Riding ponies and swinging a mallet, eight polo players will square off in a match today to benefit the USC Aiken athletic programs.
The 2012 Pacers and Polo Competition is expected to draw between 3,000 and 4,000 people to Powderhouse Polo Field in Aiken.
The polo match is the final and smallest event of the Aiken Triple Crown held on three consecutive Saturdays in March.
An estimated 35,000 attended last Saturday’s Aiken Steeplechase.
The first leg, held two weeks ago, was the Aiken Trials.
“It’s one of the largest fund-raisers that the athletic department does,” USC Aiken Athletic Director Randy Warrick said about the polo event.
“It helps generate athletic scholarships for our student athletes.”
Each athletic team from USC Aiken will participate in the event, from helping with set-up, parking, selling food or other support services.
During the polo match intermission, the relatively new USC Aiken equestrian program, which has a polo club in its inaugural year, will be introduced.
The third leg of the Aiken Triple Crown was originally a harness racing event.
Nine years ago, the event switched to a polo match.
“It looked like harness racing was dying out in our area,” Warrick said. “Polo was thriving.”
Two teams of four polo players each will play in the match lasting about two hours.
During six time periods, called chukkers, players try to hit a ball through goalposts using a wooden mallet while riding horses.
Known as a rough and dangerous sport, the game is played on a field 300 yards long and 160 yards wide.
“Polo is a fun sport to watch. It’s fun to watch because of the horses,” Warrick said.
“If this is your first one, when you leave you’ll know a lot more about polo then when you arrived,” Warrick added.”