What started with a group of cowboys playing “knock around” on horses has grown into a Sunday spring tradition for area equestrians and Champagne sippers alike — polo.
Since its beginning in 1991, the Sarasota Polo Club has built a reputation as one of the premier venues for the sport nationwide. In addition to fielding public matches for nearly four months each year, the facility offers lessons, boarding and other opportunities to play.
But when Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch started looking to sell the property, some worried the club was in jeopardy.
Enter horse aficionados and Polo Club residents James and Misdee Miller. Wanting to ensure equestrian sports live on at the facility, the couple purchased the 158-acre property in June.
“A lot of speculation has been going around that people have been looking to develop (the property),” James Miller said in June after the sale closed. “Our goal is to keep it green space.”
Scott Lancaster, who heads up the Sarasota Polo Club’s polo school, says he’s excited to see the Millers purchase the club.
“James and Misdee are just awesome people who have the club’s long-term interests at heart,” Lancaster says. “I knew there was a change in the air because SMR wanted to move on. Over the years, it has been a glorious club. But James and Misdee are going to improve the fields and add a lot of amenities. Of course, James is a participant, too.”
In addition to preserving polo on the site, the Millers have ideas to add other equine sports and to start a new polo season that plays from November through December.
In addition to the two properties the Millers own at the Polo Club, where they keep their horses, they also own the 1,400-acre Hillcroft Farm in Paris, Ky.
“We are equestrian-centric people,” James Miller said.