On Sundays We Play Polo

(This article first appeared in the June 14, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


Weekend dwellers across the East End are faced with the commuting dilemma of when to come and when to leave. Traffic across both forks becomes more congested than the heat outside, especially down those single lane roadways. For the Westward bound on Sundays, there’s a perfect pit stop along the way.

Bethpage Polo at the Park located in Bethpage State Park, between the Long Island Expressway and Southern State Parkway, holds their weekly Sunday polo matches. Ideal for those in fancy hats and ball-caps alike, the polo grounds accommodate all types of people and groups. Lounge in the VIP tent with endless light bites, open bar, and live DJ, or pack a picnic to sit in the grandstands. The wide open field allows for guests to enjoy a beautiful view from all angles.

The polo grounds at Bethpage State Park date back to 1934, a long history unknown to many Long Islanders. What makes this location special is the family-friendly environment. Here, the “sport of kings” captivates the audience of its entire kingdom.

Polo at the Park CEO, Bob Ceparano, remains intricately connected to the polo community through numerous endeavors, including running Country Farms, a polo and equestrian center located in Medford. From the grass roots to the tip of the mallets, this is certainly a community with open arms.

The gates open at 2 PM, the match begins at 3 PM, with a typical playing time of two hours. In between each 7.5 minute chukkers (periods), spectators are encouraged to visit the trailers to meet the players and ponies. While the games are played weekly, weather permitting, there are some festive days on the calendar to look forward to with new ones potentially being added as the season goes on.

This Sunday, bring dear ol’ dad for a new kind of Father’s Day outing. On July 2, photographers will gather for Photography Day; July 9 is the Bridgehampton National Bank Cup; July 30 will have special vendors for Ladies Day, with the following week on August 6 (and September 3) dedicated toward Kids Day; August 13 is Artist Day; September 16 is the highly anticipated Harriman Cup, a match between University of Virginia and Yale University; September 17 is the Long Island Pulse private tent event; and closing day is October 8.

The high-energy sport of polo calls to an audience of all ages, to all locations. What better way to enjoy a Sunday than with an extreme sport, good company, and greenery? Make Bethpage Polo at the Park your new Sunday Funday.

Nikki On The Daily is the seasonal manager of the VIP Tent & Events, along with social media for Bethpage Polo at the Park

Equine Lifestyles of Long Island

(This article first appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Luxury Living Magazine- a subdivision of Newsday Media Group)

The connection between horse and rider runs deep


When envisioning the traditional American cowboy, the Wild West is sure to come to mind. However, factually speaking, it’s the “Wild East” that birthed the concept—Montauk, to be exact. Deep Hollow Ranch, established in the 1600s, holds claim as the first cattle ranch in the United States, and it’s still running today.



Fast forward, and the equine lifestyle on Long Island proves to be not only historic but also diverse. Horse races at Belmont, polo in Old Westbury and equestrian jumping in Bridgehampton are all held to be part of a lifestyle for the privileged. For a pastime that relies so heavily on an animal, though, without the vibrant community surrounding these events, it might all be as simple as bareback riding (with women perhaps riding side saddle).



George Fox, an equine enthusiast living in New York City, began taking weekly polo lessons in 2016. As living in a metropolitan area isn’t normally conducive to an equine lifestyle, Fox leases a horse named Bubbles from Country Farms in Medford, where it’s cared for throughout the year.



“I like being around things that are sophisticated; it’s an elegant type of activity,” Fox explains. “Everything about the equestrian lifestyle is interesting to me. It’s an open community where everyone is engaging and wants to have you involved.”



Robert C. Ceparano is the owner of several equine corporations, but most locals likely associate him with Meadowbrook Polo in Old Westbury and also Country Farms, which is a camp, equestrian center and year-round polo facility. Like many in this circle, Ceparano comes from a long line of equine professionals. His grandfather was a horseman, as were his uncles, who taught him.


“I look at the families that have longevity in horses and that were able to make money. I learned a lot from my uncles and their business model and formed my own business model,” Ceparano states. “I really think that when my son gets in charge of this, he’s going to come in with a level of knowledge that I don’t even know about. I really believe he’ll be able to do it.”

Robert Ceparano, Jr., has become his father’s right-hand man for these multiple enterprises, as the guy who can fix anything, learning from the time he was 8 years old. Unlike other industries, being in the equine field is a round-the-clock commitment. It is not just about the horse itself but also the maintenance of equipment, programs and people. It’s only through sustainable resources, hard work and passion that an equine organization succeeds.

Having grown up in a family that surrounded themselves with horses, Juan Vasquez’s titles range from “farrier to the stars” to polo referee, with new roles emerging every few years. “I consider us [his family] the most fortunate guys in the world…I go to golf courses that I’d otherwise never be able to touch, but because I’m a friend, a farrier, because of my clients,” he confides, “I see things I’d never be able to see in my life.”



This Venezuelan native began his own farrier business 20 years ago. With time split between Wellington, Florida, and Long Island, Vasquez’s company is a new kind of B2B, a “barn to barn.” Working from his truck and trailer, he can be found horseshoeing for undisclosed celebrities and equine owners alike.


Business aside, Vasquez is also a board member of HorseAbility. The not-for-profit organization was founded in 1993 by Kathleen Kilcommons McGowan and dedicates itself to providing therapeutic programs to individuals and families with special needs. HorseAbility, on the grounds of SUNY Old Westbury, is the only organization in Nassau County honored as a Premier Accredited Center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.

On the East End, Amaryllis Farm, located in Bridgehampton, is a not-for-profit equine rescue center. Established in 1989, Amaryllis is Long Island’s first horse sanctuary and largest rescue center. Granting sanctuary to former service horses who are unable to adapt to a new home or were scheduled to be put down, it is dedicated to these horses, while teaching the community the value of caring.

Mixing sanctuary with sipping, Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard in Calverton is also a horse rescue center and sanctuary on the same property where the proprietors grow wine. Co-founded by Sharon Rubin Levine and Richard Rubin in 2007, 100% of profits from a selection of wines support their cause.

Matthew Donohue is a professional photographer who became enamored of horses while horseback riding in Cambodia in 2009. In 2015 he began snapping everything from barn stills to polo thrills and says it’s all about respect. “It’s fun, it’s thrilling,” he admits, “but I’m always fully aware of my surroundings when I approach a horse.”



Like any successful relationship, the codependence between man and horse requires dedication and trust. The equine lifestyle is more than the polo matches and horse shows; it’s the connection to a majestic being and building a beautiful community around it.

Meadowbrook Polo Club: Polo from Yesterday of Today

Founded in 1881, Meadowbrook Polo Club (formally Meadow Brook) is the oldest polo club in America where upward of 30,000 people would attend matches regularly in the 1930s. Imagine packed Long Island Railroad trains, congested roadways with thousands of tourists, souvenir vendors and fashionable attire. This was the original equine hot-spot before the Belmont Stakes.

Location, location, location! Situated only 20 miles out of New York City, at Hitchcock Field off of Whitney Lane and Polo Drive in Old Westbury, two polo fields are staged amid the wealth of Long Island’s Gold Coast. It is a club deserving of fame with the largest mass of people center to the largest mass amount of wealth.

“It’s so prestigious that we’re trying to get more sponsors and players involved with the club,” CEO of the grounds, Bob Ceparano explained.

Several top players in the sport frequent the grounds such as Mattias Migrini, Pedro Manion and rising star Torito Ruiz, among numerous others. Though currently matches are free to the public the future of M.P.C. aims to restore its mass attraction (slowly but optimistically).

A trio of enterprises, Meadowbrook Polo Club merged with Country Farms Equestrian Center and Bethpage Polo at the Park. Locals and tourists can enjoy exciting polo matches four times a week, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, in addition to a winter season of both indoor and arena polo.

Polo remains a community game, from equine admirers, sport enthusiasts to riders alike. This Thursday, June 29th, have the chance to meet the world renowned players, sponsors and patrons of today that make Long Island polo the exceptional sport it is.

After the matches at Meadowbrook there will be a Kick-Off Summer Bash taking place at Westbury Manor  from 7:30PM – 10:30PM with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Open to the public, ticket’s are only $25 and can be purchased here.

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Polo Spotlight: Slaney O’Hanlon

In 1972 the polo sex barrier was broken by a woman of disguise. After decades of posing as a man during matches, fake mustache included, the U.S. Polo Association admitted Sue Sally Hale into the ranks with its gentlemen. Hale was a pioneer, clearing the way for the fastest growing demographic in a ‘Game of Kings’- women. Decades later, in 2000, her daughter, Sunny Hale made history as well by becoming the first woman to compete on a winning team in the U.S. Open.

Step a-side-saddle, boys!

If you pay close attention to those playing on the fields of Bethpage Polo at the Park and Meadowbrook Polo Club, you’ll recognize one of its own ladies, Slaney O’Hanlon. This 24-year-old woman from Manhasset has been playing since the age of 15, after shadowing a friend who taught lessons.

“I got addicted,” O’Hanlon confessed. “I went home and told my parents that’s what I wanted to do every single day for the rest of my life.”

And she did. Her addiction created opportunities many only dream of. As a female player of today, O’Hanlon is fortunate to travel for the game she loves so much. “In February I got back from Thailand, which is probably the coolest place I’ve gotten to play…No matter where you go, polo is a small community…when you go to other places to watch you still feel like you’re in that community.”




Fortunate for polo players, the community also includes majestic animals. Depending on the day, O’Hanlon has three polo ponies of her own to choose from. Merlot, Beau and Sorpresa (surprise in Spanish). Running the area equivalent to nine footballs fields, these teammates often times represent the majority of a players game.

More than competitive mallet swinging, upon acquiring Meadowbook Polo Club, in 2016 O’Hanlon began working for Bob Ceparano, where she teaches at the polo school and helps to organize clinics

“I think [Bob’s] ideas are growing the club and the polo school…in the next few years everybody will see the growth…[Meadowbrook] can turn into the historic club it used to be.”


Slaney O’Hanlon & Juan Redlich

Meadowbrook Polo Club carries an historic significance. Back in the 1930s crowds upward of 30,000 attended matches regularly. Though it may take some time to restore an audience of such grandeur, for now we’ll be cheering on the players just the same.

For more information on Bethpage Polo at the Park or Meadowbrook Polo Club

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Bethpage Polo at the Park: It Takes 3

One of the key reasons any of us to go watch a sport live and in person is to feel that connection to the players, to the crowd, to the atmosphere. It doesn’t matter if you know the names of who’s playing, when you’re there watching a game you suddenly feel as though you make a difference. Who hasn’t screamed at the top of their lungs, almost convinced that the louder the scream the better the chance of winning? Or yelling out someone’s name as though your words of encouragement, or discouragement, will affect the athletes performance?

Polo is no different. The more familiar you are about who you’re watching, or hearing, the more involved you become. Although, being that the atmosphere is a bit more intimate, discouraging profanities are preferred to be left at the gate.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the season debut of Bethpage Polo at the Park. Now, I think it’s time to learn about some of the people that make up this fantastic sport.

Here are 3 people that YOU should know:

Cristian Vasquez.

He’s been at the Bethpage grounds playing polo for 16 years, having started in 1999, and known me for almost just as long, being the very reason I am a part of the polo family.

What’s he think about this season?

“Every year keeps getting bigger and bigger. People seem to be enjoying the game, coming to meet the players. We see new people coming every weekend. I think it’s great for the sport.”

The thrill of the game for him is the people. Hearing the roaring crowd gives him the rush he needs. So, next time you’re in the stands or under the tents make sure you bring your outdoor voice!

Want to root for the horses too? Cristian typically rides 3 ponies: Natasha, Biminy, and Doz

My favorite Polo Brothers
Juan Vasquez [left] Cristian Vasquez [right]
Juan Vasquez

At our polo grounds the best things come in 2s. In this case it’s the Vasquez brothers.

Juan has been playing polo for 25 years and is Bethpage Polo at the Park’s key referee. If you think there’s an unfair call on the field take it up with this guy!

He enjoys the comradery that comes with the sport of polo. There’s a connection between the players, the horses, the fans. These aspects all make up why he gets on the field.

Want to know more about Juan? It all comes down to the fact that he’s “Sexy, single, bi lingual, ready to mingle!”

Jerry Napp

Jerry, who I previously compared to Bob Sheppard, is the voice of Bethpage Polo at the Park.

Jerry Napp- photo courtesy of Debra Napp
Jerry Napp- photo courtesy of Debra Napp

While he has played competitively for 52 years, he and his wife Debbie (who you can find behind the camera lens every Sunday) have played for 25 years together.

Upon trading in his mallet for a microphone Jerry became the announcer for the grounds at Meadowbrook and other fields, now solely at Bethpage.

“The transformation is amazing at Bethpage Polo at the Park. [Bob] is so determined, so dedicated to bringing polo to the larger audience….once you get involved in polo there’s no way out.”

Being a part of this community for so long, having seen it go through such miraculous transformation and growth, if there’s one thing Jerry could tell all of us it’s to

“Learn that this is a game most people think of as elitist and for people with big hats, but it is so much more than that. It’s for everyone.”

He loves the people most. From the crowd to staff polo is a place of dedication to the sport and love of the game. There’s nothing else quite like it.

Next time you’re out at Bethpage Polo at the Park you’ll now recognize these 3, friendly faces. Well, 4 including myself. We look forward to seeing you there!

On Sundays We Play Polo