By Nadine Schiff-Rosen | November 16, 2016 | People Feature
As the crowds pour in for the Aspen Snow Polo Championship, December 15–18, polo great and man-about-“town” Nacho Figueras reveals why Aspen has become home sweet mountain home.
If the name Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras doesn’t immediately sound familiar to you, take a glimpse at his smoldering, chiseled face and you will recognize him as one of the world’s most photographed models—the sultry brand ambassador for Ralph Lauren’s men’s fragrances. He’s that dude, seducing you from magazine covers, buses, and billboards all over the world—only this scorching visage is more than just a pretty face. Ranked as one of the world’s top polo players, he races his beloved horses at heart-attack speeds through polo fields from Buenos Aires to the Hamptons, from Los Angeles to Dubai, and this December, to Aspen.
Committed to bringing the “sport of kings” to the masses through his global events and tournaments, he attracts celebrities such as Kate Hudson, Madonna, Chloë Sevigny, and even his good pal Prince Harry to cheer him on. But all for a good cause. Figueras’s philanthropic work, pairing horses and inner cities and special-needs kids, is not only democratizing the sport; it’s raising the bar for therapeutic equine programs the world over. For fun, he advances his own brand by authoring steamy romance novels featuring—wait for it—a sexy polo player.
But don’t believe everything you read. In real life, Figueras, 39, has been married for 18 years to Delfina Blaquier, the love of his life and the mother of their four children. When he’s not competing on the field, Figueras runs a serious horsebreeding operation in an ultramodern stable near his farm in Buenos Aires. As a co-owner of Black Watch, a polo team in America, he aspires to bring horses and the sport of polo into the entrepreneurial mainstream of entertainment, creating fashion, television series, movies, and even theme parks. Can this multitalented athlete have it all? Probably so. With his movie star looks, influential friends, and business savvy, Nacho Figueras is well on his way to achieving his Hollywood (and, yes, Aspen) field of dreams.
TICKET TO RIDE
Why did you become a polo player? I love polo, first and foremost. I started playing at 9, became a professional at 16, and as I grew, I got to love the horses even more than the sport. The horses really became a big part of my life and my family’s life. We are now breeding horses and have a big operation. My eldest son is 16, and very soon he too will become a professional polo player. So just when I thought I couldn’t love the sport any more, playing the game with my 6-foot-3-inch son brings it to a whole other level.
What has been the most challenging time for you as a polo player? I broke my hip in 2013 in England, which was the worst accident I ever had. It was hard, tough, for many different reasons. At the same time, it also gave me a lot of perspective. For 20 years I had been playing, playing, playing, nonstop. And then I stayed home and fell into this highway of emotions. So the accident helped me take a break and miss the game—miss a lot of things.
When you came back, were you afraid? You can’t be afraid. Polo requires all of your senses, and you need to be very awake. If you’re afraid, you can’t really ride, or play at a high level. So, thank God, fear did not affect me.
You call Prince Harry your friend? Tell us about your relationship. Prince Harry and I are very close. We talk all the time. He’s a great guy. Very much like his mom. I started playing polo with him about 10 years ago, and I could tell right away this guy was real. He was there because he cared about the charitable purpose of the polo match, which was HIV/AIDS in southern Africa. He is very committed to his philanthropic work, and to making the world a better place.
You need to fix him up with a great lady.
We’re working on that. [Laughs] He does deserve the best woman in the world. And he will find her very soon because he’s a good soul. It’s gonna happen.
You model for Ralph Lauren, and you call him a mentor. Why? I admire Ralph Lauren tremendously. I think that he is someone, in spite of his successful life, who is very grounded. A couple of times a year, we go into his office; we sit and talk and discuss life. He is a wonderful man who has experience and wisdom.
What’s next after polo? I see polo as a brand that has not been cracked as a medium for entertainment: books, television series, movies. You are the first person I am telling this, but I have a dream to do equestrian theme parks. I believe horses have a magical impact on people. Years ago the world revolved around horses—chariots, wars, races… And I think the world is always looking for the new in old ideas. I have five or six more years to play polo, and then I want to travel, put on exhibitions, and grow polo into something more entrepreneurial.
At the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup in Florida last spring, Figueras and his wife, Delfina Blaquier, hung out with Prince Harry, a good friend and “great guy—very much like his mom.”
WE ARE FAMILY
Just when you think Nacho Figueras’s life could not be more charmed, in floats his wife of 18 years, Delfina (nicknamed Delfi), who is not only ethereally beautiful, but grounded and accomplished in her own right. An esteemed photographer (and former model), she is the doting mother to their four children, traveling with her husband all over the world to support his professional life and ensuring their family’s togetherness.
How did you and Delfina meet? Nacho: I was very lucky to meet my wife, Delfi, in Buenos Aires at a polo match. I was only 20 years old and she was 18. We never planned for that. It was love at first sight, and it just happened I met the right person. We married, then had four kids at a very young age.
How do you keep your marriage going despite your hectic schedule? Delfina: It’s refreshing to unplug from your duty of mother and become a girlfriend again. You have to have some time alone, even to go to the market together. At night, sometimes we sneak out to the stables to visit the horses with a couple of glasses of wine. It’s such a peaceful place. It’s refreshing and relaxing.
Have you purposely made your family a priority? Delfina: Luckily, I love sports, just like my husband. So it’s great to share that. I’m not just hard-core—I am a maniac! Sometimes I get a little too carried away. But it doesn’t matter how hard you try. Children always need more of your time. So you have to get creative in your marriage.
Nacho: I don’t go anywhere for more than a week without bringing my wife and children. We like to take the kids out of their comfort zone, and they have made friends everywhere they go. They have their own global community. And sometimes I travel with my wife alone, or tack on a couple of days to a business trip and it’s like being on a honeymoon.
“My family goes to Aspen because we love it, and snow polo is the perfect excuse to go,” says international polo star (and international hunk...) Nacho Figueras, seen here competing with Team Black Watch for the 2014 World Snow Polo Championship at the Aspen Valley Polo Club, where he’ll return in December for the 2016 tournament.
ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE
Nacho, why snow polo in Aspen? We go to Aspen because we love it, and snow polo is the perfect excuse to go. Not only is the polo a lot of fun, but the Aspen polo building [the Aspen Valley Polo Club] is an amazing structure.
What is a great day in Aspen? We have breakfast and then we go skiing. My kids and my wife are hard-core skiers. So we start at 9, and we are always the family that skis the last run of the day. Sometimes we go to Buttermilk with our 3-year-old, and then we go to the Highlands for the black runs. We go to Aspen Mountain, too. My wife is a very good skier. Better than me.
Is that painful for you to say? It’s okay. She’s better than me at most things.
And Aspen in the summer? We go biking, waterskiing, kayaking. The kids go camping. Last year my son went with a program that spends the night on the mountain in a tent. They make a fire. He had the best time.
What do you do in town? We like to shop—every store is there. I like going to Ralph Lauren, because they know me and I get a discount. [Laughs] And we go to all the ski stores because the kids like to get a new helmet or new pair of gloves. Aspen has a lot of good people. We have a lot of friends here, and we have a great time.
Any friends you care to mention? I don’t like to mention names. That’s why we stay friends! [Laughs]
What’s the best part of Aspen? I think that Aspen is respectful of its community. When we were trying to get permits for polo, [we] realized that things are well thought-out. It cares about its parks. It cares about its community. Last year Delfi raced in an event that helps put all kids through ski programs. It’s a tight, generous community, and one day, when our children are [living on their own], we would like to spend five or six months a year in Aspen. Aspen is a wonderful life!
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NORM CLASEN. OPPOSITE PAGE: ALEXANDER TAMARGO/WIREIMAGE