The Board of Directors of the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame has announced the Class of 2023, their next inductees into the Museum’s Polo Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees are Jeff Hall, Aidan Roark, Al Haagen III, Tom Hughes, and legendary horses Hale Bopp and None So Pretty.
The Thirty-Fourth Annual Hall of Fame Awards Dinner and Induction Ceremony is scheduled for February 17, at the Museum of Polo in Wellington.
Jeff Hall is one of the most accomplished American players in recent history, having won also every major U.S. tournament and reaching an 8-goal handicap. He is a 10-time winner of the USPA Silver Cup and holds the record for most wins (his first in 1997 and his tenth in 2022). He won the 2003 U.S. Open with C-Spear and his pony, Harrah, won Best Playing Pony. Hall reached the U.S. Open final in 2002 and 2006 with Orchard Hill. Hall also won the 2020 USPA Gold Cup with La Indiana and has raised the trophy for the 20-goal Ylvisaker Cup four times and the Pacific Coast Open twice. Hall represented the United States as a member of the 2009 and 2018 Westchester Cup teams and the 1998 14-Goal World Championship. Hall is also one of the few American players to have participated in the Argentine Open.
Posthumous Hall of Fame honoree Aidan Roark had a celebrated career both in the United States and internationally during the Golden Age of Polo prior to World War II. The Irish player was a solid fixture in California, mainly at the Riviera Polo Club in Los Angeles, establishing himself as a mainstay on the American polo scene. He was considered to be a true polo pioneer on the West Coast for decades. Representing his adopted home, Roark was a key part of the winning team from the “upstart” West in the fabled 1933 East-West series, and again in 1934. He represented Great Britain in the prestigious 1939 Westchester Cup at Meadow Brook. In 1949, Roark was chosen to represent the United States in the International Match against Argentina. A veteran of the most important tournaments and venues across America, Roark retired from polo in 1954. He passed away in 1984.
Al Haagen III is honored with the Iglehart Award for outstanding contributions to the sport. Haagen focused his efforts on growing polo on the West Coast in Indio, California, both on and off the field. He started Empire Polo club in 1987 and built the 11-field club into a juggernaut that hosted the first 40-goal event in the country, the first U.S. Women’s Open, the Townsend Cup, and the Arena Open tournament. The club featured at least 15 teams playing each winter, along with a polo school and Sunday polo with robust attendance. Haagen III, who started playing polo in 1983, was patron of the Empire polo team for 30 years.
The posthumous Iglehart honor is awarded to Tom Hughes, whose long and illustrious career lasted some 55 years. Hughes was an early proponent of professional umpires and diligently worked to improve the quality of umpiring in the sport. He worked tirelessly with the USPA, club officials, and committees to move toward the creation of the professional polo umpire system currently in place. Hughes umpired many high-goal matches in the United States and England, and also managed several clubs. As a successful player who held a 4-goal handicap outdoors, Hughes won the inaugural USPA Gold Cup in 1974 with Milwaukee, the Silver Cup in 1974—as well as its predecessor, the Twenty Goal, four times in a five-year span—along with the 1970 America Cup, and the Butler National Handicap in 1973 and 1975. Hughes passed away in 2016.
The Horses to Remember honoree of the early pre-Hartman era is None So Pretty, an Argentine-bred chestnut mare owned and played by Hall of Famer and former 7-goaler Stephen “Laddie” Sanford. None So Pretty was brought to the United States from Argentina by Lewis Lacey and purchased by Sanford in 1925 for $10,500, a record price for the era. Sanford went on to win the U.S. Open in 1926, 1929, and 1930, with None So Pretty an important weapon in his string. In 1929, None So Pretty captured top honors in the prestigious Polo Pony Society Show at Meadow Brook, whose criteria states that the pony must excel both on the field and as an example of worthiness to improve the breed.
The phenomenal black thoroughbred mare Hale Bopp, owned and played by Hall of Famer Adam Snow, will be recognized as “Horses to Remember, post-Hartman Award Era.” Hale Bopp possessed amazing physical talents of speed and turning ability that were only topped by her assertiveness and heart. “This is a horse so good she probably single-handedly changed my career,” said Snow, the former 10-goaler. “She had the heart to outrun, out-turn, and out-push her opponents.”
The relatively small (15 hands) mare started playing high-goal polo in 1998 as a six-year-old and had an 11-year career of playing in all the major high-goal tournaments, including the U.S. Open and the 40-Goal Outback Challenge matches without missing a game.
The Awards Gala and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Museum of Polo on Friday, February 17. Reservations are $250 each (tax deductible portion $125). The Hall of Fame Awards Dinner is the most important annual fundraising event for the Museum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contact Brenda Lynn at the Museum of Polo by calling (561) 969-3210 or (561) 969-7015, or by emailing e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for details, information, and reservations.