Prince Harry plays polo for AIDS charity

Britain's Prince Harry competes Sunday in the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in New York. (David Goldman ~ Associated Press)

NEW YORK -- Britain's Prince Harry capped his New York visit with a polo match Sunday on an island off Manhattan to benefit 400,000 children of an AIDS-ravaged African nation.

The 25-year-old son of the late Princess Diana was pitted against the best known player in the equestrian sport, the Argentine Nacho Figueras.

The third annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic was played on Governor's Island. Harry has participated the past two years.

The United States "has always protected the downtrodden, the poorest, those most in need of help in the world," Harry said before the match. "And to me, this is what the United States stands for."

Harry mounted a polo pony as part of his pledge to continue his mother's work. Princess Diana, who was often photographed embracing HIV-positive mothers and children, died in 1997 in a Paris car crash.

Sunday's heat, topping 90 degrees, "is a welcome relief after the snow and ice of Lesotho, where I was last week," Harry said of the southern African nation where he said he took his brother, Prince William, to show him the work of his charity.

Earlier, Harry joined guests in the VIP "marquee" -- a fancy white tent where lunch tables for 10 overlooking the field went for as much as $50,000.

While the day was meant to be a relaxing summer celebration, the combination of polo and royalty gave the occasion a decidedly formal air. Guests invited to be in the presence of "His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales" were also instructed on attire.

While "gentlemen" ought to wear a "summer suit," the "ladies" were challenged to sport "their most daring hat." True to English tradition, many women showed up in what could only be called "daring" items atop their heads, from feathers to fruit.

Anyone bringing a child had to make sure each had "their own caregiver." No youngster was allowed in the VIP tent and was instead relegated to an adjacent area filled with games and snacks.

Proceeds from the day would go to American Friends of Sentebale, a charity set up in 2006 by Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho for "the vulnerable children of Lesotho," where many children are AIDS orphans.

Harry said both he and the African prince wanted to follow the examples set by their mothers.

"Both were very much loved, and both loved people -- both loved helping people who needed it the most," he said.

About 100 children in Lesotho lose one or both of their parents each day, Harry said, adding that the orphaned children survive with no prospects of a regular nourishing diet and little hope of a meaningful education.

The tally for the day was not immediately available, but was likely hefty, given the minimum price for a table for 10 in the VIP marquee -- $20,000. The $50,000 tables were closest to that of the prince. That included the champagne accompanying a meal prepared by chef Michael Romano of Manhattan's Union Square Cafe.

A picnic on the grass went for $250 per person.

There was a time when luxurious leisure was not the order of the day on Governor's Island -- 172 acres about a half mile from the southern tip of Manhattan Island. It was occupied by the U.S. Coast Guard until 1996, and is now managed by the National Park Service.

Harry's three-day visit to New York began Friday at the West Point Military Academy north of the city, followed by UNICEF on Saturday, when he threw the first pitch at a Mets game.