CHICAGO (CBS) — It will be an unusual sight along the lakefront this weekend, as for the first time, the Beach Polo World Cup will be played in Chicago at North Avenue Beach.

As CBS 2’s Susan Carlson reports, polo actually has a rich history in Chicago, with its heyday in the 1950s and ’60s. But since it has been a while, here is a crash course in the sport.

“This is not just a sport for elite, rich people,” said polo player Bob McMurtry.

But how much do the rest of us really know about how the game is played? The “king of sports” leaves many of us royally confused.

“Polo is a little bit like hockey on horseback. So it is full contact, full speed, a lot of passing,” McMurtry said.

The Beach Polo World Cup is traditionally in Miami, but Chicago area players such as McMurtry are excited to have it on their home turf this year.

But men aren’t the only ones mounting their horses for the game.

“The women’s segment is the largest growing segment in polo,” said polo player Tracy Regas, who has been playing for 15 years and will compete against players from all over the world this weekend.

But the players aren’t the main attraction.

“The horses are the real stars,” Regas said. “It’s been quoted that they’re 90 percent of the game, and I completely agree.”

And the horses love the game, Regas says.

“I personally think they know when it’s a competition versus just a practice,” she said. “We put on the white pants. There’s a referee. There’s usually a crowd. They get pretty excited.”

“I actually had a horse I retired, and she was sad because she couldn’t go to polo anymore,” Regas added.
All the rules for polo are designed for safe riding. The horses’ tails are tied up to prevent tangling, and players can only swing the mallets with their right hands, even if they’re left-handed.

“Then once you’ve kind of mastered that, or become reasonably accomplished at riding, then it’s the matter of can you hit the ball and move it in the right direction and control it,” McMurtry said.

Arena polo is played in four periods called “chuckers,” which are each 7 1/2 minutes long. The length of a standard polo field is equal to about three football fields, but the one at North Avenue Beach will be custom-built and condensed.

The Grey Goose Chicago Beach Polo World Cup will be held Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost is $20 for spectators, and $150 for a VIP tent.

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