Cowboys and polo players compete in annual SMR Cup at Lakewood Ranch

NBC News films cattle drive across University Parkway

jajones1@bradenton.comFebruary 8, 2014 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Take cowboys and polo players, put them on the same field and let them compete in polo and other contests, such as roping, penning, and mechanical bull riding.

That's the basic premise of the SMR Cup. It's an annual polo match at Lakewood Ranch that comes with a little extra: equestrians from different worlds competing out of their comfort zones.

Friday, polo players and cowboys went at each other in roping and polo -- not at the same time -- as NBC cameras rolled.

NBC News correspondent Kristen Dahlgren tweeted a photo to the world: "And today it's polo in Sarasota ... Not a bad day at the office! #neverboring."

Dahlgren and a camera crew were in town to film a segment, including something they never see in Manhattan, a cattle drive across University Parkway. Don't try that on Broadway.

It's anticipated that the segment will air sometime after the Winter Olympics.

But local residents won't have to wait that long for the SMR Cup results.

They can see the roping and penning competition, free of charge, from 2-5 p.m.

today at the rodeo arena, located on the south side of the Sarasota Polo Club. The club is situated near the southwest corner of University Parkway and Lorraine Road.

Sunday, the fun continues at 9:30 a.m., as cowboys and polo players compete in three two-chukker games on fields 3 and 5, A chukker is a period of polo play.

Also planned is a horse race during halftime of the regularly scheduled polo match. The match starts at 1 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $12.

"Every year it grows and grows," Jason McKendree of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch said of the SMR Cup's popularity.

Paula Scott, 30, grew up at Lakewood Ranch where her father, Gene Coddington, was a mechanic, and her uncle, Cliff Coddington, was the cattle manager. Both men played in the SMR Cup back in the day.

This week, Scott was figuratively riding in her father's stirrups as a member of the cowboy team.

"It's fun. We make new friends every year," Scott said.

Megan Flynn, polo instructor, agreed.

"It's pretty cool having everyone compete," Flynn said.

For the record, the competition is not exactly cutthroat.

"The best part is the cowboys and polo players helping each other out," said cowgirl Sandy Johnson.

Polo players have been known to lend mallets to the cowboys, and the cowboys have offered up their ropes to the polo players.

It goes a little further, too, with cowboys and polo players sharing their horses during the competition.

"Everyone comes together and has a blast," Johnson said.

The winning team will receive the Bull Trophy.

The SMR Cup dates to 1991, when polo club president Robin Uihlein and SMR cattle manager Roger Hill devised the event to bring the worlds of ranching and polo together.

Occasionally, a cowboy embraces polo and becomes a competitive player.

One of the participants will be awarded the Randy Ballard Award, named for an SMR cowboy turned polo player.

For more information about the SMR Cup, visit www.sarasotapolo.com or call 941-907-0000.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: @jajones1.

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