For private equity executive Michael Carrazza, an invitation to fly to Rome this week to play in the Sentebale ISPS Handa Polo Cup, Prince Harry’s annual charity tournament, is about much more than a chance to hang out with a member of the British royal family.
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The Solaia Capital CEO is one of a select few Americans set to take part in the event, which seeks to raise money and awareness for the Sentebale charity to benefit children affected by the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. This year’s event marks the second time that Carrazza has participated in the Sentebale ISPS Handa Polo Cup, after a previous stint at the 2013 edition in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Preparation for the exclusive event begins months in advance and requires everything from training to play in the match itself to coordinating the delivery of equipment and horses overseas. As a competitive polo player in the New York-area circuits and head of an investment firm, Carrazza views his participation in the Sentebale Polo Cup and similar charitable causes as a form of corporate responsibility.
“It’s an absolute honor to be on the field playing with Prince Harry,” Carrazza told FOX Business. “It’s exciting as a polo player to have that honor, but knowing that you’re helping all these kids in dire need at the same time you’re enjoying this honor playing with a very talented and competitive player, it’s a wonderful experience.”
The Sentebale Polo Cup is a flagship fundraising event for Prince Harry’s charity and is held in a new city each year. Carrazza will play alongside Prince Harry, Argentinian polo star Nacho Figueras and Hollywood producer Sarah Siegal-Magness on the Sentebale St. Regis team, facing off against luminaries such as American polo star Ashley Busch and Chet Lott, the son of former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott on the U.S. Polo Association Team.
GREENWICH, CT - MAY 15, 2013: Solaia Capital CEO Michael Carrazza (far left) poses with Prince Harry (center) and teammates at the 2013 Sentebale Polo Cup. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Royal Salute)
With a guest list full of top international polo players, business leaders and other dignitaries, the event comes off as a dream networking opportunity for a corporate executive. But Carrazza said he and other Sentebale attendees are totally focused on the match itself and the charitable cause. The possibility of drumming up new business is an afterthought.
“There’s a tremendous amount of preparation to go into this event, and it’s important for me as a player that I play well, the event goes off as planned as a great success,” Carrazza said. “The real winners in my eyes are all the beneficiaries of the Sentebale charity. That’s in my mind from the beginning of the preparation, the entire time on the field. I feel like I’m playing my heart out to help other people.”
Aside from his history of participating in Sentebale’s events, Carrazza regularly plays in the Hamptons Cup, another charity polo event that raises money for the Robin Hood Foundation, a poverty-fighting organization that supports roughly 200 nonprofits in the New York area.
Carrazza, who has dedicated all of his tournament play to charitable causes since 2013, said he aims to support organizations making “impactful” contributions to those in need.
“They have to be astute, well-run charities so that any funds that are raised get directed to the cause and not anywhere else, in an efficient manner,” he said. “They have to deliver great impact. Running Solaia Capital, I feel like that’s a corporate responsibility of not only me but the firm, and that’s why we get engaged in things like [the Sentebale Cup]. That’s the primary driver.”
The 2019 Sentebale ISPS Handa Polo Cup takes place on Friday at the Roma Polo Club in Italy.