Wednesday, May 22, 2024

NZ Polo Open canned amid Cyclone Gabrielle

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The Auckland Polo Club clubhouse and Fisher Field in Clevedon has flooded due to the adverse weather conditions of Cyclone Gabrielle. Times photo / Wayne Martin.

The 2023 New Zealand Polo Open, scheduled for this week in Clevedon, has been cancelled due to severe damage suffered to the Auckland Polo Club by Cyclone Gabrielle.

Event director of the NZ Polo Open, Lucy Ainsley, said in a statement on Tuesday night, “The extent of the damage to both the grounds and the clubhouse has meant that it would be impossible for us to be able to carry out the event safely and successfully on Sunday”.

The tournament was due to start on Tuesday, February 14 and 24 teams would compete throughout the week, with the NZ Polo Open final to be held on Sunday, February 19 at Auckland Polo Club’s Fisher Field.

Ainsley says the entire polo grounds were completely engulfed in excess water as the Wairoa River burst its banks, reaching levels higher than ever previously recorded.

Flood water levels reached over one metre deep internally within the polo clubhouse and covered the entire polo field.

The annual NZ Polo Open has now not gone ahead since 2020, due to the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and several lockdowns.

This is the third consecutive year that the NZ Polo Open has been cancelled- the previous two due to Covid-19 restrictions. Times photo / Wayne Martin.

Finals day was due to see more than 100 thoroughbred horses who have found their second careers with polo, showcasing the unique ability and flexibility of this athletic breed.

In a special animal welfare and rehoming collaboration with New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, the 2023 open planned to see the introduction of prize money for the best-playing rehomed thoroughbreds with $9000 up for grabs.

On the style front, the highly anticipated ‘Remix Fashion at the Polo’ was gearing up to be one of the best, with prizes for best dressed lady, best dressed gentleman, best accessory and, new for this year, a people’s choice award.

Wilhelmina Shrimpton, Amber Baker, and NZ Polo Open event ambassador Holly Estelle were set to be the fashion judges this year.

“We would like to thank and extend our appreciation to our partners, suppliers and polo teams who have worked alongside us tirelessly over the last 12 months and through previous years,” Ainsley says.

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