On Saturday, polo superstar Adolfo Cambiaso rode a cloned horse in the championship match of the Argentine National Open—a first in equestrian sports.
With the score 11-9 in the game’s backstretch, Cambiaso saddled up Show Me, his not-so-secret deadly weapon. The duo scored two goals (Cambiaso finished with nine goals in the match), helping his team win 16-11.
The victory brought Cambiaso one-step closer to his dream of playing an entire polo match on clones.
Alan Meeker, Cambiaso’s business partner and founder of Crestview Genetics, compared cloned polo to NASCAR: “all of the players would have the same vehicle, and then the player’s skill would be what is most important.”
Experts say that Show Me heralds a new era in polo breeding. The mare is a genetic copy of an American thoroughbred, Sage, that was awarded “best playing polo pony” at the 1997 International Gold Cup. Sage version 2.0 has already played two seasons in the Palm Beach polo season, the sport’s minor league. But Argentina, home to 34 of the world’s top 50 polo players, was Show Me’s call up to the bigs. By helping Cambiaso’s team win the national championship, she answered critics who wondered if a clone could compete at the same elite level as the original.
Cambiaso’s clones perform as well on the pitch as they do at auction. In 2010, a copy of Cuartetera — two-time winner of the Copa Lady Susan Townley, an MVP award for horses—sold for $800,000.
“She’s the best I’ve ridden in my life,” Cambiaso says. “She has everything: power, mouth, acceleration and velocity.”
“For a polo player to ride an extremely talented horse, like Show Me or Cuartetera, would be like for a soccer player to wear Maradona’s feet,” one expert told Argentine television.
The win has far-reaching implications beyond the world of polo. In June 2012, the Fédération Equestre Internationale lifted a ban on cloned horses, making them eligible for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Polo isn’t an Olympic event, but dressage, jumping and eventing are—sports with clones in training.
As of September, Cambiaso had 56 young clones in his string. With this many future ringers, the only thing stopping Cambiaso could be his own age, 38, leading some to wonder if Cambiaso’s next move is to clone himself.