If you’ve picked up any magazine that runs Ralph Lauren or Polo ads, you’ve seen the face of Nacho Figueras. Who is he, you ask?
In short: a 6-goal professional polo player ranked in the top 100; global face of Ralph Lauren’s Polo brand; family man married to model, photographer and landscape architect wife with 4 children; polo pony breeder; romance writer; and of late, would be ambassador to Argentina.
Sometimes called the “David Beckham of polo”, adoring fans had the rare opportunity of watching Figueras play at a local charity event at Great Meadow recently. Fascinated by the swooning of otherwise reasonably sane ladies, and some gents, I had to know more.
Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras, 39, was not to the saddle born. Raised on a small farm near Buenos Aires, he began taking polo lessons at the age of nine with a friend of his father’s, Lucas Monteverde, who went on to become a 10-goal player.
At 17, he turned pro and quickly got a spot on the French polo team. He would then play the circuit for Peter Brant’s White Birch team at Bridgehampton, Wellington, Napa Valley and Great Britain.
At a dinner in the Hamptons five years later, international model and advertising photographer Bruce Weber, who shot the ad campaigns for Ralph Lauren, set eyes on him and the rest is history. Naturally, he would end up as captain of Lauren’s Black Watch team, one of the best in the sport.
Not only is polo one of the hardest and most humbling sports to play, it’s frightfully expensive. Each chukker requires a fresh pony and any player worth his salt has dozens of horses.
“(Modeling) is a perfect bridge to help me achieve my dream and my vision of polo becoming a bigger, more visible sport.There are many guys out there who look like me — you know, brunettes with long hair. There are thousands. But I think the difference is that I am a real polo player.” And he’s won over 50 championships in his career.
Through his wife’s family, Figueras inherited foundation mares upon which a serious horse-breeding operation was founded. He now breeds between 70 and 80 horses a year and a talented pony can sell for upwards to $100,000 or more. The stables at his Cria Yatay hold 44 horses and are part of a 30,000 square foot facility. So beautiful the estate, it was presented at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
Figueras was responsible for starting the Polo Classic, perhaps the most famous polo match, now played in New York and Los Angeles and attracts a celebrity crowd as well as other celebrity players such as Princes Harry and William with whom he has long friendships.
Inevitably, at 30, he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show entitled “Meet the Most Famous People in the World” and played himself in an episode of “Reversals of Fortune”. His acting career may have stalled, but he has now become the face and name to a series of steamy romance novels, “The Polo Season”, authored by ghost writers. Figueras served as technical advisor for authenticity, editing the dialogue for the Argentine dialect and details about horse care and how polo is played on and off the field.
His books may very likely end up on the screen one day. “We just have to find someone who rides, and we can teach him to play polo very easily” Figueras says.
Lastly, the role of ambassador has been calling. He wants to encourage investment in Argentina by bringing Americans to his beloved country after years of bad (political) management. “I love projects. I love business.”
Add “budding mogul” to the list.