Best Polo Ponies In The World

David Lawrence
• Monday, 28 December, 2020
• 20 min read

This ranking is constantly updated; each player is ranked according to his/her performance, during the course of the year, in the main tournaments around the world. Players score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team's goal using a long-handled mallet.

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At number 10 of Top 10 Best Horse Polo Players, Corinne is a professional polo player and one of the few women to play on pro teams consisting almost entirely of men. 16 countries now actively play Polo at the international level.

It requires not only the mastery to control a horse while sitting on it but great dedication and self-control. Needless to say, it already acquired its place among the most difficult sports played on earth.

The Gerald Balding Cup is held annually at Cirencester Park Polo Club in his memory. Born into a family of polo players in Gloucestershire, he completed his education at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge.

Alvaro is an American professional polo player from San Antonio, Texas. Polo star Guillermo Garcia, Jr., also known as “Memo Garcia”, is a Mexican polo player whose international career includes several record-setting achievements, including the most U.S. Open victories (16) and the most consecutive years as an American 10-gaoler (21).

These feats and dozens of major tournament win led to Garcia's selection as Player of the Centennial Era in 1990 and his induction into the National Polo Hall of Fame in 1997 while still an active player. Spanish polo player Zubiaurre already made his name for his abilities in defensive playing.

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He has a very sparkling international career and has groundbreaking records and achievements. They achieved the glory that day as Sold scored a golden goal in an extra-chukka.

Other teams Gonzalo played for include Audi, Lord Piano, Outback, Emerson, and Black Watch. He has played polo since a very early age and turned professional with a 5-goal handicap traveling to Europe.

Today, Carlos has grown into one of the world's finest defensive players, is well known for his outstanding work rate and horsemanship on the field. Currently, he holds the World Number 1 spot in Polo ranking.

From a young age, his mother Martina de Estrada Line encouraged her son and his half brothers to play polo. This award is presented to recognize outstanding polo ponies whose achievements on the field were singled out by contemporary judges in tournaments and shows, and by other experts as worthy of special recognition.

Below you can search inductees by name, in alphabetical order, or by their year of induction, from 2000 to the present day, and read a short biography listing their accomplishments and contributions to the sport. Foaled in April 1971, Alabama raced under the name Ask the Victory before being purchased as a 4-year-old by Harold Barry.

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He really flipped out at the first sight of the kites flying and all the activity at the nearby riding academy, but he played fine... His mouth is beautiful. Fellow 10-goaler Bob Scene stated that Cecil Smith was really worth 12 goals when he rode Badger.

In later years, Badger was played by Cecil’s son, Charles Smith (also inducted into the Hall of Fame, in 2004). In that game, Beetlejuice played almost three checkers, helping Alvaro to score six goals on her alone.

Playing at the age of 18 in the 2006 U.S. Open, the petite polo veteran dazzled everyone with her speed and handiness. In the hands of Louis Stoddard, Belle of All played brilliantly and with the heart of a lioness.

At Hurling ham in 1921, the U.S. regained the Westchester Cup with Stoddard sensational on his beloved Belle of All. Belle of All played three periods in each, and was praised by the outstanding soloists of the time for her incredible speed, stamina and courage.

In her day, Belle of All was referred to as “easily queen of thoroughbred polo ponies ever bred in America.” She passed through seven owners in about as many months, before Mr. and Mrs. Louis Stoddard paid Fred Post a visit and the lady, captured by the Belle’s appearance, immediately purchased her as a gift for her husband, at that time at the height of his polo fame.

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Belle of All played at Hurling ham in the Westchester Cup of 1921, and fresh from that success she won the Championship of the National Polo Pony Society show in 1921 and again in 1922. After her active polo days were over, she was retired to the stud of Harry Payne Whitney, leaving her legacy in the form of great offspring, most notably Cap sheaf and Hone.

Bonnie J was a dun mare who 10-goaler Cecil Smith recalled as the best pony he ever owned. At first, she was just a five-year-old ranch horse from Texas, comfortable around cattle but with no interest at all in sticks, balls or learning how to play polo.

On one occasion, a following horse and rider could neither believe what they were seeing nor stop in time to prevent a collision that broke Smith’s collarbone. When the Old West bury team was gathering horses for the 1937 U.S. Open, Sonny Whitney made Smith an offer.

An American-bred, thoroughbred, gray gelding, Brown Fern was originally bred to race by Isabel Dodge Sloane, owner of the Broodmare Stable, and was later owned by Michael Phipps. As per the great horseman Tommy Glynn, “In his new role as a polo performer, Brown Fern became a sensation.” After only two seasons in polo, Brown Fern played two excellent periods a game for Stewart Elkhart on the winning U.S. team of the 1936 International matches with Great Britain.

We have particularly in mind his wonderful effort in the last minute of the first game, when he was up against a fresh pony ridden by Mr. Although this was the close of Brown Fern’s second checker in the match, he beat the other in the gallop and turn for the ball...

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Watercolor portrait of Brown Fern (above left) by artist, Melinda Brewer; www.poloart.ca Burrito started his first season in polo with Memo Garcia, then at six goals, and playing for John Oxley.

Burrito was then played by polo legends Gonzalo Pieces and Ernesto Trot in the 1980s, each crediting this remarkable horse with helping them rise to their 10-goal handicap and naming him as a favorite. Considering all the great ponies these two have played in tournament victories all over the world, it is noteworthy that both singled out Burrito.

I don’t think we’ll ever see a horse like that again on a polo ground or find another to emulate his performance.” Bred in Argentina and foaled in 1996 as part of the famed Pieces breeding program, the famous bay gelding, Caliph, is owned by Peter Brant of White Birch Farms and has served as a durable war horse for Mariano Aguirre in many memorable contests.

Aguirre called on Caliph again for the 2005 high-goal season and the gutsy gelding didn’t disappoint as they fought together through crucial games helping the team sweep all three 26-goal tournament victories. Having proven himself as a polo superstar and of impeccable breeding (Caliph’s dam, La Luna, was a famous polo mare out of Top Secret and Gauche), the owners realized that cloning Caliph would be a way to try to perpetuate his legacy that, being a gelding, he would not otherwise be able to fulfill.

Caliph with Mariano Aguirre up; 2009 Argentine Open; (photo courtesy of American Polo Horse Association) Cat A Joy played seven seasons in the Sunshine League and in many USA national tournaments.

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China Boom was a mare bred and trained by Bart and Nina Evans on their ranch near Midland, Texas. When asked, owner Bart Evans could not name his favorite moment with China Boom.

Working cattle at the ranch, China Boom became quicker on her feet than the wiliest cow. On trips to Midland Polo Club, she learned to handle bumps and ride-offs, and developed a sense of where the action would flow.

And if the action stopped, her front feet remained in constant motion, anticipating the change in the direction of play. At the height of her polo career, Bart Evans said, “She’s so quick and easy; you sometimes wonder if she’s flesh and blood.

Watercolor portrait of China Boom (above left) by artist, Melinda Brewer; www.poloart.ca A bay mare bred in Virginia of unknown parentage, Chicken was discovered in the Remount Depot at Front Royal by Col. Walter C. Short.

Then in 1927, proven as a true “war horse,” she again earned a place playing for her country, in the International series under Hall of Fame Malcolm Stevenson. Though “aged,” she played with heart, tenacity and courage, and in 1927 was selected from among a huge field of superstar talent for the coveted Prince Friars town Cup, given to the best mare playing in the tournament suitable to produce a polo pony, the highest award of that era.

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Craig on Chicken at left, Fort Bliss Polo Team, 1923 Pacific Circuit Cup Winners; photo from 1924 USA Yearbook Chips was owned by Robert D. “Bob” Beveridge, a 7-goal amateur who was playing for Oak Brook in the final.

Cecil Smith was judging BBP at the Open in 1973, and his son Charles was also playing on the Oak Brook team. One of Charles’ horses was poised to win the award until Cecil saw the last run Chips Royal made for Bob Beveridge.

After a long and illustrious career, Con over was retired and relied upon as a trusty mount for the Whitney children. One of the great American ponies of the “Big Four” era was Harry Payne Whitney’s Cottontail, a grand bay gelding “possessed of great power and extreme speed.” By one account, “He had, perhaps, a rather plain head, but in some of those plain heads is infinite horse sense, and Cottontail was as wise as any pony could be.” He was played by Whitney in England in 1909 and at Meadow brook in 1911 and 1913.

He had power, great speed, and was conditioned to perfection by Whitney’s trainer, Larry Fitzpatrick. A famed Herbert Baseline bronze, cast in 1909 and known as “The Big Four,” depicts the Meadow brook team and its mounts.

Delta Dawn was a gray thoroughbred mare trained by Cecil Smith, owned by Norman Drinker, and played by Roy Barry. Smith noted, “She was just a ranch horse I bought in the Hill Country, but she showed natural ability right from the start.

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But, as one writer noted, when the doctors looked at her knees, they forgot to consider her spirit. Delta Dawn indeed played again, including an appearance in the 1980 U.S. Open Championship match, before retiring from polo at the age of 12.

Electric Charge was a dark chestnut, thoroughbred mare and the winner of the Hartman Trophy in 1981. She was owned at that time by Seth Herndon who rode Electric Charge in numerous other high goal tournaments for five years, including two checkers each in the final and semi-finals of the U.S. Open.

Watercolor portrait of Electric Charge (above left) by artist, Melinda Brewer; www.poloart.ca A celebrated mare bred in England, Fairy Story first came to the U.S. in 1923 when the Hurling ham team played in the U.S. Open.

Originally owned and played by Earle W. Hopping, she was bought by the Marquis Cholmondeley who in turn sold her to Lord Airborne. In 1924, Fairy Story returned to the U.S. and was purchased at auction by Stephen “Laddie” Sanford.

A Kentucky-bred thoroughbred mare foaled in 1928, Fuss Budget won 12 races before starting her polo career. Trained for polo by Terence Greece, Fuss Budget played with distinction in the most hotly contested matches of the era, most notably the U.S. Open Championship in 1937 and 1938, two checkers in the final of the U.S. Open in 1939, ridden by Bob Scene, and three periods for Michael Phipps in 1940.

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Watercolor portrait of Fuss Budget (above left) by artist, Melinda Brewer; www.poloart.ca Gay Boy had the reputation of being one of the quickest horses on the get-away, a pony that could turn on a dime and scoot away like a quarter-horse.

Played by Canadian-born, Argentine-raised 10-goaler Lewis Lacey in the 1928 Cup of the Americas, this chestnut pony impressed everyone with his skill and stamina over multiple checkers. Jupiter was a quality pony, but with a difficult disposition, and it was only Lacey’s consummate horsemanship that brought out his best.

The staggering purchase price (and Lacey’s skill in handling him) made Jupiter a famous horse. Cuthbert Bradley (1861-1943), an English painter of sporting dogs and horses, painted a watercolor portrait of Jupiter with Lacey up, and Jupiter is also shown with Lacey up in a photograph in American Polo (1929) by Newell Bent.

After his sale, Jupiter played under a number of players on Laddie Sanford’s Hurricanes team, and appeared in international games for the U.S.A. against England. Kali man carried Memo Garcia to victory many times and won a fair share of accolades along the way.

Bob Tate added: “He was mentally tough and could bump, or should I say ‘hit,’ like a middle linebacker. The great gray mare Katrina was bred and first played in Argentina by Charles N. “Bunny” Land.

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At the time of the trials for the 1930 Westchester Cup matches, she was owned by the Unites States Polo Association who lent her to the American team. Played by 10-goal legend and team captain Tommy Hitchcock, the powerful Katrina helped the U.S. to their victory over Great Britain.

In 1930, Polo magazine noted (alluding to Hitchcock’s piebald gelding, Tatiana), “This year the American captain was mounted on another pony of unusual coloring. Against the browns, the bays, and the chestnuts on International Field, the big gray Katrina was there for all to see.

Cayman recalls, “He was very green, but he took to polo like a duck to water... He’s a very powerful horse, very strong, yet always relaxed and easy to ride.” La Fortuna carried Cayman to victory in the U.S. Open and garnered many best playing pony awards in his long career.

Levi cu was a bay mare acclaimed for her fantastic acceleration, flat-out speed, and endurance, owned by Peter Brant and praised by many players. For many years a mainstay of the elite White Birch string, she helped the team to many high-goal victories.

The awards during her stellar career were many, including Best Playing Pony of the Gold Cup in 1983, 1989 and 1990. Described by one writer as a “butter-mouthed speed-and-shove specialist,” Levi cu was bred by Hector Barr antes and made her reputation in Argentina, then as a star for White Birch in the U.S.A. Levi cu’s exceptional heart and courage first became apparent when she played three checkers in the final of a hard-fought Argentine Open, leading La España to victory.

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Bred and owned by Tommy and Billy Cayman, this gallant little black mare played in eight U.S. In 1982, a writer noted, “She’s won so many awards that both Billy and Tommy Cayman have lost track.

A papered Thoroughbred mare foaled in 1957 (by Larval out of Passage), one can only speculate on how she made her way into a backyard in Modesto, California where she was found by Fay Humphries, a polo playing cowboy with a true horseman’s eye for good ponies. From there she went on to Hall of Fame Dr. William “Billy” Lin foot who sold her to Ruddy Tonga, a Hawaiian businessman and polo player.

Lin foot played her as part of the Santa Barbara team and regarded her as his best pony in the ’65 Open when she won the inaugural Hartman Award. When Ruddy had a polo accident that ended his playing days, he sold his horses, and Lovely Sage was purchased by Hap Sharp.

Sharp’s son-in-law, famed horseman and Hall of Fame Tommy Cayman, had played Lovely Sage and later used her for his breeding program. Originally known as Again, this liver chestnut stallion was owned and played by Delmar Carroll for 13 years, and won the Hartman Trophy at the U.S. Open in 1972.

Memo Garcia’s memorable old war horse, Mr. Polo, more than lived up to his name. He earned many Best Playing Pony awards in other major tournaments along the way and was featured in Sports Illustrated magazine.

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Bred in New Mexico, he was purchased by Hall of Fame Memo Garcia the day after winning a race at Sun land Park and went on to polo greatness. He won countless Best Playing Pony awards including the Camacho Cup when he was only 4.

Luckily, a successful DNA removal was performed a few years ago and, hopefully a Mr. Polo Jr. will be playing in the future.” Inducted in 2017, Charles Smith’s great, multi-award winning mare, Nebraska Sunset, was purchased as a 3-year-old from the Norman family in Crawford, Nebraska, and trained by Charles’ father, the great Hall of Fame and renowned horseman, Cecil Smith.

The 15.2 chestnut thoroughbred mare (by Rule the West Wind x Omaha’s Princess) was played by Charles for the next decade. As a crowning achievement in her notable career, she was the 1980 winner of the Hartman Award for Best Playing Pony of the U.S. Open.

Bred by John T. Oxley in Oklahoma, this bay mare was later owned and played by Northrup R. Knox. Ragamuffin was the winner of the Willis L. Hartman Trophy for Best Playing Pony in the U.S. Open in 1968.

In three games of the 1966 and 1969 Cup of the Americas tournaments, Ragamuffin played a total of eight checkers, a tribute to her brilliance, stamina and longevity at the highest level of international high-goal polo. Beside, Sr., found Red Ace at a Tijuana racetrack, brought him to California and trained him as a polo pony.

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After Beside was knocked to the ground in a particularly rough play, Red Ace turned, trotted back, stood by his unconscious master and gently nuzzled him. Prior to his memorable performances in the East West series, Red Ace played polo on both coasts in the U.S., in South America with a North American team, and in England.

Red Ace routinely played two checkers in a game, and Elmer Beside was one of the biggest and most hard-riding men in polo. In a 1934 article in the New York Herald Tribune, the writer noted, “When up on Red Ace, Beside’s game was of a higher standard.

Notable was foaled in Rio Medina, Texas, bred by Albert Beck. As a two-year-old, she won a race in New Orleans and caught the eye of Cecil Smith who bought her and trained her for polo.

Before the U.S. Open in Santa Barbara in 1966, Notable was tried by Lewis Smith who was then playing for Northrup R. Knox. The lovely Notable joins her equally talented stable-mate, Ragamuffin, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame previously.

As Fred Post told it, in 1934 he sent an agent (Wiley Jones) back to Argentina to buy her after having seen her play the year prior and apparently regretted not having bought her then. Renowned horseman J.C. Cooley asked for first crack at her upon her arrival in the states as a potential mount for Jock Whitney.

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Her courage and ability was exemplified by her play in the 1935 Monty Waterbury Cup that may be summed up best by an excerpt from POLO, Nov. 1935: “No one who witnessed it can ever forget the picture of the gray mare and Tommy Hitchcock in the sixth checker, when Green tree from being three goals behind came up on even terms with Templeton. It was one of the supreme checkers of polo, easily the highlight of the year, and the engraved record of what happened will be, as long as this cup exists, mute testimony to a gallant animal giving of her very best in the hands of a supreme performer.

From her birth in 1990, the dark bay Thoroughbred mare Sue Ellen was destined for greatness. Possessing great power and speed, but also handy, quiet and relaxed, Sue Ellen played with finesse.

When Sue Ellen was a four-year-old, her ownership passed to John Goodman, patron of the Islam Carroll team. In 2001, she was sold to Mariano Aguirre, and next to Black Watch patron Neil Hirsch, whose team member Gonzalo Pieces, Jr., played her in the 2006 U.S. Open.

A former 7-goaler and breeder of polo ponies, Joey Casey, said of Sue Ellen, “She does everything with ease. Sue Ellen is similar to another great horse from years ago, owned by the late John Oxley, called Cat-A-Joy… they both have that great, calm disposition and an exceptional mind… They never waste energy on nervousness, so they always have energy left to play a second checker.

Now retired, Sue Ellen is grazing happily in Argentina, owned by Nacho Figures and producing foals which he hopes will be of equal greatness. She is a mare that was bred by one of the best American players in the history of our sport, Tommy Cayman.

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Watercolor portrait of Sue Ellen (above left) by artist, Melinda Brewer; www.poloart.ca Sweet William, a brown thoroughbred gelding, earned worldwide acclaim by winning Best Playing Pony awards in the U.S.A., Great Britain and Spain.

Owned and ridden by 10-goal great Tommy Cayman, the pony was “just the greatest animal athlete ever.” Purchased in 1973 for $500 from a ranch in South Dakota, Sweet William was playing polo within a month. In Europe, the press would call me before a big match to ask how Sweet William was and what checker I would play him.

I’d just set his speed, drop the reins and sit back; he’d hold himself at the exact pace I’d put him. Playing the game was physically easy for him, so a fairly loose rein would get a very precise performance.

Watercolor portrait of Sweet William (above left) by artist, Melinda Brewer; www.poloart.ca Foaled in 1903, Ten by was the gallant black gelding who carried Devereaux Wilburn Sr. for three periods in each of the Westchester Cup matches of 1913, 1914 and 1921, a tribute to the horse’s talent and endurance.

Ten by, originally owned by William Balding, was one in a string of six ponies that Harry Payne Whitney gave to Devereaux Wilburn as a wedding present. The English-bred pony, three-quarters thoroughbred, became Wilburn’s favorite and the hero of hundreds of hard-fought matches, a handsome sable flash who always seemed to have a shade more speed than any horse trying to catch him.

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On the return voyage to the States after the 1921 Westchester Cup tournament, Ten by passed away at 18 years of age. Tatiana was a celebrated Argentine-bred piebald (black & white pinto) gelding, owned and played by the great 10-goaler, Tommy Hitchcock, Jr.

In 1926, another legendary 10-goaler, Lewis Lacey, selected Tatiana for Hitchcock, finding him at a racetrack in Argentina. “The picturesque Tatiana, who looked as if he had been painted by an enthusiastic artist armed with a broad brush, enchanted the onlookers by his appearance, and he electrified them with his performance.

Where the Argentine piebald fled, the eyes of the multitude followed, and that was not surprising because Mr. Hitchcock’s position at Two, and his type of play, forever keep him in the attack... Tatiana played two checkers in the first match and two in the second, and when he left the field, his brows figuratively wreathed with laurel, every child sighed, and we all were children.” The remarkably talented mare Toy Moon was bred in Hawaii circa 1931 by noted breeder of polo ponies, Walter Dillingham.

Purchased from Dillingham in 1938, the fleet chestnut mare was brought to the mainland by Hall of Fame Elmbridge T. Gerry, Captain of the August team, to be part of his illustrious string of ponies. After her playing days were over, Toy Moon lived out her life happily, to a ripe old age, at Gerry’s farm.

The stallion was trained for polo by Carl Crawford in Texas; he was then owned by Bob Scene and later by John T. Oxley. This came about before his polo career, as he had sired three offspring that qualified (by type) for permanent registry as Quarter Horses.

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