the day.

— Kevin Chaffee

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