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On the way to the world top: The Polo Club Saint Tropez 1 May 2017

On the way to the world top: The Polo Club Saint Tropez - Two years ago, the Polo Club Saint Tropez found a new owner: Alshair Fiyaz. The business man from Pakistan is burning for his passion and wants to make his club one of the world-renowned Polo Clubs. Therefore, he spares no investment to provide best training conditions for horses and players. We talked to Justin Gaunt, the director of the Club in Gassin…

Caroline Simon:  Every time I passed the polo site recently, it seems, as if great things are happening. Is that true?

Justin Gaunt: Since Alshair Fiyaz is the owner, a fresh breeze blows through the club. He has the vision to make his club one of the top five Polo Clubs of the world. When he bought the property two years ago, we virtually started at zero. Our engagement and investments already begin to bear fruit. Three of the seven top polo teams will participate in our summer tournament this year.

On the one hand, this is linked to the training possibilities: We have four fields and a new riding arena. On the other hand, we make sure that players and managers feel completely at ease. After all, the teams stay here for one to five months for practicing. Therefore, we decided to build not only the accommodation for the teams but also provide a complete infrastructure – a restaurant, a gym, a spa and cryotherapy. Worldwide, there is hardly no comparable club offering this kind of service…

Caroline Simon: That is really impressive. You implemented the plans in a short time.

Justin Gaunt: Yes, the first part. But we are far from complete. With the current expansions, we can accommodate 380 horses on the club premises. For our summer tournament, we reach the limit – and for this year, all horse stalls are fully booked since months.

Currently, we have 60 horses in our stables all year round. However, our goal is 200 horses residing in our stables on a permanent basis. By the way, in May our first foals will be born. We all feverish await this happy event…

The peninsula of Saint Tropez has the ideal climate for the polo sport all year round. We are persuaded, that we can win more and more teams to come here for their training during the winter. And we want even more: The Polo Club of Saint Tropez should become the European center for equestrian sport in some years – beside polo also for other attractive disciplines like water polo, show jumping and dressage. Furthermore, we also want to offer beginners and advanced courses as well as becoming active in the training sector, for example for farriers or for veterinarian orthopaedics.

Caroline Simon: When I’m thinking about polo, I literally feel the ground shaking under my feet and I hear the snorting of the horses. I’m always impressed by their strength and the skills of horse and rider. It is a riddle to me, how it is possible to hit the small polo ball in full gallop. I find it hard to hit a golf ball - standing….

Justin Gaunt: Polo is a team sport, in which especially the horses play an important role. The players handle their horses with respect. And in contrary to horse races, where it is all about speed, playing polo also needs endurance and precision. The training of a polo horse takes about six years. A racing horse for instance needs only two years to complete the training. Even after the completed training, the practice remains intense during the active polo time. The preparations for the summer tournament for instance already start in March. This is the only way to make sure, that accidents – which unfortunately happen from time to time – can be extensively avoided.

Caroline Simon: Briefly – how does a polo tournament work? 

Justin Gaunt: A polo tournament takes about two weeks and is organized at different levels. For the finals, the admission is free, so everyone can come and watch. During these days, the club house is reserved for the VIPs and sponsors exclusively.

Currently, we are holding talks with Onassis about a show jumping tournament on our premises beside the tournament at Nikki Beach. Preferably, we would like to realize it in April next year. Moreover, we want to win prominent horse enthusiasts as spectators – especially Prince Albert and Prince Henry. That implies to expand the infrastructure even further. We are discussing corresponding plans with the decision-makers of city administration of Gassin.

Caroline Simon: Keyword club house and restaurant. Olivier Zimmerlin – what’s new in the culinary sector?

Olivier Zimmerlin: Even in our restaurant, it is all about a new and inspiring spirit of optimism. Our culinary theme is obviously the Argentine and Peruvian cuisine. Beside the à la carte variations, BBQ is center stage – made from the best argentine meat, self-evidently….grilled in open air. At lunchtime we offer a lunch menu.

And, isn’t it great to enjoy a good glass of wine and a tender steak while watching the spectacular polo training or matches from close quarters?

From May, we open daily during lunch time and dinner, except on Mondays. In July and August we are open every day. Our restaurant offers 80 seats outside and 250 inside. We are catering private events up to 300 people.

Olivier Zimmerlin, Caroline Simon, Caroline Merlin and Justin Gaunt

Caroline Simon: I’m  excited about the summer tournament. And also are looking forward to treat myself every now and then with a juicy steak in the new club restaurant. Just thinking about it is mouth-watering….. Thank you very much for the glimpse behind the scenes, Justin Gaunt and Olivier Zimmerlin.

Justin Gaunt: We are looking forward to your visit. And I’ll promise you, that we are very enthusiastic about making the Polo Club Saint Tropez world-class standard. Our beautiful premises will become a location that is busy and vibrant all year round – as a delight for all. And an additional information for all polo enthusiasts: We offer private lessons in polo.  And those, who prefer to follow the matches as spectators, are always welcome to watch our tournaments.

Caroline Simon

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