The 2022 inductees for the Polo Hall of Fame, Iglehart Award and Horses to Remember were recently announced by the Museum of Polo. The 33rd year of inductions will honor Tommy Biddle Jr. and the late Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney with election to receive Hall of Fame honors. The Iglehart Award inductees for outstanding lifetime contributions to the sport are Danny Scheraga and the late Dr. Horace Laffaye. Horses to Remember honorees are Charles Smith’s great mare Cynthia Lola, and Jacobs, a notable pony of yesteryear.
The induction ceremony is scheduled to take place on Friday, Feb. 18, if conditions at that time allow for gatherings, and will honor not only the 2022 inductees, but also the 2021 honorees. The inductees selected for 2021 — Julio Arellano and John F. “Jack” Ivory for the Hall of Fame; Dr. Paul Wollenman and Bert B. Beveridge for the Iglehart Award; and horses Little Mary and Silverada — were initially recognized through the press, video segments and various types of social media.
Inductees are nominated by the public and selected annually by a committee of knowledgeable individuals from across the sport of polo, who voted to select this year’s winners from a group of worthy candidates.
Tommy Biddle — Born into a polo family, Biddle grew up in Aiken, S.C. At the age of 12, he played his first polo game and became a professional player at 18. At 6-foot-3, with the build of an imposing football player, his presence on the polo field looms large, literally and figuratively. Once called the “quickest big man” to ever play the sport, Biddle is a rare player who has been able to achieve almost equal greatness in both outdoor and arena polo. He became the fourth player in arena history to achieve a 10-goal handicap, while also reaching and maintaining an 8-goal outdoor rating. His list of accolades reflects the best of outdoor and the arena, both in the U.S. and internationally, and includes the 2002 U.S. Open, four Monty Waterbury Cups, four Townsend Cups and a U.S. Open arena championship. Adding to his accomplishments, Biddle has become a highly rated and well-respected umpire.
Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney (1899-1992) — Whitney left a lasting mark not only in polo, but in most areas of life. Although thoroughly immersed in a business career and philanthropic ventures, he rose to a 6-goal handicap during his playing career that started around 1917 and lasted until the 1940s, a time that spanned the “golden era” of polo. Whitney was a formidable factor in all the major tournaments of those eras, winning the U.S. Open three times and the Monty Waterbury Cup once. Whitney carried on the polo legacy of his father, Hall of Famer Harry Payne Whitney. Even with his playing days at an end, Whitney was well-known for raising outstanding racehorses, having 15 horses compete in the Kentucky Derby. The C.V. Whitney Cup was established in his name in 1979, originally played as the handicap side of the U.S. Open Championship and is still played today as part of the USPA’s Gauntlet of Polo series in Wellington.
Danny Scheraga — A guiding figure for the youth of polo, Scheraga is recognized for having spent a good part of his career nurturing polo players and dedicated to improving the quality of the sport. Scheraga began playing at Cornell and went on to be named head coach there in 1975. He established important programs for intercollegiate women, getting them to the finals nine years in a row and winning championships three times. He then went to work for the USPA, focused on instructing clinics. Scheraga spent the next 30 years with the Polo Training Foundation, serving 25 years as its first executive director. He gave birth to a number of ideas that went into developing programs and improving polo infrastructure by creating clinics, running a polo center at Brushy Creek and pushing for more opportunities for intercollegiate players.
Dr. Horace Albert Laffaye (1935-2021) — Laffaye left an impact on the sport of polo that is hard to match. He grew up in Argentina, playing polo there for a number of years before stopping to become a surgeon. He became prominent and respected in this field, saving many lives with his surgical skills. A reawakening to the world of polo led Laffaye to pick up the mallet once again and play for another two decades at clubs throughout the northeast. When his playing days ended, he took his knowledge and passion for the sport and focused it on the avenue that made him such an important part of the sport as its most eminent polo historian. Dedicated and concise, he painstakingly researched, wrote and published what are generally considered to be the most important treatises on polo. In all, he authored and edited nine books and innumerable articles in both Spanish and English. Laffaye contributed his knowledge and talent to serve on the board of directors and nominating committee for the Museum of Polo.
Cynthia Lola — Foaled in 1960 in Missouri, the dark bay, Thoroughbred mare was sold to Cecil Smith five years later. Both Cecil and his son Charles Smith knew she was destined for an outstanding future. She hit her stride when Charles took the reins, playing with distinction in all the major American tournaments ranging from the 1968 Silver Cup to the 1975 U.S. Open, the year in which she earned the Best Playing Pony of the Silver Cup. Over the course of eight years of outstanding performance, she continued to rack up several more Best Playing Pony awards. “I put Lola in polo, and not everyone could play her. But Charles was a goal better on that mare than any other he ever had,” Cecil said. Cynthia Lola would end her legendary career in 1978.
Jacobs — Bred in Texas, Jacobs’ career spanned 10 years playing in all the top tournaments of his era, including the famed international matches of 1913 and 1914. A venerable pony who broke polo tradition in its time, Jacobs is one of the first bigger ponies that defined the approaching modern era of polo. Breaking the archaic height rule of 14 hands, 2 inches, Jacobs was a bay gelding who, standing at the unheard-of height of 15 hands, 3 inches, was big, yet incredibly speedy and powerful. Bringing fame and notoriety to the Texas cowpony, Jacobs was raised by J.C. Jacobs of San Antonio before being sold to Whitney, who made a habit of loaning his finest ponies to his friend Dev Milburn to play. It was noted that Milburn’s best runs were on this mount. Along with a few other top horses, Jacobs was gifted to Milburn as a wedding present in 1913, a fitting gesture to honor the extraordinary relationship of a man and horse.