WELLINGTON, Fl.–November 27, 2016–On a picture-perfect day at Grand Champions Polo Club, the legacy of Carlos Gracida continued with the third annual Carlos Gracida Legends of Polo Memorial.
In the opening game of the fall-season ending doubleheader, Aspen Valley (Tim Dutta, Mariano Gracida, Carlitos Gracida, Cali Garcia Valez) edged Grand Champions (Peter Rizzo, Weston Gracida, Martin Estrada, Tommy Biddle), for an emotionally-charged 6-5 victory.
Family and friends celebrate with Aspen Valley players during trophy presentation from Jim Sackett.
The four-chukker game honored Gracida, a Mexico City native, Wellington resident and frequent player at Grand Champions, who died tragically in February, 2014 at age 53.
Mariano Gracida, the youngest son of Carlos Gracida, was named Most Valuable Player after scoring a game-high three goals. Older brother Carlitos Gracida scored two goals including the game-winner with 1:09 left in the game on a penalty-two.
“It’s amazing to be here and to be able to play with my brother,” Mariano Gracida said. “It’s a great feeling. It is bittersweet because we miss my dad and we all know this game is for him. It makes us appreciate what we can do and continue to do what he loved. To do that and honor his memory is one of the most fantastic things.
MVP Mariano Gracida of Aspen Valley reaches for the ball.
“This was more of a friendly match of good polo rather than thinking about winning, but the last chukker the competition came out. We are all competitors at the end of the day. It was fun to watch.”
World Cup, ridden by Carlitos Gracida, was named Best Playing Pony. Grand Champions President and player Melissa Ganzi purchased her as an embryo from Carlos Gracida and his legendary horse Mexicana.
In front of a large crowd including a soldout VIP tent and worldwide ChukkerTV audience including Mexico, it was a time for family and friends to share memories and stories about one of the greatest men ever to play the game.
Aspen Valley teammates Cali Garcia Valez and Carlitos Gracida work together.
For Tim Dutta, one of the sport’s top amateur players, it was an emotional game. Dutta returned to polo after a 25-year hiatus. It was Carlos Gracida who insisted on him stick-and-balling and wanting his teenage son Timmy to get involved with the game.
Dutta travelled to England and played with Gracida in 2010. Timmy Dutta cantered for the first time ever with Gracida.
Tim Dutta sizing up his mallets before the game.
“It is very emotional and I was very excited to play with the boys, they are like our children,” Dutta said. “It’s a great memory.”
Carlos Gracida was a 10-goal player for 15 years. He won nine U.S. Opens including seven with his brother, Memo; five Argentine Opens; a record ten British Opens and seven World Cups.
Martin Estrada of Grand Champions double teamed by Carlitos and Mariano Gracida.
“He was a true living legends and still is,” Dutta said. “his record speaks for itself. Cambiaso in the modern legend but still has a ways to go to catch Carlos’ record.
“But more than that, he was an incredible human being. He was my mentor when I was growing up in India. But more important for me was his heart, his kindness to everybody and his incredible smile whic I will always remember.
Biddle played with and against Gracida during the heyday of polo.
Mariano Gracida of Aspen Valley drives the ball ahead of the pack.
“I had a lot of respect for Carlos, he was an amazing player,” Gracida said. “It is great to honor him in this game. I love being here. It’s the second time I’ve played in this game.
“He meant a lot to polo. Everyone has such a great respect for what he accomplished. He was just a great polo player, horseman and contributed a lot to the sport.”
Cali Garcia Valez congratulates longtime friend Carlitos Gracida after the game.
For family and friends, it is always an emotional time but agree it is one of the greatest ways to pay tribute to a legend.
“Carlos and I grew up together and played polo with and against each other our whole lives and were very good friends,” said Cali Garcia Valez, who converted a penalty-four in the fourth chukker to tie the game (5-5). It was the first time Garcia Valez was on a horse in six months, he said.
Aspen Valley’s Cali Garcia Valez, Carlitos Gracida, Mariano Gracida and Tim Dutta.
“It was an honor to play with his two boys. To win with them was very special. To keep his legacy alive is very important. You can’t forget Carlos. He is one of the most successful winning polo players of all-time. He was a great human being. You cannot let his legacy fall by the wayside.”
In the featured game of the doubleheader, Team USA remained undefeated with a hardfought 6-3 victory over Uruguay to win the fifth annual International Cup.
Grand Champions’ Tommy Biddle, Martin Estrada, Weston Gracida and Peter Rizzo.
Team USA’s Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Julio Arellano and Nic Roldan were pushed to the limit before claiming its fifth consecutive title. Arellano was named Most Valuable Player.
Cantina Mama, a 10-year-old dark bay mare, ridden by Uruguay’s Juan Curbelo and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Best Playing Pony World Cup with Carlitos Gracida.
Uruguay’s national team of Mauricio Sanchez, Alexis de Boismenu, Guillermo Besozzi and Curbelo was making its U.S. international debut.
Team USA has won all five International Cups at Grand Champions with wins over England, Chile, Mexico, South Africa and now Uruguay.
Jim Sackett presents Mariano Gracida with MVP award.
Proceeds from the day benefitted 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.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting, live streamed the doubleheader and entire fall season. ChukkerTV’s state-of-the art technology also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
Grand Champions, with eleven well-manicured fields, enjoyed its finest fall season in club history. Grand Champions is the only club in the nation to stage two USPA-sanctioned 20-goal fall tournaments. The club also hosted eight successful medium goal tournaments.
The Carlos Gracida Legends Of Polo Memorial trophy. Photos by ChukkerTV
Grand Champions caters 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, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
2017 WINTER SCHEDULE
January: 6-29, Metropolitan Cup (6 goal) and Aspen Valley Cup (8 goal); 7-28, The Limited Edition 12-Goal Series.
February: 1-26, Halo Polo Trophy (6 goal) and Top Pony 8 Goal Series; 1-25, USPA Sieber Memorial Trophy.
February 22-March 11: Sterling Cup (20 goal) and John T. Oxley Memorial Trophy (Subs. Handicap).
March: 1-26, Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (6 goal) and The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; 1-25, The Top Pony 12-Goal Series.
March 1-11: $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament (Single elimination).
March 15-April 1: National 20-Goal; Santa Rita Abierto (Subs. Handicap).
April 1-15: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), winner-take-all single elimination.
April 1-25: Las Acacias (4-8 Goals).