N.Y.-D.C. Hotel Rivalry

Heads to Horseback

The Madison hotel in downtown Washington and the Carlyle in New York are about to face off: not in the competition for free-spending travelers, but for bragging rights on the polo field.

Dave Pollin, a partner in Buccini/Pollin Group, which redeveloped the Madison, is an avid amateur player of polo, the aristocratic sport played on the backs of horses. He even hired his longtime polo pro, Charles Muldoon, to head the hotel's sales to embassies. (It seems that being an aficionado of polo gives him entree into Washington diplomatic circles.)

Pollin, the nephew of Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, will captain the Madison's team, and Muldoon, once one of the top-ranked players in the world, will also represent the hotel staff on the team. The other players will be polo-playing friends and acquaintances of the two, not hotel employees. They will face off against the Carlyle team, led by general manager James McBride, who was formerly general manager of the Ritz-Carlton in Washington.

The game will be on the Mall, between the Lincoln and Roosevelt memorials, at 4 p.m. on Sept. 12. The hotels expect many of their regular customers and VIPs to show up, but anyone can watch for free. "We're looking forward to entertaining our loyal customers, and meeting some new customers in Washington as well," McBride said.

The winner gets the newly minted Madison Cup, a big silver trophy. "We'd hate to have them take it back to New York," Muldoon said.

Will the Madison be challenging local competitors to a polo match anytime soon? They'll take all comers. "One thing that might come out of it would be bruised egos if we beat the Ritz or anyone else in town," Pollin said.

"I haven't gotten my invitation yet," said Paul Westbrook, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton in Washington. "I've lent my polo pony to Prince William and unfortunately wouldn't be able to play."

-- Neil Irwin