Dr. Cinderella von Dungern, 5. November 2021
Being the first international club in modern polo in China, the famous “Nine Dragon Hill Polo Club (NDH)” is well-known in international polo and among a wide range of domestic equestrians and celebrities. The club organized several medium and high goal tournaments in the past and players from all over the world came to the prestigious club around 90 minutes car-ride from Shanghai. Quite a few patrons of NDH went abroad to play in sophisticated international tournaments in Thailand, Argentina and even in Germany. Due to strict pandemic travel restrictions for foreign players and visitors, its cosmopolitan flair changed to more domestic classy events. Just recently another interesting polo tournament took place in the impressive club’s premises in Zhejiang province between Shanghai and Hangzhou. The club hosted the second part of the “Metropolitan & Nine Dragon Hill Polo Summit Score Tournament 2021”. The event was co-organized by “Polo Summit” and “Tianjin Metropolitan Polo Club” and followed a first round which was run in mid-October in Tianjin. The idea behind this circle event is to bring Chinese players from various cities, levels, and clubs together and improve their skills by rotating horses, teams and playing fields.
The external circumstances of “a whole country under pandemic zero case prevention” since almost two years, are affecting China’s modern polo development harshly. Again, also for this event, a high level of flexibility in team and horse staffing until the very last moment of the game start was required by Lilian Wang, general manager of NDH. Just a few days before the game was supposed to start, a comparatively marginal number of new Covid-cases occurred in some few parts of China which led to immediate traveling restrictions and obligatory quarantine isolation for many citizens, e.g., it involved a sudden total lock-down of Disneyland Shanghai and escort of full trains directly to quarantines. The constant fear of getting caught in an unexpected 14 days-isolated quarantine while traveling elsewhere prevented several players, sponsors, and visitors from joining the polo field.
With much passion and stamina, Chinese polo clubs and players successfully adjust to those restrictions and keep the ‘polo fire’ burning and the legacy high. The polo season in 2021 was actively orchestrated through these challenging Covid-times by various sportive and elegant club cups in Anping (Tang Polo Club), Tianjin (Metropolitan Polo Club) and Shanghai (Nine Dragon Hills Polo Club). In addition to active games and club chukkas, Chinese leading polo pioneers have also enacted a sophisticated national polo handicap rating system and are training the players according to the international rules by Hurlingham Polo Association. Just recently, the new “Green book of polo rules in Chinese” was issued by Jacky Wang and her mother, an impressive work for China’s polo & equestrian society. Equipping domestic players with theoretical and practical skills underlines the impressive transition from ancient polo in China towards a modern international polo equestrian discipline. While the North of China is facing now cold temperatures and moved chukkas and training indoor and arena polo, the South offers still warm sunshine and excellent conditions to play outdoors. Hence, NDH is organizing several more polo games until early December.
At this polo club, players can find not only excellent horses and facilities, but have the chance to meet with a range of experienced patrons and polo pioneers who support the club life and create a sophisticated level of polo. One pioneer of polo in China is Su Rong, who once introduced the sport to many Chinese players and led the first tours to Argentina. Being a director for basically all the movie scenes with horses in big movies, his horsemanship knowledge is superior. He imported many horses from Argentina, US, and UK and together with other pioneers, developed the Chinese modern polo scene from the scratch. Since many years, he is breeding young polo ponies (with imported sperm from UK and Argentina) on the club’s facilities and successfully trains them even into high goal horses. In this tournament he was the umpire and guided the ambitious players along the complex polo rules. The manager of the club, Lilian Wang, is most familiar with the polo scene in China and since modern polo started in 2008, has witnessed many developments in the market. She organized tournaments, sponsors, and several players with great success. She joined the NDH club as director a long time ago, when Mr Qinfu Li once founded the Nine Dragons Hill Estate in the surroundings of Zhapu and Pinghu in Zhejiang province. Mr Li had the ambitious plan to develop “the Venice of the East” with a large private tourism resort for high-end golf, polo, and yachting, combined with a supreme European-style villa & apartment resort. After some changes in shareholder structure and government regulations on land-use, the club had to relocate its main playing fields ten years ago from the ocean shore towards up-hill, still in the same magnificent park arena which is surrounded by beautiful mountains and offers a splendid view on the East China Sea. Since 2011, NDH is operating in new quite advanced training and playing facilities. The stables are state of the art and the club’s premises are exclusive and top-notch. It’s a premium private polo club with many social activities and a personal family atmosphere.
In the tournament, 12 players competed in three teams in a ‘round robin’ the first day and organized club chukkas for the second day. After intense and speedy polo fights on the fields, sun was already down and the scores were tight, the invited guests and players joined a cheerful barbeque club night. Being there feels very warm and charming, like a little polo family. Chinese national player Windson Rao (hcp 0) and patron of team ‘Fast Fish’ is passionate about polo. He has been playing in clubs all over the world for more than 10 years, sponsored several professional players and games and is chairman of a large fast fashion chain company. His team won the club tournament. Brian Xu, who joined Sunday chukkas, is another famous Chinese player. He is president of Axus, a wooden pencil and stationery manufacturer in Shanghai, and went several times also to polo clubs in the South of Germany. Both are Chinese patrons with a strong sense for high quality horses and have a thorough understanding of the strategy in playing the game. Their long-term commitment, excellent skills and network enabled the club in Shanghai to establish a promising solid and exclusive polo center. Of course, there are a few more patrons, all of them are promoting and enhancing polo in China and it’s very rewarding to get a glimpse of this dynamic and sportive development.
As Shanghai is a popular business hub among Western expatriates and executives, many of those who play polo know the NDH club and often come to join their activities. One of the distinguished guests is Dr. James Tong (USPA rating -1) who was born in Shanghai but went to the US for his education. He started his professional career on Wall Street. After becoming a venture capitalist, one of his funds invested in an equestrian breeding business named Rider Horse. He started acquiring polo ponies and equestrian properties in 2019 at St. Louis, MO and Indio, CA. He’s the owner of Thor LLC which is the home of 15 equestrian professionals and 70+ horses at various disciplines ranging from polo, dressage, hunter jumper, western reining, barrel racing and others. His view on Polo in China is reflected: “Polo is a burgeoning sport in China. Due to the relative significant costs in operation, there have been fluctuations in the number of players and games each year. Often it was portrayed as a luxurious discipline that were afforded only by the super-rich. This notion could have deterred a meaningful number of people who could have entered the sport and excelled while enticing another group of affluent individuals who would purchase horses yet scarcely play after knowing how much dedication is needed to improve and enjoy the sport. The costs of running the operation are another consideration. All polo clubs have endured hardship during pandemic across China as well as US. Even more so in China. Polo should gain strong momentum if the operation is carried out efficiently with methodical and inventive methods of training in place for China grown polo ponies.”
Shanghai Nine Dragons Hill Polo Club
Shanghai Nine Dragon Hill Polo Club was founded in 2008 and has a British and Argentinean background. It is the first international standard private polo club and among the three leading polo clubs in China. The club takes its’ name from a beautiful coastal parkland of Nine Dragons Hill resort where it is situated together with Golf and Marina clubs. The club is 90 minutes’ drive from Shanghai near Zhapu Town (Pinghu) in Zhejiang province. It is an exclusive, private members club and has around 600 members, of which only a few selected are active polo players. The club plays polo on a highest level and offers a wide range of services. In 2011, it had to relocate its polo field from the ocean shore up-hill to a new area, but still in the same scenic spot. The club, which is also famous for its horse care service and training team, has the only international standard turf horse racing track, over 300 stable blocks, outdoor arenas and fields for both polo and equestrian competitions. It offers excellent facilities and around 120 polo ponies. A few years ago, the club starting breading young polo ponies by themselves.
* Please be informed that due to other national major social media channels, in China websites are not the main platform for communication and hence not regularly updated or used.
Team “Fast Fish”
Will Yang (hcp 0)
Dr. Cinderella von Dungern (hcp 0)
James J. Tong (hcp -1)
Windson Rao (hcp 0)
Team “Nine Dragons Hill Polo Club” (NDH)
Yan Kangliang (hcp -2)
Jack Ji (hcp 0)
Alan Xing (hcp 0)
Da Hai (hcp -1)
Team „Tianjin Metropolitan Polo Club”
Eko Zheng Yin (hcp -2)
Zack Liang (hcp 0)
Biao Wang (hcp 0)
Jeff Su (hcp 0)
Game A: Fast Fish vs NDH 2:0
Game B: Fast Fish vs Tianjin 3:2
Game C: Tianjin vs NDH: 3:3
Ranking: 1st Fast Fish, 2nd Tianjin 3rd NDH