The CEO Of A Private Equity Firm Invited Us To Watch Him Play Polo — And It Was Amazing


Photo: Adam Cohen, Photographer

Last weekend, Clusterstock had the opportunity to watch the founder of private equity firm Solaia Capital, Michael Carrazza, play in a polo match — it’s his polo match, in fact, as the team he plays on belongs to him.This isn’t uncommon.

Unless you’re a pro, there’s really no other way to play polo. The sport is a “culture, and a little bit of a cult sport,” said Carrazza.

In fact, polo is a global community where players from all over the world travel in a circuit with their horses and gear from the sport’s home base in Argentina, to Florida, the Hamptons and beyond.

We caught up with Carrazza at the Southampton Polo Club where he’s a member. The club doesn’t have a clubhouse, it’s actually just polo fields for serious players. There, Carrazza plays tournament leagues against other members, scopes out professionals to recruit for his team, and keeps his horses during the May to October Northeast season.

He started playing over 12 years ago, when his then boss at another private equity firm and a founder of the club, encouraged him to join the club. He had never ridden a horse before.

Now he’s a sponsor — or a “patron” as the Argentines say — which means he owns his own gear, and horses. For each tournament he assembles a mix of pros to play with him. In the time that he’s played, Carrazza’s handicap has improved from a -2 “goals” (the lowest) to 0 “goals,” the general rating of sponsors. The highest ranked players in the world, of which there are only around a dozen, are ranked a 10 “goal”.

“I view the success of the game as how well I play and improve,” Carrazza told Business Insider. “There is no substitute for the adrenaline rush you get when you’re engaged in a play at high speed and it folds together as planned; everything has to be precisely timed.”

For sponsors, being on the field is a treat, as most of them have careers that supercede the demanding sport. Carrazza himself has to juggle practicing, keeping his horses and team organised, and playing polo with running his private equity shop.

“I’m not aware of any type-B people who play polo,” Carrazza said.

That sounds accurate to us.

Photo Credit: Adam Cohen

Meet Michael Carrazza, the founder of Solaia Capital and a 0 handicap polo player.

Let's start with the basics. This is a polo ball.

These are mallets. Notice that they're sitting on an awesome Solaia blanket.

In fact, the sport comes with a lot of cool gear. Business Insider sat on these chairs under a tent to watch the match.

Here's Carrazza all suited up.

Carrazza keeps his horses at the Southampton Polo Club during the northeast season, and then boards them in Virgina.They can cost between $20,000 and $100,000. He uses 4 every game.

And then there's all their equipment complete with the team brand.

Branding, in fact, is a huge part of the sport. Huge companies like Palmer's and Revlon have teams.

On Saturday, Solaia played hedge fund Value Holdings. The sponsor of that team is Laura Newcomb.

Before the game starts, the four players discuss strategy. Each player plays man-on-man with a player from the opposite team.

Here's the Solaia team! Carrazza is on your far right.

The object of the game is to hit the ball into the goal at the end of the field (or pitch). It's about the size of 9 football fields.

An important rule: The ball creates an invisible line in whatever direction its going. You can't cross that line and block a player from the ball horizontally.

Aside from that, when the game starts, it starts fast and it stays fast!

The higher the goals. The faster the match.

Communication is crucial. Carrazza told Business Insider that he's played with every player on this team before, and he chose them based on their ability to communicate.

That's because the sport can be very dangerous. Rules are in place to improve safety, and breaking those rules results in points for the opposite team, but still accidents happen.

And if a 6 goal game is fast, imagine a game where all the players handicaps add up to 40, as they do in the granddaddy of polo matches — The Argentine Open.

We didn't get to see one of those, obviously, but later in the day we headed over to the Bridgehampton Polo Club for a 20 goal match.

It was a major event with a party tent set up. International polo star Nacho Figueras played for team K.I.G.

The other team was Circa, owned by Chris Del Gatto.

As you can imagine, this game was fast and furious.

The game lasted for 6 chukkers — a chuckker is a 7 minute period — while Carrazza's game only last for 4.

Circa ended up beating K.I.G. 12-11 in a nail biter.

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