“We’re both very competitive. We’d been texting each other about the game for a week,” says Nacho Figueras, the Argentine polo player with a 6-goal handicap who was once voted the second most handsome man in the world — placing before Brad Pitt but behind Robert Pattinson — in a Vanity Fair poll.
In a white linen shirt and blue jeans, sitting in the sun-drenched patio outside LaBrezza, the Italian restaurant at the St. Regis Singapore, he is, of course, talking about his good friend “Harry”, or rather, more appropriately Prince Henry of Wales. Both played in opposing teams at the 2017 Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup at the Singapore Polo Club the day before, and it was the Prince’s team that came out triumphant.
It’s not every day that I reference a prince in conversation, so I go ahead and ask: Do you mind when he wins? “I do mind. Yes. I like to win,” comes Figueras’ reply, perhaps a little too quickly, his eyes as intense and brooding as any of his Ralph Lauren advertisements (and there are plenty of those over the last 17 years he’s modelled for the brand). “Yesterday is not a big deal. It’s all about Sentebale, not about winning a game, so everything worked out well. But I’d rather win.” And then he smiles, charming as ever.
The pair have been friends since they first played polo together in 2007, around the time Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho were setting up Sentebale, their charity which supports children in southern Africa, many of whom are affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. As founder of the annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, Figueras later invited Prince Harry to play at his star-studded gathering to raise funds for Sentebale in 2009 and 2010. (For the record, the only time Figueras has ever lost at the event was in 2009, to the Prince’s team, but he quickly claimed back the title the following year.) “Harry then decided that it would be good to have a Sentebale Polo Cup, which we’ve done since 2011 all around the world,” says Figueras, who has served as an ambassador of the charity since 2013.
To date the event has raised over £4.5million for Sentebale’s work providing care, education and critical psychosocial support to children and adolescents in Lesotho and Botswana. The 2017 Cup, held at the Singapore Polo Club, marked the first time both Figueras and Prince Harry have taken the field in the city-state.
Figueras, though, is no stranger to Singapore. A St. Regis Connoisseur who brings his expertise and fame to the hotel’s international polo programme, he and his wife model-photographer Delfina Blaquier stayed two weeks at St. Regis Singapore in 2010. Their third child, Artemio, now seven, learned how to crawl within steps from where we sit today. “He was the only one we brought because he was a baby. He went tap-tap on those things,” says Figueras, gesticulating at the frothing jets in the nearby wading pool.
All of his children, Artemio, Hilario, 17, Aurora, 12, and Alba, four, share his passion for horses and polo. Hilario even played for the Liberty Comets at the recent Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in New York, against the winning Veuve Clicquot team comprising both his parents.
Children mean the world to Figueras, which is why he approaches his role as an ambassador with Sentebale with such heart. “I love visiting Lesotho. The best thing is being able to interact with the children and to see how happy they are with so little, and how grateful they are for what the team is trying to do there helping out. It’s very humbling.”
Recently, Figueras has also turned his hand to fiction, releasing the ghostwritten trilogy, The Polo Season, about scandal and seduction in the glamorous world of high-stakes polo. “It’s a best seller in Germany, of all places. I was surprised,” he says with laugh. “We’re just starting to work on new books now, so it’ll take at least a year.”
As I get up to take my leave, he too rises to his feet. But instead of a handshake I get a swoon-worthy hand kiss from the philanthropic, polo-playing, second handsomest gent in the world. And this is not fiction.