Cowdray Park hosts the first South Downs Polo Day this Sunday (June 19).
It has been created to celebrate the annual Midhurst Town Cup and the fact the area is now within the new South Downs National Park.
And it promises to be a great day for polo fans, families and perhaps those who want to see what the sport is all about but who have never seen it played.
Midhurst has been the polo centre of the UK for 100 years. When Sir Weetman Dickinson Pearson, the noted Victorian engineer and entrepreneur, bought the Cowdray Estate in 1909, his eldest son, the Hon Harold Pearson, moved with his young family to Capron House in North Street.
Harold had learned to play polo at Oxford and with his father’s support established a polo field at Cowdray House inviting family and friends to play. Soon tournaments were up and running and the first trophy, the Cowdray Park Challenge Cup, was presented for the first time in 1911.
Through the 1920s and 30s, polo at Cowdray Park was widely reported in both local and national press during the Goodwood Week racing festival when all of Cowdray’s principal polo tournaments were played in the late afternoons after racing finished.
Polo all but disappeared in the aftermath of the Second World War, but through the determined efforts of the late John Cowdray, 3rd Viscount, a UK revival took place from Cowdray Park.
In recognition of the prominence which he had brought to the town through the sport, The Midhurst Town Cup was presented to John Cowdray in 1953 by the business community of Midhurst. For many years the Town Cup was played as a charity match, and through the 1980s Prince Charles featured in a number of games to benefit a variety of different causes.
In 2011, to celebrate Midhurst’s prominence within the new South Downs National Park, Cowdray Park Polo Club have introduced South Downs Polo Day with the Midhurst Town Cup as the central feature.
The South Downs Polo Day aims to introduce newcomers to the highest level of polo played in the UK. The two teams contesting the Town Cup are locally based high-goal sides who have entered the tournament for the Cowdray Park Gold Cup, which opens two days later.
The Gold Cup, sponsored since 1995 by champagne house Veuve Clicquot, is the most coveted trophy in polo and is the fabulous prize awarded to the winners of the British Open Polo Championship which starts on June 21 and runs over four weeks until the final on Sunday, July 17.
Playing in this year’s Midhurst Town Cup are Las Monjitas and Stella Artois, giving the audience the chance to size up their prospects in the exciting tournament for the British Open Polo Championship.
Las Monjitas are based at Great Trippetts Farm in Milland. Stella Artois are based at Manor Farm, Selham. Both teams play the British Open for the first time.
Entry is just £10 per car to include driver and adult passenger – all children under 12 get in free. Any extra adults pay just £5 per head. You can save £5 per car-load with our voucher.
There will be a mini funfair for the children to enjoy, tradestands, bar and food outlets. The event is sponsored by local businesses.