The Board of Directors of the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame is pleased to announce the selections of the Nominating Committee for those to be inducted into the Museum’s Polo Hall of Fame for 2018.
Ruben Gracida, Sunset “Sunny” Hale, Jimmy Newman, Roy L. Barry and the horses Lovely Sage and Ruifino will be joining the elite group of individuals who have been honored since the inception of the Hall of Fame in 1990.
The award for Living Hall of Fame is being given to Ruben Gracida in recognition of his outstanding playing record that includes winning the U.S. Open four times and its MVP in 1983, the ’83 International Gold Cup, the Avilo Camacho Cup in 1981 and 1988, back-to-back Coronation Cups in 1985 and ’86 along with numerous other tournament victories. Museum Vice President Tony Coppola recalls “Ruben came to the states as a very young player and made the U.S. his home. Starting out at 3 goals, he rapidly rose through the ranks to 8 goals. He worked hard and racked up a long list of impressive wins on his way up the ladder and made a name for himself as a tough competitor and an influential figure on the American polo scene.”
Sunny Hale will be honored posthumously for her remarkable record on the playing field and her unequivocal contributions in giving back to polo. She reached a 5 goal handicap in a male dominated sport and made history when she became the first woman to win the U.S. Open Championship. Breaking down barriers for women, she was hired as a professional to play on teams alongside the world’s greatest male players for over 20 seasons. Not content to rest on her laurels she strove to promote the sport, horses and horsemanship as an avid mentor and inspiration to aspiring polo players male and female, young and old.
She wrote a series of polo “help” books, created an on-line clinic and traveled the world lecturing and giving polo clinics and seminars; created the American Polo Horse Association to establish polo ponies as a breed and preserve their information for posterity; created the Women’s handicap system that was adopted for use by the USPA; started the Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT) to give greater opportunities to polo playing women and helped revive the United States Women’s Open. An exhibit in tribute to Sunny has been ongoing at the Museum of Polo. Museum Executive Director George DuPont says of Sunny, “What she accomplished in giving back to the sport in her short life is nothing short of amazing. Her achievements are multi-faceted. Because of her talent, courage and her relentless efforts to share her knowledge with others, Sunny was regarded the world over as the most influential woman in polo of our time.”
Jimmy Newman got the nod as this year’s living honoree for the Iglehart Award for outstanding lifetime contributions to the sport. With 54 years of polo under his belt, Jimmy is well known in polo and worked his way through the sport training and selling countless polo ponies who went on to play medium and high goal polo including the US Open. Having attained a 3 goal outdoor handicap and 4 indoor, Jimmy won the 1985 US Open Handicap aka the 26-goal C.V. Whitney.
During his career he served as manager and organized tournaments for several of the biggest and best polo clubs in the world; Retama in Texas, Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet club and International Polo Club Palm Beach. He has managed 27 U.S. Open championships. Jimmy also has served the sport in service to the U.S.P.A. as the Southwest Circuit Governor, Governor at Large, and for many years on the Tournament, High Goal, Handicap committees and Team USPA.
Posthumous Iglehart Inductee Roy Lawson Barry began playing polo in Texas while in his twenties and made his profession and reputation in buying, training and selling horses. Through his natural ability, Roy quickly attained a seven goal rating (in 1948) and won the Monty Waterbury Cup in 1951, was a finalist in the U.S. Open and played in clubs across the United States, in many cases managing the clubs as well as his sponsors’ strings of polo ponies. In 1954, at the young age of 45, Roy suffered a stroke while playing in the Monty Waterbury tournament on Long Island. He was advised to quit playing the game he loved, as well as working with horses, but just three years later, he returned to club polo and enjoyed many years of doing what he loved. His taught his son, Roy Matthews Barry, the game well; he became a 9-Goaler who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
In the Horses to Remember category, two admirable equine heroes of the sport will be honored. Lovely Sage made her mark as the very first winner of the Hartman Award for Best Playing Pony of the US Open when it was established in 1965. At that time, it was given to the best playing horse of the entire tournament, not just playing in the final.
In the mid through late 1930s the gray mare Ruifino played with distinction, most closely associated as a mount for the great Tommy Hitchcock. She was owned at the time by J. H. “Jock” Whitney and played by Hitchcock in the Open and Waterbury Cup matches. Her talent was so superb that she was declared the winner of the coveted Prince Friarstown Challenge Cup for Best Playing Mare suitable to produce polo pony." In later years she was called upon to play under other notable Hall of Fame players in the most important matches of the era.
The Awards Gala and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Museum of Polo on Friday, February 16th, 2018.
Photos courtesy Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame