ENKE GIERCKE (IN RED) of the Mongolian Nomads stretches for the ball with a long polo stick. Opposing him is Willie Bicket of the British Gurkhas Gladiators during the 17th Annual World Elephant Polo Association Championships, held in Nepal in December last year. The refined world of elephant polo attracts big name sponsors like Cartier and Pan Am, and big names like Billy Connolly, Ringo Starr and Max Boyce. Feeding and keeping a humungous athlete's not cheap, you know. Some matches are played with elephant handlers as well as players perched atop the magnificent beasts, while others ride solo. According to novice players, the first thing you have to learn is how to whack the ball with the side of your mallet, and not bother about using the end as you would in regular polo. The referee gets to ride the biggest beast, followed by the goalies. Recent rule changes have stopped teams training their elephants to lie down between the goalposts, and have outlawed the practice of letting young elephants, who are fast but harder to control, dribble the ball -- something they're easily taught to do.