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Museum of Polo honores new Hall of Fame Inductees

On Friday, February 15th, 2013 the polo world turned out en masse as a crowd of 370 people gathered at the Museum of Polo to welcome the latest inductees to join the ranks of the great in the polo Hall of Fame; Mike Azzaro, Robert Gould Shaw II, Tim Gannon, Bill Gilmore, and ponies Ever Ready and Fairy Story. After downpours forced the cancelling of afternoon polo matches, the weather cleared and held, offering balmy conditions as the 24th Awards ceremony and dinner got underway with the cocktail reception and silent auction.

Following a seated dinner prepared by Carrabba’s, the awards ceremony began by acknowledging the equine heroes of the sport and the great mare Fairy Story, a superstar pony of the 1920s, was first on the docket. Accepting the award on behalf of Fairy Story’s last owner, Stephen “Laddie” Sanford, was his great-nephew Pierre Manigault. In the course of his gracious acceptance, Pierre produced from an unassuming paper bag that he had carried to the podium, a gleaming trophy, the actual Prince Friarstown Cup won by Fairy Story in 1929, and to the delight and surprise of the crowd announced that he was giving it to the Museum of Polo. Museum chairman Martin Cregg received the historic treasure as he exchanged a handshake and presented the Horses to Remember Award to Mr. Manigault. Ever Ready, the favorite pony of Ray Harrington was next to be recognized. Chuck Wright, who had played the mare in his pre-injury polo playing days, received the award for Ever Ready on behalf of the Harrington family. Ever Ready carried Harrington to wins of the US Open winning the Best Playing Pony the Open in 1969 and was his mainstay in all the important tournaments he played.

The awards for the “human” Hall of Fame inductees began with posthumous Iglehart award recipient William Gilmore, remembered as a powerful force in the resurrection of polo in California after WWII. Members of his family made the trip from the west coast and standing together at the podium to accept the award were Bill’s grandchildren; Lyn Jason Cobb and(her brother) Bill Gilmore Jason, and their cousin Laura Knoop Pfaff and Bill’s great granddaughter (Lyn’s polo playing daughter) Madelyn Mackall Cobb. Bill was followed by Lyn who both related stirring remembrances of their much admired grandfather.
The next Hall of Fame inductee receiving the Living Philip Iglehart Award was Tim Gannon, who in addition to an impressive polo career is also revered for his leadership in supporting charitable causes. The applause was thunderous as he arrived at the podium and to begin his speech he held up a polo saddle on which, he said, he had started playing polo when he was 16 years old. With an amazing display of off-the-cuff spontaneity, Tim regaled the crowd with amusing accounts of his polo adventures and earnestly thanking those who helped along the way. Tim then returned to the saddle and announced that he was now going to give it to his son Chris. Son Chris was called to the podium where father presented son with the saddle in a poignant moment that won’t soon be forgotten – and with that symbolic gesture, passed the mantle of a polo legacy.

Inducted posthumously for his skill as a player was 9-goaler Robert Gould “Bobby” Shaw, II, a late 19th, early 20th century polo star. Represented by a great grandson, and a great, great granddaughter, Alexander Aggasiz Shaw and his daughter Phoebe had flown in from Massachusetts to accept the award. Mr. A. Shaw gave an acceptance speech with some historical support credited to an old book on polo that gave insight as to the part the elder Shaw played in those early days of polo in this country. 10-goaler Mike Azzaro was the final inductee of the evening and his father Vince came to the podium to say a few words and introduce his son, immensely proud of the fact that Mike represented a third generation of polo players in the family. As Mike came up and began his speech, the emotions appeared almost overwhelming, but he composed himself and went on to reflect on his stellar career and thank the many who have helped him, and giving much credit to the support of his entire family. Afterward as the cameras snapped away, he was also joined by his lovely wife Amy and polo-playing fourth generation – his kids Allie, Hunter and Harrison.

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