By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fla., November 26, 2018---The legacy of Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida lived on Saturday with the Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial at Grand Champions Polo Club.
With his brother, Memo Gracida watching and cheering from the VIP tent and several members of the Gracida family playing, including sons Carlitos and Mariano, Gracida Wine defeated American Polo Horse, 6-2.
The fifth annual game, that attracts family and friends from all over the world, honors the polo great who died tragically in February 2014 at age 53.
Gracida, one of the sport's most beloved players, started playing when he was 5, reached 10 goals at age 25 and held the highest possible rating for 15 years. He won the U.S. Open nine times and British Open ten times. He was said to be Queen Elizabeth's favorite player. He coached Princes William and Harry and played alongside them several times.
It was only fitting Gracida Wine, with Gracida's sons Carlitos and Mariano, nephew Julio Gracida and Riley Ganzi, the only woman in the game, defeated American Polo Horse (Santos Bollini, Weston Gracida, Wes Finlayson, Whistle Uys).
Gracida Wine took a 3-0 halftime lead behind two goals by Julio Gracida and Ganzi and never trailed in the four-chukker game.
Carlitos Gracida, 27, an up-and-coming 4-goaler, was named Most Valuable Player.
Carlitos and Mariano Gracida each had one goal. Ganzi and Julio Gracida had two goals apiece. For American Polo Horse, Weston Gracida scored both of his team's goals.
"I don't have mixed emotions, I have great emotions," Carlitos Gracida said. "I appreciate everything from everybody, everyone being here, and everyone playing. For me it's an opportunity to have fun and I am grateful that everyone helps me create that."
Added Gracida's youngest son, Mariano, 25: "It's bittersweet for us always. He was a great father and we always miss him. Many people who knew him won't forget him and they are not going to stop remembering him so it's nice. It's special, it's not about winning or losing. Every time there is something for my father it's special."
Julio Gracida grew up playing with and against his uncle.
"This game means everything to me," Julio Gracida said. "It's a great memory of my uncle who I loved so much. It was a lot of fun playing with family and friends and to compete in this beautiful event for our uncle. This is keeping his legacy alive and playing something in his name. He was a legend and we are trying to keep his legacy going."
For Riley Ganzi, the game was particularly special.
"This game meant a lot to me and I was honored when the guys asked me to play," said Ganzi, a St. Andrew's alum and Georgetown freshman. "I grew up with him and he was very influential in the way I play polo today, my love for polo and how it's grown.
"I love how the family continues to keep his legacy going. Like Julio said, he is a legend and we should remember him. This brings everyone that loved him together. It's nice to see familiar faces. There's no one else I would rather be playing with and this is the most ideal place in the world to play polo."
The American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony was Open Quarzo, a bay stallion owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm and played by Ganzi. The Grand Champions Best Playing Pony was Garinche, a 4-year-old bay gelding owned and played by Julio Gracida.
The American Polo Horse Association was created in 2006 by Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.
The International Cup and Legends game have become a holiday tradition that ends the biggest week of fall polo and season at Grand Champions.
Award-winning Ken-Rose Catering and Event Planning, serving clients for 25 years from the Treasure Coast to Miami-Dade, catered the VIP tent that also featured a custom-made cake by Jennifer Johnson, owner of Johnson's Custom Cakes of Wellington. Another sponsor was Perfect Vodka, the official VIP liquor. Owner Dennis Cunningham was one of the awards presenters.
Nine-year-old Carly Cantor of Wellington and Bink's Forest Elementary School student, gave a powerful rendition of the National Anthem.
Proceeds from the doubleheader benefit The Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, a non-profit educational organization, dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the development, history and tradition of the sport of polo by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting its collections as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport.
World reknown polo announcer Jan-Erik Franck called the action and will return to Grand Champions for the much-anticipated winter season featuring the debut of the World Polo League. He will also call the Dec. 17-22 St. Regis World Snow Polo event at Aspen Valley Polo Club and Rio Grande Park.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal during the winter season in addition to special events at its well-manicured fields during the fall, winter and spring seasons.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its' expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its' Polo On Demand program at the turnkey facility.
Club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi, both accomplished players, take pride in teaching and sharing the exciting sport of polo with anyone interested in learning.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is thriving at Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm. It is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.