By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Polo and horses have gifted Airpark resident Natalie Grancharov Camacho with the best things in life.
Camacho met her husband, Andres, on the polo field, and she and her family bond over horses.
“I love it,” Camacho says. “I met my husband playing polo. My sister plays polo. My husband’s family plays polo. For us, it’s a lifestyle. We have horses that are off-the-track racehorses who we rehabbed to teach polo.”
She loves it for its physicality. Like football, hockey and soccer, polo is a contact sport, she says.
“You get to bump a little bit. It is really fun. It’s a total adrenaline rush to full speed gallop on a horse. It’s hard to describe how fun it is,” Camacho says.
Camacho has been with the Arizona Polo Club for 15 years and serves as the player coordinator for The Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Presented by Talking Stick Resort set for Saturday, October 23, at WestWorld of Scottsdale.
Its 10th anniversary event will see polo star Nic Roldan suiting up for the Aspen Valley Club, owned by Marc and Melissa Ganzi. The club will face off against La Mariposa Argentina Polo Team, which is making its event debut.
Among the additional teams scheduled to play in 2021 are Jet Set Women’s All-Star Polo Team, Bogota Polo Team, Arizona Polo Club, Grand Champions Polo Club and Wales Polo Team.
Camacho has missed one Polo Championship at WestWorld. She admires the organizer, Jason Rose, for bringing the event to Scottsdale.
“When you see clubs that put on a huge polo event and concert, Scottsdale did it first,” she explains. “He has some of the best polo players in the world, and the highest-rated female and male players.
“There are a lot of other amazing things — opera, a senior ladies cheerleading group and rugby at halftime. The Arabian Horse Association of Arizona is there. There’s an art auction, a dog fashion show and a car show as well. It’s a really well-rounded event. It is like a circus, but not really.”
Rose held the event last year during the pandemic, although it was scaled down. On-site testing was available.
Organizers of The Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Presented by Talking Stick Resort begin planning the event 10 months in advance.
“What is surprising is the players love Scottsdale,” Camacho says. “Guys from England have been here multiple times. This is their thing. Pretty famous players love coming back, and they love Scottsdale.
“Women (attendees) love this event, too. Some plan their hats and outfits six months in advance.”
Fascinated with horses
Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Camacho has been fascinated with horses since she was young. In her hometown, barns were not readily available.
“I just thought they were cool animals, but I love all animals,” she says.
Camacho learned to play polo 20 years ago, when she was attending UC Davis. “I thought UC Davis’ team looked awesome, so I checked it out. I really liked it. I liked the people and being around horses.”
Camacho connected with polo. She rides six days a week during the season — October to December, and then February to April. Mondays are off days for the horse and riders. Tuesdays to Fridays are reserved for workouts and conditioning. Scrimmages or tournaments are scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays. She often sees people who are addicted like her.
“People come out and take one lesson and they are just hooked. They’re dropping all their money for polo. It’s one horse, and then a truck and trailer, and traveling on the weekends. There are people who really love their golf. I really love polo.”
Sir Winston Churchill once said, “A polo handicap is a passport to the world.” That’s been the case for Camacho. On the international rating system, Camacho is a 0 goal handicap player who has traveled to Saint-Tropez, France, New York, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Oregon and California.
“It’s not as many places as I would like, if I was being honest,” she says.
Camacho met Andres eight years ago and married seven years ago.
Andres is a fifth-generation polo player, and the sport has been part of his family for more than 100 years. As a young child in Colombia, he and his brother accompanied their father to polo matches at the Polo Club of Bogota on weekends. He continued playing the sport after moving to Arizona in 2010 to pursue his MBA at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Polo has kept the Camacho family together.
“My parents love horses,” she says. “They FaceTime us and ask how the horses are doing. We have 2 acres in Scottsdale with eight horses. We keep them on our property. I’m very thankful for this lifestyle. I’m very thankful for this lifestyle in the heart of the city. I can still have horses in our backyard.”
Andres and Natalie enjoy the friendly competition around the field.
“Polo is a great sport where men and women can compete on the same field,” she says. “It’s one of the few sports that is truly equal. I encourage anyone to come out and take a polo lesson.” ν