by Hal Chaffee
From the dust of over 2,000 years of history, polo, the game of kings gallops through the next millennium. For the past 100 years, polo ponies have thundered up and down the fields of the Saratoga Polo Club, leaving an impact as exciting as in the times of warriors and princes.
One hundred years of polo in Saratoga is only a speck of time in the sport’s history, but oh what a time it has been. Four distinct marked this Saratoga century: 1898,1910,1926,1932,1979,1994 and 1995 to today.
The following history was researched through a variety of sources, including The Saratogian newspaper and United States Polo Association annuals. Saratoga historic records are not available in the years 1890 to 1900, and extensive out-of-area research was conducted to unearth historic details prior to 1900.
1898 & 1899. The Saratoga Polo Club was established in 1898, according to a book called The International Polo Club Guide for the Coronation Year 1902. (Editor’s note: The author of this article discovered the rare book in the collection of Kirk Struggles, a Chicagoan who collects historic polo memorabilia. Struggles received the book in a shipment of old polo books from India. The publisher of the book was Joshua Newman, Saltford & Bristol, England.) Club colors: White and Green. Patron: William Collins Whitney. President: Roland W. Smith.
By 1901, when improvements to the field were completed, there were 12 paying members who paid an annual subscription of fifty dollars. The season was from June to September, with most tournaments played sometime between late July and the first week of September.
1900. John W. Manning was Delegate to the United States Polo Association, 1900-1901. Saratoga, Westchester Country Club and Philadelphia teams competed in the Saratoga Polo Cup and Sanford Cups in late July. Players included J.M. Waterbury Jr., R.E. Strawbridge and T. Hitchcock Jr.
1901. Saratoga, Squadron,and Visitors’ teams competed in Sanford Cups, Hitchcock Cups and Ballston Spa Cups in late August. Players included H.P. Whitney, D. Milburn, T Hitchcock Jr. and A. Belmont.
1902. Harry Payne Whitney, son of William Collins Whitney, was Delegate to the United States Polo Association from 1902-1906. Lakewood, Rockaway, Westchester C.C., Dedham, Meadow Brook, Bryn Mawr and Saratoga teams competed in the Sanford Cups, Hitchcock Cups, Ballston Cups, Grand Union Hotel Cups, United States Hotel Cups, the Junior Championship Cup and the Senior Championship Cup. On August 2nd, William Waldorf Astor, Esq., presented the award for the first event of the Senior Championship through the Tuxedo Club. On August 7th, the Lakewood team won the final event but was voted ineligible at a November 21 meeting at Madison Square Garden. George, Jay and Kingdon Gould were three of the four players on the Lakewood team for the Junior Championship. Kingdon Gould received a crack on the nose and was revived with restoratives. Match was postponed one day and the Rockaway team won the first event.
On August 15th, the local lads played bicycle polo with a croquet ball at Franklin Square. At dusk, both teams declared victory.
1903. Buffalo, Albany and Saratoga teams competed in the Sanford Cups, Hitchcock Cups and Ballston Cups.
1904. Two teams from Albany and the Saratoga team competed in the Grand Union Hotel Cups, the U.S. Hotel Cups and Hitchcock Cups. Players included F.S. von Stade, R. Belmont, V. Mather and D.W. Maybee Jr.1905. Myopia, Albany and Saratoga teams competed in the Grand Union Cups, the U.S. Hotel Cups and the Hitchcock Cups.
1906. Meadow Brook, Myopia and Saratoga teams competed in the Grand Union Hotel Cups, the U.S. Hotel Cups and the Hitchcock Cups. Players included Morgan Belmont, F.W. Clark and J. Watson Webb for the Meadow Brook team. V. Mather played for the Saratoga team.
1907. August Belmont was delegate to the United States Polo Association from 1907-1910. Montreal, New Haven, Otsego and Saratoga teams competed in the Grand Union Hotel Cups and the U.S. Hotel Cups. August Belmont Jr., Raymond Belmont and F.S. von Stade played on the Saratoga team.
1908-1910. Tournament results were not listed in the United States Polo Association book. The last official season of this era is believed to be 1910. Harry Payne Whitney was one of this era's most outstanding players with a 10-goal handicap. Through his generosity, the Whitney polo field was maintained until the late 1920s. The Hughes ban on open betting in 1910 and 1911 drove down attendance.
1926-1927. No records of polo were found in the archives of The Saratogian newspaper or the United States Polo Association annuals since 1910. A 1929 article in The Saratogian refers to polo beginning play in 1926.
1928. Winston Guest, Yale sensation of the past year, and Stewart Iglehart, the famous international player, lent color to the polo season. The White Team defeated the Blue Team 9-4. Players for the season included Major Louis A. Beard, Walter A. Goodwin, William Ziegler, Robert Gerry, Elbert T. Gerry III, R. Penn Smith, W. Averill Harriman and Marshall Field. Members voted to install proper drainage before next season.
1929. F. Skiddy von Stade and Stuart M. Don successfully worked the field back into shape after weeks of no rain. Players included C.V.B. Cushman of Boston and John Hay Whitney. The Senior and Junior Thomas Hitchcock families came up for a visit.
1930-1931. Games continued with two teams.
1932. The two teams playing this season included the following players: John Hay Jock Whitney, C.V. Sonny Whitney, F. Skiddy von Stade Jr., F. Skiddy von Stade Sr., Stephen Clark, Robert Young, W.M. McCoy, William Ziegler Jr., Robert Gerry, Edward Gerry and Henry Gerry. After 1932, no record of play has been discovered, but Pete Bostwick recalled playing around 1934 and he wound up with the sideboards from the field, using them on a field in Gilbertsville, New York.
(Editor’s note: At this point in the history of Saratoga Polo, the author helped spearhead a series of events to bring back the sport to upstate New York.)
1976-1978. A series of events in 1976 and 1977 involving Harvard, Oxford and Skidmore polo led me to meet with Leighton Jordan in December 1977. Jordan was captain and founder of the Skidmore polo team. We wondered why there was no summer polo in Saratoga and pursued the idea with Adam Winthrop, James Moseley, Don Little, Richard I.G. Jones, Paul Kant, David Mansfield and others. Mr. Jordan discovered there was a history of polo in Saratoga and I researched and discovered the original field on the Saturday of Easter weekend in 1978. We invited polo player Peter Brant to visit two weeks later to look at the sites. He brought along polo legend Tommy Glynn. Mr. Glynn took one look at the original field and said, "This is it." Mr. Brant backed the effort and one year later William S. Farish III expanded his support by becoming co-owner and co-chairman of the Saratoga Polo Association Ltd. Paul Kant prepared and seeded the field in the fall of 1978. Mr. Jordan and I performed administrative duties, including: starting a VIP for season members; securing Cup sponsors; starting a magazine; and working with Virginia Guest on a benefit match. Mr. Brant and Mr. Glynn focused on recruiting players and securing stabling for horses and equipment.
The rapid growth of polo play in Saratoga in the 80’s paralleled Peter Brant’s rise from a Low-Goal player to High-Goal player and patron. Horse racing in Saratoga continued its boom in popularity.
1979. The first season of this era was highlighted by the Saratoga Hospital Benefit Luncheon and the Carimati Cup. C.V. Sonny Whitney, son of Harry Payne Whitney, threw out the opening game ball. Mrs. Charles Kay
Mather II organized the event with 300 guests. Large sterling silver lotus-shaped Carimati bowls inspired fierce play on the field. Medium-Goal polo was played for the season. Tommy Glynn was polo manager. Players included trainers Allen Jerkens and Del Carroll. Winston Guest awarded the 21 Club's Puncheon Club Trophy and sportswriter Steve Cady gave the match a half-page article in the New York Times. Young Myopia defeated Young Saratoga 6-2. Jack Russell Terrier Trials and a Jockeys Versus Owners baseball game added fun to the season.
In September, additional land was purchased and a pond was built. The second field was expanded. Both fields were re-graded and leveled with a state-of-the-art laser leveling system.
1980. Through the efforts of Anne Palamountain, the new highlights of the season were the Skidmore College Benefit Luncheon and Carimati Cup. Jimmy Mills threw out the opening game ball. Medium Goal polo was played for the season. Players included: Alan Corey, Russell Corey, Peter Orthwein and Jonathan Sheppard. Pete Bostwick’s Village Farms team won their match. Mr. Bostwick, who last played in Saratoga in the early ‘30s, returned with his sons Ricky and Charlie. Frank Dwyer began his first of many years as polo announcer.
1981. Highlights were the Skidmore College Benefit Luncheon and the Carimati Cup. The Saratoga team won the Carimati Cup. Sinclair Hill, former 10-goal Australian player, served as umpire. Medium-Goal polo was played for the season. Players included Gonzalo Pieres, Hector Barrantes, Edwardo Moore, John Armstrong, S.K. Johnson Jr., S.K. Johnson III, Bart Evans and Celestino Garos. Pete Bostwick’s Village Farms team returned to play in the Pimm’s Cup. Young Saratoga finally defeated Young Myopia 6-2.
1982. The first High-Goal season. The Skidmore College Benefit Luncheon and the First Cup were the big events. William Ylvisaker was honored with the First Award. HH the Rajmata of Jaipur threw out the opening game ball. Players included Gonzalo Tanoira, Alfonso Pieres, Gonzalo Pieres, Lord Sam Vesty, Antonio Herrara, Edwardo Moore, Benjamen Araya and Juan Martin Zaveletta. Bob Bailey sponsored the first of many Racemark Cups. Dick and Vickey Lossen sponsored the first of many Kentucky Cups. Young Myopia defeated Young Saratoga 6-2.
1983. The Skidmore College Benefit Luncheon and Keeler Motor Car Cup were the main events. Apollo astronaut Lt. Gen. Thomas Stafford presented the Omega Cup. Vanessa Williams, Miss New York State, helped present the Skidmore Cup. Players included: Julian Hipwood, Butch Butterworth, Henry de Kwiatowski, Hector Crotto and Lionel Macaire. White Birch, Kennelot, Boehm Palm Beach, Glenlivet, Aston Martin and Village Farms teams competed in a league. Jay Allan’s cover photo on the 1983 magazine won an award.
1984. Red Armour, an American 9-goal player, was a welcome addition to the season. White Birch defeated the Piaget team 7-6 for the Piaget & Loewe Cup, which followed the annual Skidmore College Benefit Luncheon. Seven teams competed in a league: Airstream, Aston Martin, Kennelot Stables, Piaget, Rolex Abercrombie & Kent, Saratoga and White Birch. Anthony J. DePaula sponsored the first annual DePaula Chevrolet of Albany Cup.
1985. Attendance jumped from 400 to 550 for the Skidmore College Benefit Luncheon and Krizia Cup. Seven teams competed in a league with Centennial Farms replacing Aston Martin.
1986. The Skidmore Benefit was renamed the Skidmore Scholarship Luncheon & Palamountain Cup. A trio of 10-goal players battled on the playing fields: Gonzalo Pieres, Memo Gracida and Christian La Prida. The Kentucky Cup featured a sit-down dinner for 600 and an antique carriage display. In the Del Carroll Memorial Trophy match, Alejandro Diaz Alberdi (Piki) relentlessly pounded in 8 goals. White Birch won the league in the last match against Airstream.
1987. The first annual Thomas B. Glynn Cup was initiated by his many friends in honor of his many years of diplomatic service as the Saratoga and Greenwich polo manager. MVP players for the season included: Gonzalo Pieres, Alex Garrahan, Owen Rinehart, Michael Azzaro and Will Farish. The Palamountain Cup was especially sentimental with the recent death of Dr. Joseph Palamountain. Teams competing were: Centennial, Revlon, Saratoga, Upatoi and White Birch.
1988. Saratoga Polo celebrated the 10th season since its revival. Range Rover’s Alex Garrahan, Revlon’s Adam Snow and White Birch’s Gonzalo Pieres won MVP awards. The Skidmore Scholarship Luncheon continued as the big event.
1989. Summer storms delayed the first week of play but the rest of the season was sunny. Peter Brant, now the nation’s highest rated amateur at 7 goals, teamed up with 10-goal player Gonzalo Pieres on the White Birch team for another season of highly-competitive polo. Bob Bailey brought in his first High-Goal team, Racemark, to face the Revlon, Range Rover, Maple Croft and White Birch teams. A highlight of the Skidmore Scholarship Luncheon was the Caroline Herrera fashion show.
1990. Ron Bonaguidi brought in his Hanalei Bay team for a soggy season.
1991. The first annual Hector Barrantes Memorial Cup honored Hector’s many years of play in Saratoga. The last Pimm’s Cup is played after having been an annual event since 1981.
1992. The United States Polo Association awarded the 70-year-old Monty Waterbury Cup to Saratoga. Coupled with Saratoga’s Hector Barrantes Memorial Cup, these two tournaments made up the bulk of the Saratoga schedule. Peter Brant’s Indian Motorcycle/White Birch team, Bob Bailey’s Racemark team, Michael Fawcett’s Cold Comfort team, Michael Price’s Longview team and Deborah Couple’s Cadillac teams competed. Artist Christo attended the College of St. Rose Cup. Cadillac won the Monty Waterbury.1993. White Birch won the Hector Barrantes Memorial Cup. Tommy Biddle was MVP. Actor Tony Randall presented the College of St. Rose Cup to the Cold Comfort team. Jonathan Sheppard and the Saratoga team won the Thomas B. Glynn Cup. White Birch defeated Saratoga 12-8 in the Palamountain Cup.
1994. Michael Price’s Longview team won the Monty Waterbury tournament. Michael Fawcett’s Cold Comfort team defeated Longview in the Hector Barrantes Memorial Cup tournament. Longview, Cold Comfort, Outback and Racemark competed for the season. For the first time since Saratoga Polo’s revival, Peter Brant and his White Birch team were not in Saratoga. Mr. Brant’s new polo interest moved to Bridgehampton. The Skidmore Scholarship Luncheon was a success but the field was too wet for the Palamountain Cup match. The Palamountion Fund now approaches $1.2 million.
Prelude. At the end of the 1994 season, Tony DePaula, Bob Bailey, George Hearst III and Linda and David Mansfield offered to purchase Saratoga Polo from Peter M. Brant and William S. Farish III. With some help from Leighton Jordan and Tommy Glynn, a deal was finalized. Leighton, Michael Fawcett and William Ylvisaker were added to the board. Tommy Glynn continued as polo manager. Jim Collins continued as field manager. Frank Dwyer was the announcer.
1995. The new owners made improvements. Drainage was improved at Whitney Field. Central Stabling was found at Saratoga Equine Sports Center. An Historical Site Marker was approved by the State of New York for Whitney Field. A new Pete Bostwick Field was dedicated at Saratoga Equine Sports Center. The season included Medium-Goal polo in addition to the High-Goal August season. Polo rooms were built at the Saratoga Golf and Polo Club. Cold Comfort won the Hector Barrantes Memorial Cup and the Monty Waterbury Cup. Other teams included: Peapacton, APT. 35-C, Range Rover, Heartbeat Saratoga, Hurlingham, Racemark, Saratoga and Cotswold-Upatoi. Tommy Glynn turned 90 and two parties were held.
1996. Seven High-Goal teams competed: Casa Manila, Cotswold, Mokarow Financial, Estrella, Palm Restaurant Locusts, Peapacton and Racemark. Mokarow Financial won the Hector Barrantes Memorial Cup and Racemark won the Monty Waterbury Cup. Skidmore hosted its 17th annual benefit luncheon and featured a hat contest. Peapacton defeated Estrella 10-8 in the Palamountain Cup. Julian Hipwood ran his second annual polo school. Medium-Goal polo expanded to begin in late May. Actress Stephanie Powers was the featured guest for the College of St. Rose Cup. A Polo Museum benefit was held. Thomas A. Clemente Jr. purchased the Mansfields’ interests and became an owner.
1997. The official name of the Saratoga Polo Association Ltd. was changed to the Saratoga Polo Club. Fayyaz Uddin returned to Saratoga as the new polo manager. David Zeliger ran a polo school. A new polo field was completed behind The Lodge Restaurant at the Saratoga Equine Sports Center. Another field on Gilbert Road, known as the Kuchesky Field, opened, bringing the total in Saratoga to five. Cotswold captured the Hector Barrantes Tournament. Palm Restaurant’s Locusts won the Monty Waterbury Memorial Tournament. Three new board members were added: Wally Ganzi, Memo Gracida and Michael Price.In 1979 I remember Winston Guest found and contemplated an old horseshoe at the polo field. Was he thinking about that famous Blue versus White game in 1928 at the Saratoga Polo Club field? With any luck, polo will continue with memories just as sweet for today's players and those who support and are entertained by the sport of kings.
1999-2003. Polo Hall of Famer, William T. "Bill" Ylvisaker purchased Saratoga Polo, which continued to rack up a number of notable achievements. Fields and other facilities were built and upgraded, including the addition of a clubhouse. Events were established that became fixtures of the Saratoga summer.
The Fifth Era - 2004-Present
In 2004, new owners of Saratoga Polo - including current owners Jim Rossi and Mike Bucci - officially signed an agreement to purchase the club. Together, it is their goal to make polo more accessible and of interest to a broader audience.