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Summertime: A Guide to Entertainment, Activities And Excursions : Discoveries : * If you've exhausted all of the usual tourist spots, it's time to visit some destinations along the unbeaten path. : The Return of Absentee Mallets


Polo has returned to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

For years, the Burbank facility hosted professional matches that mixed furious action with a high-society flair of celebrities and dinner-dances. But recent hard times at the center and a change of ownership meant that last summer passed without the customary play.

Starting July 27, a three-part tournament will bring the chukkers back to Burbank. Four teams-- including Joe Henderson, one of the game's highest-rated players--will compete in the Polo America matches.

"We've got the top pros in the country," said Randy Russell, the tournament's organizer.

Arena polo, played in the center's indoor stadium, combines hard-charging horses with screaming mallet shots and occasional falls. Russell hopes to draw a new generation of fans to the ages-old game that originated in Persia. The promoter expects that the widely viewed polo scene in the 1990 film "Pretty Woman" will help.

"It made the public more aware of polo," he said. "We're going to open the sport up to a larger audience."

The center's new owners have decided not to open the facilities for the kind of post-polo parties that marked past matches. But this summer's tournament will be catered, with booths selling everything from filet mignon to hot dogs.

The Polo America tournament will be played on July 27 and Aug. 10 and 17. Pregame activities begin at 7 p.m. with the professional match starting at 8 p.m.

The Los Angeles Equestrian Center is at 480 Riverside Drive, Burbank. Tickets for polo matches range from $8 general to $35 for box seats. Information: (818) 842-4827.

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