As you walk into Adolfo Cambiaso’s stable in England, three bay mares with big white blazes and the same curious expression greet you. The first one is Lapa. So are the second and the third.
Meet C01, C02 and C06, clones of one of Cambiaso’s all-time favorite polo ponies. But don’t share with him your awe that they look just like the “real” Lapa.
“They are Lapa,” Cambiaso replies firmly.
Why did Cambiaso decide to clone Lapa? “Because she’s an amazing polo pony and an even better mother. Look at what she produces,” he says, pointing to the three.
All age 6, the Lapas are spending this summer in England to compete in the 22-goal Cartier Queen’s Cup and Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup. They play every game but mainly only for brief intervals as spares. The point of their being here is to give them tournament experience but never overface them.
Cambiaso always plays the mare he calls “Two”—properly named “D. Lapa C02.” (The D indicates “Dolfina,” the name of his breeding operation. “C” means Lapa is the third mare he cloned, and “02” is the second clone she produced.) Rodrigo Andrade, his teammate on the RH Polo team (winner of this year’s Queen’s Cup at Guards Polo Club), plays the other two Lapas.
The three are replicas: copper bays with black points, white blazes and white stockings. But if you look closely you can see subtle differences in their markings. Alan Meeker of Crestview Genetics, Cambiaso’s cloning partner with Ernesto Gutierrez, explains: The genetic code for white on the face only says, “Put white here.” The design may vary, as shown in the photo of C01, C02 and C06 (left to right).
Clones are born with the same character—and often the same quirks—as the original. When Cambiaso first met a Lapa clone at Meeker’s Crestview Farm in Aiken, South Carolina, he expressed surprise that it mirrored its dam at feeding time. It planted its hooves at the feed bucket, glaring at him with its ears pinned. “Of course it did,” Meeker told him. “It’s a clone.”
The same goes for the three Lapas in England, especially “Two,” although Cambiaso insists they can be sweet. “They’re not bad. They just get excited,” he says, almost in the tone of an adoring parent. But he does admit that C02 can be a bit of a pill. “She kicks sometimes, and she’s the worst about her food.”
C02 makes that abundantly clear when you approach her stall, even though she may be just munching hay (which is most of the day). When you stand in front of the Lapas’ stalls you normally find three rumps facing you, as the hayracks are in the back of their stalls. Their environment is kept as uniform as possible to retain the “nature” part of the equation and minimize differences from “nurture.”
On a recent day, however, two of them pulled their heads out of their mangers and turned around to briefly inspect and nuzzle a visitor. The third (guess which one?) remained with her rump facing the stall door and continued eating, except once to swing her head around and pin her ears. Having issued the warning, she calmly returned to her hay.
Not surprisingly, Lapas require a very particular type of rider. Cambiaso’s teammate Tommy Beresford laughed when asked if he has ridden any of the Lapas. “Oh no, not me,” he says. “I wouldn’t suit them. They’re too sensitive. They like how Adolfo and Rodrigo ride them.”
All photos courtesy Crestview Genetics