The bronzed Argentine horsemen that swarm Long Island’s polo fields each summer are the stuff of Jilly Cooper novels and palmists’ promises: tall, dark, handsome and—with the globe-trotting, sun-chasing lifestyle their sport affords—indecently glamorous. The most storied of all these Latin gods is Ignacio (“Nacho”) Figueras, who with his chiseled jaw, moody brown eyes and tousled locks is not only one of the world’s top 100 polo players (with a six-goal handicap), but the face of Ralph Lauren
Black Label and Polo fragrances worldwide, and, according to a 2009 issue of Vanity Fair
, the second most handsome man in the world. Born in Argentina, where polo rivals soccer as the national sport, Figueras began playing at the age of eight and became a professional at 17. He began his secondary career as a model in 2000 after being introduced to legendary fashion photographer Bruce Weber at a dinner party, and found that his raised profile enabled him to be an ambassador in the democratization of polo—he was the brains behind the annual Veuve Cliquot
tournament on Governor's Island that has introduced the sport to a whole new generation of New Yorkers. Today we premiere A Caballo
, a new film exclusive to NOWNESS, from photographer and filmmaker Matthew Donaldson, who celebrated the raw power of man and beast by capturing Figueras on one of his favorite horses (he has over 250) in minute detail. Meanwhile, we caught up with the polo star to talk style, travel and, of course, what makes the ideal equine partner.
What’s your earliest memory involving horses?
I remember being [taken] riding on my horse with my father before I could even walk.
Tell us the story of the horse you're riding in the video.
The horse is Vasco Negro. I have been playing with him for more than ten years here in the US. He is very loyal. His father is one of the most famous stallions out there—Pucara.
What makes for the best polo ponies?
Handiness and speed.
Your career highlight so far?
I have played polo all over the world in competition, but the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic is a proud moment because of what it represents on my mission of bringing polo to the masses.
Name one of your heroes on horseback.
General José de San Martin—the guy that freed Argentina as a country.
Most unusual place or circumstance you’ve ever played polo?
On South Beach, right in front of the ocean.
If you weren’t a polo player what would you be?
A painter or an architect.
What would be your ideal holiday destination?
The Hamptons: great people, beach and polo.
Three things you never travel without?
My iPad, my rosary, and my American Express.
What is your favorite place to go in Buenos Aires, and why?
My farm, because it’s where I breed my horses.
Describe your off-polo-field look.
I like to go more to the elegant side—a [Ralph Lauren] Black Label double-breasted suit is a good one.
Would you say you're crisply groomed or rough and ready?
Rough and ready.