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Polo Field, Aptos, 2001. Compare the tree line in this photograph with that in the
historic photo.

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Hooey History

The Polo Fields in Aptos

The rumor about Claus Spreckels playing polo in Aptos continues to haunt the landscape. As usually happens in the cases of Hooey History, there are elements of truth woven together in the story, but they emerge incorrectly. The field in question is now a playing field below Aptos Junior High School where Rio Del Mar Boulevard intersects Highway 1. The name Polo Drive correctly links the field to polo playing. But the conclusion is then made-incorrectly-that Claus Spreckels was the polo player in question.
That's Hooey.

Claus Spreckels bought the property (and most of Aptos) in the 1870s from the original Aptos Rancho grantee, Rafael Castro. He built a summer home and gentleman's farm on the land that now surrounds the Rio Del Mar intersection with Highway 1, and on the perimeter of the flat area where the playing fields are now located, he built a race course. The 1879 etching clearly shows a race horse in the foreground and the race course in the background. His race horses were world-famous.

Polo players on the infield of Claus Spreckels' old race course, Aptos, 1924.

An 1879 etching of Claus Spreckels' summer farm in Aptos. Famous race horse is in the foreground, and in the back on the right you can see the close end of his race course. Present-day Polo Drive follows the outlines of the race course.

Polo playing entered the Monterey Bay Region in the early 20th century, but it made its debut over at the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey. I cannot find any evidence that polo was played in Santa Cruz County until after World War I. Lots of horse racing, but no polo. Spreckels died in 1908, and parts of his Aptos summer estate eventually passed into the hands of developers who wanted to build an upper-class summer home enclave on the property. It was these promoters who began staging polo matches on the field they called the Deer Park field in the mid 1920s. Most of the teams were from San Francisco, and the hope was that the polo players might be inspired to purchase a lot or two while they were resting.

By the time polo came to Aptos, Claus Spreckels had been dead for over fifteen years. You know, not breathing. Deceased. Therefore, I take my Hooey History cudgel and pound down the image of Claus Spreckels playing polo in Aptos. Never happened.
And, while I'm at it, let's review the correct spelling of Claus Spreckels' name - it's SPRECKELS, not SPRECKLES. Whew. This Hooey History business is hard work.

And, the local folks looked up and asked, "Who was that dude who came and set our historic record straight?"

It was the History Dude!

Hi Yo Hooey! Awaaaaaaay

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