The two teams are La Dolphins in white and Albertina in black. Adolfo Cambial CBS News Each team has four players who ride as many as a dozen horses during matches.
Lesley Stahl: You are number one in the world in your sport. At age 25, Adolfo decided to create his own polo team called La Dolphins, and a breeding business from scratch.
Today he has nearly 1000 horses that are fed a special diet of plants and grasses grown on his massive farms. A swimming pool for the horses, where they do laps and stretch out their sore muscles.
His most prized horse for a long time was named Aiken Cuba. But at the Argentine Open 12 years ago, Aiken Cuba's leg was broken.
Adolfo Cambial: More than anything, I say, “Save this horse.” Before they put him down, Adolfo made a fateful decision: he asked his veterinarian to save some of the horse's skin cells.
I decided to keep some cells from him, just in case years later-- cloning-- is normal. He remembered Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal.
Since then, scientists have cloned cows, pigs, goats, and in 2003, the first horse. Biologist Adrian Motto, one of the first scientists to clone in Argentina, showed us the process: he starts with an egg extracted minutes earlier from a mare.
Next, he replaces it with the DNA of the horse they want to clone. Dr. Adrian Motto: The next step is introduce again into the, into the egg the needle.
The incubated egg is implanted in a surrogate mare who gives birth to the clone –- like this one that's 3 weeks old. Cloning represented a business opportunity to this man, Texas oil heir and polo enthusiast Alan Meeker.
He had long dreamt of building a fleet of champion horses, and now had a way to do it. Alan Meeker: I did some short math and I realized it would take 50 years and about $100 million to do what I wanted to do.
In 2009, Meeker founded a horse-cloning business and, a year later, licensed the technology that was used to clone Dolly the sheep. So I put together an idea of licensing the genetics from the very best -- breeders in polo.
Adolfo Cambial: To make sure, I took some hair from him, and I bring him back to Argentina to do the DNA. At the same time, he decided to clone another horse -- his biggest star -– a mare called Charterer.
There are those horses in life or like soccer players like Messi. Adolfo Cambial: From this little point is where you make all these horses.
Lesley Stahl: Yeah, they're saying, “He's not so crazy anymore”- And look what he's done: in seven years, he and his partners have created more than a dozen clones of Charterer.
Dr. Motto, who was hired as the lead scientist in Adolfo's cloning business, took us to see the Charterer clones he thinks of as his children. In each case, he said the clones are strikingly similar to the originals in disposition, athletic ability and appearance.
For example, the Charterer clones all have white markings, but with different shapes and in different places, some on the face; some on the ankle. But all the Charterers seem to have inherited the original's calm, self-contained personality.
Lesley Stahl: So the genetics include this temperament? Adolfo Cambial: Yeah, because they live together all year long.
Lesley Stahl: Did the clones have any special health issues? We talked to scientists at the National Institute of Health and were told there is no evidence that cloned animals suffer disproportionate health problems, though they have a slightly higher infant mortality rate.
At first, many of Adolfo's cloned embryos died during gestation. But they refined their technique and now tell us they have an 85 percent successful birth rate and have not experienced any health problems.
Lesley Stahl: So as far as you are thinking, they're exactly the same in health, longevity. Lesley Stahl: Ability to play the game, all of it.
Machines -– that's polo talk for horses that never quit. At the final at the Argentine Open, Adolfo gambled that his Charterer clones would be as good as the original and, for the first time, he rode them almost exclusively.
Regulators of thoroughbred horse racing worldwide have taken a firm stand against cloning. But there is no such prohibition in polo and so cloning is spreading to teams beyond Adolfo Cambial's.
It raises some thorny questions: does cloning give a team an unfair advantage? In December, at the final match of the Argentine Open in Buenos Aires, one team rode clones while the other refused to.
In this stage of my career-- the last couple of years for me to play and prove that the clone works and play with Charterers and everything is an extra motivation for myself, for sure. Lesley Stahl: I don't know that you need extra motivation.
Adolfo Cambial: But this is not twins, it's a clone. They can now create 100 clones a year, and they're using them in Adolfo's already successful breeding business.
They mate the clones with champion horses and sell their foals for up to $250,000. Ernesto Gutierrez: We keep the key of the genetics and this was, I think, the good business to make that decision in the past.
The idea of never selling the clones came from Ernesto Gutierrez, a shrewd Argentine businessman, who became a third partner in the cloning venture. The cloning operation was set up here on his 500-acre property outside Buenos Aires that includes three polo fields, and a nursery where the clones are born.
He showed us what he can do, like dribble a three-inch ball in the air while galloping down the field 20 miles an hour. He's the captain of Albertina, an old-school team made up of three brothers and a cousin.
His team is headquartered at another sprawling estate where they operate a multi-million dollar breeding business selling foals and embryos. Fecund Pieces: We want to keep it this way.
Adolfo Cambial: Because of what happened, that I left Albertina and the rivalry is there-- Adolfo Cambial: You have to have rivalry to be better player too.
Before he left Albertina, Adolfo bought Charterer, as an embryo, from the Pieces family… the very horse he is now cloning to compete against them. Adolfo Cambial: I was lucky to end up with Charterer.
Lesley Stahl: There are people who object to cloning on religious grounds… Or on moral grounds. And I think the Cutters did improve my game, my sport.
Lesley Stahl: Is a wonderful polo player-- does he have-- an unfair advantage if he's on a clone of one of the best -- polo horses ever? So if Fecund Pieces finds a horse that is better than Charterer than he has an advantage over his competitor.
Lesley Stahl: Do you have any moral problems with cloning a human being? I know a good reason, lots of good reasons to clone-- body parts, like hearts and lungs and pancreases, if it could be done productively, that can save lives.
But I've been asked by some of the wealthiest people on planet earth to clone a human being and we-- Lesley Stahl: I'm thinking if science can do it, science will do it and maybe one day, you know, they'll be clones, and we'll laugh at all the people who were questioning the morality of it now.
Lesley Stahl: I assumed there'd be a big difference between a horse and a human. At the final match at the Argentine open, Adolfo's team and the clones were expected to win, but seven minutes in, Fecund's team was ahead, three goals to one.
Adolfo's team fought back; at halftime, the score was, the cloners, 7; the breeders, 6. It was so tense that at times it was as quiet as a tennis match.
The end of the game was thrilling: as expected, Adolfo's team was ahead, 13 to 10, but then Fecund's team in a final blast came back to tie the match. Adolfo Cambial: I never think I'm-- I going to lose.
In the first minute of the sudden death overtime, Fecund's team lost control of the ball. Adolfo's team recovered and Adolfo on his mighty Charterer 6 outran everyone and whacked the ball setting up the winning shot.
Watching, you had to wonder: was it the clones or the world's best player that made the difference? Produced by Sarah Koch, Nieves Zuberbühler and Terry Manning.