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Watch the Steaming Divots Go Flying

Members of the First Chukker polo team survey the field before a match at the America's Polo Cup World Championship in Poolesville in May. (Andrea Bruce/The Washington Post)

Drama! D.C.'s polo scene provides a lot of it -- most of it off the field, far from the ponies.

The latest came this weekend with a broadside sent out to polo fans across the region and around the world -- via Facebook, strangely -- from the National Polo League stating that it "has been required to notify and caution consumers" about First Chukker Foundation, a Virginia-based group of socially prominent polo players.

In stern legalese, the message claimed First Chukker had failed to pay bills and "has not been granted the appropriate exempt status by several states they participate in, and is under investigation by several states."

Sounds serious, huh? Alas, some reporting suggested that -- are you sitting down? -- it's more of a small-time horse-country smack down.

For starters, no one seems sure what the "National Polo League" is. The 120-year-old U.S. Polo Association says it's unfamiliar with the group, whose name mostly shows up as a sponsor in press releases connected to the America's Polo Cup, which puts on matches on the Mall and in Loudoun County. And the America's Polo Cup, you'll be shocked to learn, has a beef with First Chukker.

In response to Facebook messages, we got a call from Roger Stern, the CEO of the NPL, which he described as a "governing association for pro-am polo," formed a year ago. He said NPL put out the Facebook blast against First Chukker after receiving "three complaints from three different polo clubs," though he would only name one of them -- America's Polo Cup, wouldn't you know. He also left us a number for the NPL that doesn't seem to work.

America's Polo Cup organizer Tareq Salahi told us he's suing First Chukker for allegedly defaulting on $52,000 it promised for competing in his polo matches. "We love the guys at First Chukker, but unfortunately they have some bad apples," he said. But no suit's been filed; his lawyer said maybe next week.

Andrew Bullion, a pony-riding lawyer with First Chukker, denied Salahi's charges. He noted that the group -- which doesn't raise money but donates out of its own pockets to an established charity -- had recently severed ties with the America's Polo Cup, declining to participate in September's match.

"It's a sad day for polo in the D.C. area," he said about the dispute. "I hope it doesn't hurt people's impressions of the sport."

By The Reliable Source  |  July 28, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
Categories:  Real Housewives of D.C.  
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Sad people don't want to pay their bills.
I know how that is too.
They look like older guy's in the picture you posted , they should know better.

Posted by: susan34 | July 28, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

That really nice these first chukkor rich boys dont raise money, how considerate to their fellow man. But major problem - I attended a "fundraiser" for first chukkor in georgetown last year. It sounds like I was I really paying for these rich first chukkor boys to play polo!

Posted by: SpclEvents2000 | July 28, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse

drama is right. I was at a fundraiser First Chukker did. We each had to pay (I paid cash) into a big glass jar at a BLT roof top party or we couldn't get in. I had to pay the guy pictured in the yellow shirt .

I wouldn't let anyone play until they pay either.

Hope everybody works it out.

Posted by: JenniferWood1 | July 28, 2009 1:14 AM | Report abuse

Normally I would never take time to post something, after seeing this I knew I must.
While I have no idea what or who a First Chukker is. Or the NPL. Seems like First Chukker is a rich man's group who doesn't pay. NPL is some type of league for Polo?

What I do know is my daughter has battled cancer on and off for the last 10 years and Tareq Salahi has supported our family in everyway.


Posted by: ErinOHagan | July 28, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

The part on The First Chukkers don't give to charity is FAR FROM THE TRUTH!!! The statement that they don't give was a misunderstanding in big way. First, these are an amazing group of professionals who have a passion not only for the sport of Polo, but their PRIMARY goal IS to ride,play and GIVE to Charity!!!!
Example, RE: RIDE TO THRIVE was in support of The Northern VA Therapeutic Riding Program, proceeds were given to this charity in behalf of First Chukkers. 2nd, THE GREEN CUP that was just recently played this month on July 18th at The Capital Polo Club, is one of D.C most outstanding events to give to ACORE-American Council On Renewable Energy, which supports Green Initiatives. 3rd, EPIC-Equestrian Partners In Conservation,4th Earth Eco International,5th- Smithsonian Young Benefactors Polo Cup-Smithsonian Association & Culture for kids funds which help school children to attend Smithsonian summer camp & discover theatre performances. These are just a few of the charities that THE First Chukker guys have effortlessly helped raise money for. I advise anyone in question of these fabulous professional men who strive hard to GIVE, let me repeat GIVE to these wonderful organizations because they are good people that care about the well being of others. I am very much sadden that some of these viewers here on the blog were mislead about what these guys do. PLEASE, If you have any 2nd thoughts, contact the charities that I just listed to confirm the generosity and dedication of The First Chukker players.
As to the comment that someone wrote about giving money to the guy in the picture above in the yellow shirt. He is HIGHLY respected among his peers and so is Andrew Bullion, the money that was collected at any of these event WERE given to charity, that is the purpose of having these events, among the love among this very powerful D.C organization.
The viewers also need to look further into #1, WHO IS EXACTLY ROGER STERN? and have them identify which organizations JOURNEY FOR THE CURE has given money to.....THE PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW.

Posted by: Horselover101 | July 28, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

ALSO...... The comment that Roger Stern quoted as saying that The First Chukkers guys "Don't pay their bills" my question for all of you in question if they don't pay their bills....WHY would these large charities want to be associated with The First Chukker guys if they were not forthcoming and still ask these gentlemen to play in these Polo matches. HUMMMMM...... I think it is obvious that the accusations made by Mr. Roger Stern should be in question.

Posted by: Horselover101 | July 28, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

The very thought of a lawyer playing this game is hilarious.

My vote is to fry the small pony-riding first chukker lawyer! :)

Sir, please pass the poupon.

Tally Ho!

Posted by: tyeoconnor | July 28, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Where's Gene Weingarten when we need him--did no one notice that the polo-playing lawyer's name is "Bullion?" Talk about an aptonym!

Posted by: NoMad3 | July 28, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

OKAY - This GREAT stuff! Never been to a polo game - but now I really want to go see on and hope these folks are playing against each other.

This may be better than Ice Hockey!

So if Hockey players through off their gloves, what do polo players do?... through their wallets at each other? Oh... wait - where did the first chukker lawyer dude go? Oh there he is... with everyones wallet heading to the Salvation Army! Yeah right...

Posted by: ericabennett181 | July 28, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Looks like I hit a nerve of one of first chukker guy's - "horselover".
The fact is that the only reason I posted it was Andrew Buillon's interview with The Post's writer he states "First Chukker doesn't raise money but donates out of their own pockets." That night the large glass fish bowl that the polo guy from your group was demanding beforeall of us entering ........was OUR money. Not First Chukker as individuals. So keeping it real and telling it straight. Your polo - lawyer said you don't raise money - in fact you do.

Posted by: JenniferWood1 | July 28, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Clearly the first chukker group has some things to work out and is in some sort of trouble. While some of these comments are funny to read, there is a very serious side also. Regardless I know that these polo matches are always great fun and help those in need.

I am in a nurse here in the city, and want to express my personal views. I dont know any of those groups listed in the story. However, Salahi has been a wonderful supporter of patients in need, from Cancer related illnesses to Multiple Sclerosis. He and his lovely wife Michelle have always taken time to come to the hospital, talk with doctors, nurses, attended our events and supported our balls financially and with his very nice wines.

I know a number of us from the hospital are going to that polo match in DC this fall and hopefully by then, those that have the debts in the First Chukker, can repay it or at least start making payments.

Lastly, I want everyone to know, that if it wasn’t for the Salahis – we would have lost a little girl here who was battling Leukemia. He and his wife were single handedly responsible for raising significant funds that came direct for patient care.

I ask respectfully that the First Chukker organization challenge themselves to saving someone’s life and I extend that challenge to all in our community in the greater Washington region. It can be towards any cause you wish.

I propose we toast to that challenge during the next divot stomp in DC!

Posted by: sunnylady138 | July 28, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Roxanne and Amy hit upon a good subject - Lots of intrigue here with the high-rolling polo players stiffing each other for money. A little research would have shown that the National Polo League and the America's Polo Cup are basically the same organization. A little more research would have uncovered a long list of debt racked up by the America's Polo Cup folks from VA. to MD. and beyond, so the notion of them getting stiffed by First Chukker is karma at work - why is a team paying $52K to compete in a match anyway? I'm with horselover101 in questioning how much of the money from this "charity" event actually goes to charity, and how much goes to supporting the organizing couple's life style. Sounds like a new challenge to Roxanne and Amy!

Posted by: PoloPal | July 28, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I did some research on these organizations and here is what I could find:


America's Polo Cup -

First Chukker -

Sounds like there is some trouble brewing. You make the call!

Posted by: jbflame8 | July 28, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

As for "Roger Stern" it appears that he is a ghost - or a comic book character, not sure which. Aside from a few comments coming from the NPL, Roger Stern doesn't exist except in comics. Sounds like the perfect fit to be CEO of the national Polo Association.

Posted by: PoloPal | July 28, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Hey Polo Lawyer – Sunny lady may be right --- take this free senior advice from one lawyer to another ( I am retired, but I assume if you play polo, you currently have your youth you lucky dog). You are going to waste a lot of $$$ in this fight, that if you haven’t figured it out yet - you will not win. Then you will look even worst to the public view if you spend a lot of money that should have gone to charity. And you and I know, that if you get a jury trial, the locals in DC will hang you out to dry as a “Polo Lawyer” so fast you wont have time to think twice to pack your bags and get out of dodge.

If you do go for it, spend $25 to 50K defending, and then get that jury of our peers in DC – trust me, you lose and the charity wins anyways. So now you owe your $50K, and you spent $25 to 50K defending, and now the public will really hate you and your first chukker organization, especially those in health care. Your quote to the paper that you “don’t raise money” didn’t help my friend… and unfortunately, you cant take that back. So you got real serious problems from when the horse tried to clear the race track gate.

Recommendation: These things tend to come back and haunt lawyers careers especially if complaints start getting filed with the state bar against you or your firm if you have one. Firms don’t like bad press of any kind when it comes to these things – it’s a serious and unnecessary distraction.

Just some friendly advice from a old fart legal eagle.

Posted by: bendinilambertandlocke | July 28, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Seriously - This is better than reality TV! Reading all this, if you don't know polo, which most of us regular folk dont, you are saying to yourself what in the world is this?

First chukker- never heard of it. Maybe this will help put them on the map to meet more girls.

America's cup - been to it. Fun for even the non–polo people like us, great music & fireworks and my children love it. So works for me.

Stern - never heard of it. ? who cares…

Salahi - good guy, met him briefly, he donated wine for my daughter's school fundraiser.

Bullion - met him at one of the polo events with his beautiful wife, then a month later saw him again and he left his wife for a short looking girl who looked like could have been his daughter. Wouldn't trust a polo man who is married and dating another. Not cool, and no longer in style to do it that way anymore, very 80's. Been the victim once, and never again.

Sound's like the first chukker rich boys ran out of money. maybe to many girls. Too much partying and paying off the X-wives.

Whens the TV show coming out about all this? I may actually watch this show.

Posted by: Singlemomlovinit | July 28, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Tareq Salahi is a total con artist. Everyone in Middleberg knows this fact - with the exception of FirstChukker and the Washington Post.

Last I heard there was a class action suit against him for how he ripped off the sponsors of Americas Cup of Polo and left employees unpaid.( Heck, he even STOLE the name from the yacht race!) And the IRS was looking into their so called Leukemia Foundation.

Is it any wonder, who on earth actually visits the Oasis winery? They couldnt even sell it.

Sorry, guys, you were on his target list. But look at it this way,he is running out of runway!

Posted by: ksjstern | July 28, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

This dude ksjstern is one angry polo player. first chukker rich boy I guess
Who cares about all your personal feelings.
Let it go man. chukker? first time i heard it was today.

Googled that Salahi guy first since angry dude was trashing him - very cool guy from his pictures. He is friends with the best. That say's it all for us.

Googled first chukker polo- alot of out of shape prep boys from the web site. typical pictures of that sport and what we know it as. not much there. old guy's trying to hold on.

Googled Oasis - looks good - love wine
googled americas cup - awesome, this was a suprise to us. very hip. who knew?!

We are all laughing at work that maybe those good ole cukker boys need to find a runway. Not much going on for them. google it.

Too bad they don't pay their bills. Same thing happened to me in business. Know how it is. Then they try to switch the focus and defame. been there. hang tight

Posted by: Brian47 | July 29, 2009 12:57 AM | Report abuse

I find it a little amusing that Tareq Salahi is suing to recover money from First Chukker. I have a friend that sued him for services they had not received for a wedding at Oasis and massive over billing. My friend won the lawsuit and has yet to receive any money over a year later.

Posted by: tmp1 | July 29, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

The title faked me out, "Steaming Divots go Flying". I thought it was going to be a story about a horse-chip tossing contest like they have at the state fair.

This was especially enhanced by the Print Post's juxtaposition of a picture of the rear ends of a bunch of horses.

Paradoxically, although the online photo is quite different, yet it is oddly the same.

Posted by: laboo | July 29, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

The Bride from **** Remember it well. She should have been on that show. Marybeth Ahern is her name. This is probably you.
Only ugly bride we ever saw. Our office won it twice with American Express when she "charged back" her wedding and didn't want to pay. Then she hired a lawyer and Mr salahi's lawyer dropped the ball and forgot to respond. It is all public knowledge. The worst part about that bride is she was VERY devious and hugged the team, was so happy and thanked all of us and then tried to screw us for a free Wedding. Our office won it with Amex 2x.

Sound's like Marybeth would be a great friend for a first chukker guy. Birds of a feather flock together.

Posted by: wil1 | July 29, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I am truly appalled by some of these comments, most of them have nothing to do with the situation and just a bunch of "cheap shots" towards The First Chukkers and others, leads me and most people who I spoke with that it could be someone in the Salahi parties that are using different alias to try and make them look like something they are not.
With looking into some public info, let it be known and public record that Tareq & Michaele Salahi have NO ownership to Oasis Winery at all, never did!! Tareqs Mom/Dad owns the winery. He also has a public record of going bankrupt not that long ago. they possibly have no other way to support their life style except for putting on Americas Cup.hummmm...Does any of the charities get any money at all? Also, there is a public announcement that the Salahis are under investigation with Virginia. And isn't there a huge lawsuit against the Salahis from the highly respected and much loved owner of BET, Sheila Johnson of big monies owed to her company..Gee...look who doesn't pay their bills! And the person sunnylady 138 who wrote a comment that they (the hospital) would of lost a little girl but because of the Salahis you didn't? I don't know what professional nurse would say such a thing, it is all very strange! and I take great offense that you are "singling out" ONE couple, out of thousands of people that give to Leukemia, how are they SOLEY responsible for that.
And the one that wrote singlemomlovinit, you need to grow up and get your facts straight before you slander someone that you don't even know. You are a very unhappy person.
I could go on with the immature, ridiculous things that were stated with insult after insult for what reason? hummmm..someones gain, perhaps?

Posted by: Horselover101 | July 29, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Horselover? Got to be a first chukker polo player who is angry. Cheap shots. Reading this you are quite a jealous guy. You are consumed with the Salahi's. I am happy to meet. Let's all meet. Maybe I can get the money from first chukker back that you made me give you. You are the one hiding in "horselover"?

Attacking the nurse was low. Anything, but that. These chukker guys are gross. Horselover can't give his name. We have.
The article was about chukker. Horselover is obsessed with Salahi.

I encourage that nurse to send to a paper her story. Jealousy is consuming these first chukker guy's. No one seems to know who they are anyway? Now we will never forget.

Posted by: JenniferWood1 | July 29, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Wow. This is really a Desperate stretch for this guy "Horselover".

Working with animals my whole life and devoted to the animal hospital I have worked for years at , and loving animals as I do, I must comment.

I just returned from a charity event I did with our animals and decided to read this article.

Let's get the record straight. Tareq Salahi is the owner of Oasis. I have been going to Oasis for 10 years or more now with my family. I know the entire Salahi family very well. "Horselover" is struggling with anger. Tareq is not bankrupt, and yes I know one of their companies filed for re-organization for Oasis. If you have any knowledge you would have read The Washington Post over the last 2 years and see that famlies pain un-fold with the father's very serious illness. It was all well documented there. You too "Horselover", I am sure have some type of family problem or dysfunction. Tareq's was just more exciting for people to read. All families have pain, don't they? The other accusations are really a desperate stretch because you are angry and embarrassed that You and the First Chukker Foundation owe the money.

Salamander-all I can say here as I was a witness to that 3 years ago, we all know how the catering went. It was Salamander's first catering gig, and the caterer apologized to everyone publicly for running out of food. Can't blame the wine guy or a polo player for the food running out.

Tareq & Michaele have been well off in every sense long before all these polo gigs. With that comes great jealousy. I have no idea where you think they JUST got a better world. You obviously don't know them, or maybe you don't read much..........or you are just angry.

I agree with the other readers who posted here. It only makes First Chukker disliked and they need to pay their obligations and move forward.

My name is Susan Dove. I am happy, as the other readers to meet at any time. "Horselover", maybe you are the one with the hidden identity. What is your name?

The comment about the nurse was crude and raw. The nurse appears to be one of the more level headed here on this blog to help everyone find peace.

If you are a real "Horselover"...true animal lovers don't act this way with hostility and anger. Maybe you will decide to share your identity as I have.

Posted by: SusanDove1 | July 30, 2009 2:02 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Horselover101 | July 30, 2009 7:21 AM | Report abuse

I have seen many of the Facebook posts, and even responded to some of them. I was a recipient of the one Roger Stern sent out.
I believe David Mortz wrote the original post that started the Facebook mud slinging. Rogers Stern's post was very similar in wording to one of David Mortz's posts.

All I can say, as in the old adage, where there's smoke there's fire. Until those named in this article, and others associated with these accusations, are willing to open their charitable foundation books and speak for themselves, on all counts, there's really not much say. But plenty to think.

They certainly don't have to defend themselves and it is probably in their best interest not too. However, until they do, count on people to think the worst. Come on, this IS polo. Take the comment about players throwing wallets at each other. I have to say, VERY funny but sad at the same time, too. There are a lot of very generous and wonderful people involved in polo and many of them are not rich.

This is just another black eye for the sport and those of us involved in it and who love it because of the horses and the people. NOT the flash and cash.
Shame on those of you who are making the rest of us look bad. Whoever you are.

Posted by: StephanieKramlSuttle | July 30, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

A couple of notes... Everyone who's worked with the APC and Tareq and Michaela have eventually run away screaming. Whenever there's drama in the Polo world, they are always smack in the middle of it. Makes you wonder?

Market Salamander is not the only lawsuit that they have been involved with. About every vendor and sponsor involved with APC have filed for not getting what was promised. The APC is not even paying their tiniest bills. I know of many who are still waiting to get paid from APC going all the way back to 2007. I know of sponsors from just the previous APC that paid $100,000 to the event and who was very upset about the unkept promises. Even at a personal level the Salahi's are known to repeatedly fool people to pay for them.

'Horselover' has some inside knowledge, and are repeating a lot of things that many in DC agree with. Yes, the charity is under continued investigation - see the articles posted above, and search a bit further and you will find the truth.

As for David Mortz and Roger Stern, please check their identities. It is a mystery to most involved with polo in DC that they have never met any of these people in person. Roger Stern and NPL, USPA (only legit US polo organization) wants nothing to do with it. David Mortz is known to slander everyone on Facebook - hardly a forum for such childish behavior.

First Chukker... I don't know... It's hard to believe that anyone in DC would make a commitment to pay $52K to play, but if they did, so be it. However, it should be said that the group have paid their other charities, maybe not on time, but they have paid. They have also supported these charities through pre-parties at which they raised funding that in the end was given to the charity.

Posted by: NoWhereClose | July 31, 2009 5:26 AM | Report abuse

I have been a sponsor for the America's Polo Cup since the beginning. Our team has alway's had a Wonderful time.

The event has grown quicker than anyone imagined with popularity. I remain a sponsor for 2010. Most people such as myself are not into Polo. For our team to enjoy an event there has to be more than just watching a few guy's hit a ball on horses. I participate because of the many fascintating elements to the weekend. No other event has the great respect of the military showcased.

Many other event's have begun to emulate what America's Polo Cup started. That is good. Even I was reading an article where Tiger Wood's team's coordinator for the golf, came in 2007 and was inspired to showcase at his event more military. I have been a sponsor of Tiger Wood's for a very long time as well, and did watch them begin to embrace military. Well done.

I know smaller groups such as Great Meadow Foundation, who I did support in the past. No investigation was ever done to America's Polo Cup. I am a sponsor and made it my business to look into this. Gossip and pettiness only destroys the people who do it. From the research I have done. It seems that a family that owns Great Meadow (Arundel family) owns a local paper and tried to damage the other event due to jealousy. Sad really. Just learn to work hard and be honest, and your polo club will find success.

The e-mail's tell it all here - "no where close" - "horselover" they are only 2 disgruntled , angry people. I agree with other readers here. America's Polo Cup team readers have all given their names here. The only concealed identities are the ones who are doing something wrong. First Chukker.

America's Polo Cup is a world wide recognized event. These local polo players shouldn't be so angry and just pay their bills. If they work hard and pay their bills someday First Chukker and other polo groups will have the success that America's Polo Cup has had.

Edward Halpern

Posted by: lehalpern | July 31, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

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