Despite Tragedy, the Gracida Family Remains a Dynasty in the Game of Kings

At age 58, Memo Gracida is still a force on the polo field.
At age 58, Memo Gracida is still a force on the polo field.
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

On February 25, 2014, Carlos Gracida raced down the field at the Everglades Polo Club atop a powerful thoroughbred pony. After decades of being among the best to play the game, having already won every major prize and tournament multiple times in his long career, the 53-year-old had nothing left to prove -- certainly not in the midlevel tournament he was participating in that day, the Freebooters Classic 14.

If there's one thing he never got the hang of during his life, it was losing. So Carlos, a medium-built man with a sun-kissed tan, lurched forward to edge out another player for the ball. As he did, a mallet -- either his or another player's; to this day, no one is sure which -- struck his horse's head. The horse jerked its head backward, colliding with Carlos' forehead, knocking him unconscious, to the ground.

The double impact of horse skull and hard ground caused Carlos' brain to swell and bleed. An ambulance rushed him to Delray Medical Center, but nothing could be done. The polo legend died playing the game of kings.

"The irony is just devastating," says his older brother, Guillermo "Memo" Gracida Jr., a trim 58-year-old with an easy smile. He is dressed in jeans and a bright-white Façonnable shirt during an interview at the Palm Beach International Polo Club. It has been a year since the freak accident, but the elder Gracida's eyes still tear up when he talks about his brother and former teammate.

"He was such a great rider," says Memo. "He knew everything about the game. I've heard of accidents happening with less-skilled players, sometimes novices, but Carlos Gracida?"

Imagine Larry Bird and Magic Johnson as brothers and you would have the polo equivalent of Memo and Carlos Gracida. Individually, the brothers are two of the best players to have ever hit a ball. Combined, their records will likely never be repeated. Although they didn't always play together, they rarely lost when they did.

Memo was the organizer, the field general. He prepared the horses and set the strategy. Carlos was the phenom, with more pure talent. Carlos could maneuver his way through a maze of players to get through to the goal. Or score a shot from an impossible angle. Had SportsCenter covered polo, Stuart Scott would have given Carlos a tag line.

Although polo is often considered a genteel game, in reality, it's a contact sport played with heavy, four-legged animals that thunder down a field. In this world, the Gracida family is a dynasty: In addition to Memo and Carlos, their father and uncles won major tournaments, and their sons now have big-time wins under their belts. The untimely death of Carlos closed a chapter in the Gracida story, but their legacy continues in Wellington, which the Mexican-born brothers have helped make a hotbed of international polo competition. Here, wealthy 1-percenters throw around millions just to share the field with the family.


The first organized polo games began in sixth-century B.C. Persia, when warriors -- as many as 100 a side -- played as a training game for battle. In time, it became a game of nobility played by the Persian elite, who called it "chovgan."

In British-occupied India during the 19th Century, Europeans started a polo club. Soon, the game made its way to England as a military exercise. British cavalry units faced off on teams with eight players per side. As many as 10,000 spectators came to the matches.

In America, polo clubs began forming during the late 1800s at private fields outside New York City. But it wasn't until the 1920s that polo reached Mexico, where Carlos and Memo Gracida's grandfather was among the first to play.

Modern polo is played with two teams of four, on a field 300 yards long and 160 feet wide. Mallets, shaped like the tool but with a skinnier, longer head, are used to knock a 3.5-inch ball (made of wood until plastic became the go-to material in the 1970s) into an unguarded, 7.5-meter-wide goal. The game is divided into six "chukkers" that last seven minutes each. Although the 15-minute halftime is necessary to clean up the mounds of horse dung that accumulate during the game, a tradition is for the crowd to walk on the funky-smelling field during this time to stretch their legs and mingle.

The horses in polo are called ponies. Technically, a pony refers to a horse under 58 inches tall, but in polo, all horses are called ponies. This is due to tradition; polo players of old preferred small horses for their swiftness and maneuverability. But these days, speed and strength are crucial, and the most valuable animals can bust out at top speeds while pivoting on a dime. Thus, Arabian and quarter horses are the most common breeds seen on the polo field -- they're big, fast, and agile. A pony usually isn't ready to compete at high levels until age 5, but a healthy one can play for ten years.

The average high-goal polo team will have 20 to 40 of these highly trained horses ready for a game. "High goal" is the term used to describe the professional-level games played in tournaments across the world.

 

Guillermo Gracida Sr. won the 1946 U.S. Open with the Mexican national team before teaching his sons the sport.
Guillermo Gracida Sr. won the 1946 U.S. Open with the Mexican national team before teaching his sons the sport.
Photo courtesy of Guillermo Gracida Jr.

Players are each rated, from minus-two goals to ten goals, based on factors such as technical skill and horsemanship. To be a ten-goal player is to be considered an expert in every facet of the game -- literally perfect, according to the International Polo Association. Fewer than 30 players have reached this plateau since the handicap system was implemented in 1890. Carlos Gracida was a ten-goal player for a record 15 years, Memo for ten.

In high-goal tournaments, teams go from 12-goal teams -- in which the combined skill levels of the eight players adds up to no more than 12 goals -- to 26-goal teams, the highest in North American competition. There is no central league in the polo world. Games are organized around tournaments in which teams of equal ratings face off against each other.

Perhaps the most curious aspect of the sport is that, even at the 26-goal level, the owner of the team gets a spot on the field, no matter how great or how terrible a player he is. It would be like Robert Kraft suiting up with the Patriots. Known as a "patrón," the Spanish word for "boss," the owner pays the cost of players' salaries, horses, transportation, and staff. Luxury brands such as Rolex and Maserati often sponsor tournaments, such as the U.S. Open, the highest competition in American polo.

Only in the past two years has polo been shown on national television. In 2014, more people watched a high school slam-dunk contest on CBS than the U.S. Open on the NBC Sports Network. And although admission to the biggest matches in the fanciest polo fields can cost hundreds of dollars, ticket revenue is not a substantial source of income for American polo. So the sport is exclusive by design and has thus attracted the rich and powerful. That was the case even when polo initially spread to Mexico, where the Gracidas first swung a mallet.

Just after the Mexican Revolution, Joaquin Amaro, an avid horseman and then secretary of war for the Mexican army, brought polo to Mexico. His passion for the game bordered on -- or egregiously surpassed, depending upon how you judge men in high positions of power -- sociopathy. In October 1925, Amaro shot and killed his horse groom for failing to exercise a polo pony.

Amaro formed the first Mexican polo team, which included Gabriel Gracida Sr., a lifelong military man who had achieved the rank of colonel.

Memo describes his grandfather as a horse whisperer and a pretty good teacher of polo too: Four of his sons made up the entire Mexican polo team in 1946. They traveled north to compete against the American team in the U.S. Open in Meadow Brook, Long Island, the same field where Memo and Carlos would pull off an upset 48 years later.

The four brothers, whose only competition had been against each other and local sparring teams on hard, hole-covered surfaces, were in awe of the luxurious fields of New York. According to Memo, the Mexicans were perceived as less skilled than the Americans and their horses inferior, especially after having trekked north via train for two weeks.

But Memo says the Gracida team, led by his father, Guillermo Sr., used this to their advantage. They gave their ponies healthy servings of the superior American horse feed, which resulted in a Popeye-spinach effect.

"They weren't used to this kind of food," Memo says. "So they ate this new food, and their energy just went up -- and the Mexican team was able to compete."

After a hard-fought match, the Mexican team pulled off a major upset, 8-7. It was the only time a team made up entirely of brothers has ever won the open.

"For the Mexican team to go there with Mexican players, Mexican horses, Mexican grooms, Mexican everything and beat the Americans on their own ground, it was unheard of -- just extraordinary," Memo recalls. "And I don't think [an all-brother team] will ever happen again."

Memo and his younger brother Carlos grew up hearing these stories.

"We would sit at the dinner table and talk about politics, economics, schooling, et cetera, but it always ended talking about polo," Memo says. "And my father just indulged us with those fantastic stories. It was a fairy tale for us to hear all they experienced."

 

Carlos Gracida
Carlos Gracida
Photo courtesy of Guillermo Gracida Jr.

Memo and Carlos, born in 1956 and 1960, respectively, grew up in the Polanco neighborhood of Mexico City, a wealthy section of the capital. Their father had become a professional racehorse breeder, training horses on a ranch outside the city. On weekends, the brothers would play there.

"What caught my attention is, there are two athletes in the game of polo: the polo player and the horse."

But it wasn't until Memo saw a Disney movie that he decided he really wanted to be a polo player. That movie was Stormy, the Thoroughbred, a film about a wayward pony that wanted to play polo but couldn't because an age cutoff made him too young. However, a Mexican polo horse trainer came around and whipped the horse into a polo champ.

"What caught my attention is, there are two athletes in the game of polo: the polo player and the horse," Memo recalls. "That's what excited me the most about the game: playing polo and making horses and training champions. It was exuberant to me. I knew then that was my calling in life and what I wanted to do."

Today, Memo gives Stormy, the Thoroughbred to his polo students -- required viewing if you want to be his pupil.


In the late 1960s and early '70s, making a living off polo was not a realistic goal. So Memo enrolled in veterinary school with designs on becoming a horse doctor.

But things changed in a big way for the first-year veterinary student in 1976. At age 19, Memo played with his father on a practice team that sparred against the Mexican national team to get them ready for the Camacho Cup in San Antonio, a prestigious tournament between top players from Mexico and the U.S. Turns out, the practice team was better than the national team.

"That sort of caused a big revolution in the Mexican polo world," Memo says. "So they decided that I should join the [pro] team with my father, and we accepted immediately."

Just like 30 years prior, when his father had played the U.S. Open, the Mexican team was seen as weak.

"We were the biggest underdogs of all the competition, and we had zero chance of winning," Memo recalls. "Not only because of the lack of experience from me and the other two amateur players but the fact that we were playing against the undefeated American team that had won all the major tournaments and was a well-oiled polo machine. We went to play them, and obviously, we were terrified of them."

The Mexican team, led by the Gracidas, once again proved everybody wrong.

Playing at the Retama Polo Club, a 16-field polo megaplex, the Mexican team dominated. After a close win in the first game, Memo led the Mexicans to big wins during the second and third games, winning by six and seven goals, respectively.

"We didn't know the magnitude of the repercussions," Memo says. "They were the champions, and they beat everybody -- but we trashed them."

Steve Gose, a wealthy 45-year-old oil and gas man who owned Galaxy Oil and the Exploration Co. as well as the Retama Polo Club, remembers the tournament well. Gose was looking for talent to take his own team to the next level.

"Memo could play at a high speed," Gose, now 82, recalls. "He was capable of carrying the ball and running -- and a lot of polo players in the U.S. at that time kind of slowed down a little. He brought speed back into the game."

Gose offered to buy all of Memo's horses and give him $2,000 a month to play for his team, which included future hall-of-famers William "Corky" Linfoot and Harold Barry, both nine-goal players. They realized Gose's dream and won the 1977 U.S. Open.

In 1978, Memo, who was based in San Antonio when he wasn't traveling, married Mimi Oliver, daughter of George Oliver, a former nine-goal player who had played with Memo's father in the 1961 U.S. Open. Two years later, Memo became a United States citizen and was able to join the American team to compete in the Argentine Open -- the toughest competition in the sport. He was rated at eight-goal but says he wasn't treated like it at that point due to his foreign birthplace.

 

Carlos Gracida won every major award in polo and is considered one of the game's greatest players.
Carlos Gracida won every major award in polo and is considered one of the game's greatest players.
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

"Being Mexican, the Americans weren't a big fan of me," Memo says. "They weren't happy to see a foreigner come and step on their toes, do things, and suddenly take all the recognition."

He was often criticized for running his horses too hard, giving him a reputation as a "horse killer." But Memo, who introduced the idea of playing thoroughbred racehorses in polo, makes no apologies.

"How do you win games and get better? You have to be quicker and faster than everybody else," Memo says. "I revolutionized the game because I started to introduce these new techniques."

Despite the criticisms, in 1982, he led the American team to victory in the Argentine Open -- the first time a non-Argentine team had won in 30 years.

It was one of the greatest moments of Memo's career, but there was still a funny feeling he figured he had a solution for.

"I needed more Mexicans," he says with a laugh.

Enter Carlos Gracida.

Gose's winning run with Memo continued that year when Carlos and cousin Ruben joined the team, and they won the 1982 U.S. Open.

With three U.S. Opens and a slew of other championship tournaments under his belt, Memo was now a bona fide polo star. Carlos, a rookie to the American pro circuit, would rise even faster. Memo had started at a five-goal ranking and progressed to ten-goal in six years. Carlos became a ten-goal player in only five years.

"They had very different styles," says George Dupont, director of the International Polo Museum and Hall of Fame in Wellington. "Memo was the organizer, the field general -- he was the one who got everything in order on and off the field. He'd prepare the horses, watch videos of the opposing team, prepare strategies. Carlos was more about pure skill. He could score from anywhere, and if his team was down a couple of goals at the end of the game, he'd more often than not find a way to tie it up or win in the final moments."

After winning the 1982 U.S. Open, the Gracida brothers amicably parted ways with Gose to test the open market as free agents. They relocated to Wellington full-time and fielded offers to play all over the world. Prince Charles had Memo play on his Les Diables Bleus team for three seasons, recruited because he was the best player in the game. Carlos famously taught all three British princes the finer points of the game. Millionaires courted them.

"Polo is the most demanding horse sport," Memo explains. "The Kentucky Derby, the horse has to run for maybe two minutes. But polo ponies have to go for a chukker -- seven minutes covering around five kilometers. And they do it most of the time at a high speed. So if you start that, you need to have a conditioning of months in anticipation."

Carlos married his high school sweetheart, Carmen, when they were both only 21 and he was beginning his professional polo career. For the next 20 years, Carmen was by his side through his dominant polo run.

"Carlos was 100 percent dedicated to his sport and his horses," she says from her home in Mexico City. "He wouldn't drink, wouldn't party, and that was a big part of his success. He was completely dedicated to his sport."

They enjoyed the glamour of traveling around the world and dining with the wealthy and the royal, even enjoying a few steak and tango sessions with actor Robert Duvall when they went down to Argentina.

Rubbing elbows with the elite became common for the Gracidas during the 1980s. The boys from Mexico City were hanging out among the world's 1-percenters and playing with royalty in England, business magnates in France, and the moneyed elite of Palm Beach. South Florida became the center of the North American polo world during the '80s, spurred on by an influx of wealthy residents who enjoyed the game and sought to take advantage of the weather. Soon, tiny Wellington would become the mecca of American polo.

The Gracidas gave the scene added legitimacy with their presence. Memo, always a keen businessman, opened a horse ranch where he reared and trained polo ponies. He soon gained a reputation for producing topnotch horses, and buyers clamored for a Memo-trained mare.

 

Memo Gracida (left) with his current team, Catamount.
Memo Gracida (left) with his current team, Catamount.
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

Palm Beach-based polo writer Alex Webbe told Sports Illustrated in 1985, "If I sell Memo a horse for $5,000 in the morning, he can sell it that afternoon for $10,000, just because it's his horse."

The Gracidas would go wherever their services were required and play for whoever could afford their six-figure price.

This was the beginning of the millionaire patrón era -- and there was a lot of money to be made.


In 1994, Doug Matthews, a 40-something millionaire who made his fortune buying and selling aircraft, had been playing polo at the amateur club level for a mere four years, but he had a brash goal: to win the U.S. Open. But there were only six weeks until the tournament. So Matthews opened his checkbook and signed Memo and Carlos Gracida to his team, Aspen Polo Club. The New York Times reported that Matthews shelled out several hundred thousand dollars to the brothers, who had won the two previous U.S. Opens. With Memo and Carlos, as well as a talented but relatively inexperienced 23-year-old Tiger Neece, Matthews made up for his lack of skill. Still, White Birch, a team patróned by billionaire paper mill and publishing baron Peter Brant, was the favorite to win it all.

In order to not get laughed out of the open, Memo needed to get Matthews in playing form -- even just enough so he wouldn't screw up.

"He was very green," Memo recalls of Matthews. "I had to work with him a lot, but he used to be a fighter pilot, so he knew how to take direction."

His pilot background gave Memo an idea. Sitting down to dinner with Matthews after a day of training, Memo said they should use headphones to communicate with each other on the field -- a first in polo, Memo says.

Memo also brought in internationally renowned polo instructor Rege Ludwig to help with off-field guidance via microphone. A professional "coach" was unheard of in polo, but if they were going to win the U.S. Open with a player as green as Matthews, it was worth a shot.

During the tournament at the Meadow Brook Polo Club in Long Island that September, Matthews obeyed the commands piped into earphones attached to his helmet.

"Stay back and look towards the man coming at you from the left!" Ludwig barked.

Matthews did as told and cornered the opposing player from the White Birch team to cut down the angle.

"Forward! Go forward!" barked Memo as he raced down the field to catch up to the opposing team's attacker. Before Matthews got his next command, Memo was able to knock the ball back toward the other goal, and after a few passes, Carlos picked it up and scored an easy point.

The score remained tight in each chukker -- a difficult feat for Aspen to achieve with their green patrón. "We had him play back, very defensive -- and he did well," Memo says, adding that Matthews followed every instruction given to him over the earphones. "He knew it was make-or-break and that you can't win with only three players."

Going into the final minute of the sixth chukker, White Birch had a 13-12 lead. Things weren't looking good for Aspen. But Carlos showed why he was the top player in the world: He took the ball from one end of the field to the other. A White Birch defender edged him into the corner. The clock was ticking with only 30 seconds left. With few options, Carlos hit the ball between several horses' legs and, somehow, into the goal. Game tied, 13-13.

"He made probably the most amazing goal I've ever seen in my life," Memo says. "It was an impossible shot from the corner -- only Carlos could have made that goal."

"That year, Carlos was unstoppable. We were both just on another level."

The two teams went into sudden-death overtime. Early in the OT chukker, Memo was fouled, and the referee gave Carlos a penalty shot. Carlos scored easily, and Aspen won the 1994 U.S. Open.

Although the brothers had already won 11 U.S. Opens and would go on to win three more, Memo considers the 1994 victory to be one of the most memorable games he ever played with Carlos.

"We took two players who were very green -- Neece was also pretty new to high-goal competition -- and we won with guts at the last minute," he says. "That year, Carlos was unstoppable. We were both just on another level."

Indeed, that year Carlos won his third grand slam of polo, winning the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the Argentine Open. He is the only player to have won all three in a calendar year, and he did it three times, his previous wins having come in 1988 and 1989.


On a beautiful afternoon in Wellington this January, the elite fill the stands at the International Polo Club to take in the championship game of the Joe Barry tournament, a 20-goal competition featuring some of the top players in the game today. White-haired men in pink chinos watch through thousand-dollar binoculars; middle-aged women sip glasses of Veuve Clicquot in the discreet shade of their wide-brimmed hats; willowy teenaged girls dart their eyes back and forth between the field and their iPhone screens. It's just another Sunday during Palm Beach's polo season.

The monied crowd is here to watch Orchard Hill, the team owned by Steve Van Andel, the billionaire chairman of Amway, square off against Villa del Lago, headed by Jim Zenni, president and CEO of Z Capital, a private equity firm with assets worth $2 billion.

Not much has changed in the polo world except for the cost, which has steadily gone up over the years.

"No one really talks about [the cost of putting a team together] because no one wants money to be the topic of why they're there or what people make," says Tim Gannon, the millionaire cofounder of Outback Steakhouse -- who didn't begin playing polo until age 41, after he had already made millions selling Bloomin' Onions, which he created.

"Money is a subject that gets pushed down because people like to talk about the love of the sport," Gannon adds. "And I like that people aren't always talking about how much money they're spending on polo. It's a very private sport that people play amongst themselves. They don't try to be flashy and say, 'Hey, I'm a polo player, and I've done this and done that.' People tend to be pretty quiet about the sport."

But press the restaurateur and he'll tell you how much it takes to put a winning team together: "About three or four million dollars."

 

And some say Memo's innovations to the game, such as breeding thoroughbred horses for polo, deserve part of the blame. But that doesn't stop those who can afford it from paying.

George Rawlings, a Kentucky businessman who made his fortune through the Rawlings Group, providing legal services for health insurance companies, first met Memo in Palm Beach in 1993. A weekend polo player at the time, Rawlings wanted to get serious -- so he called up Memo, the best polo teacher money could buy.

"If you're ambitious and want to excel at something you do, you look to what's the next stage -- where can we go in this? You graduate to different levels in polo according to your interest, desire, and financial capability," Rawlings says. "A lot of people call it a hobby. I call it an enterprise. It's a lot of work and effort."

Rawlings bought horse ranches and dozens of horses in Kentucky and Palm Beach to satisfy his polo ambitions. He staffed 20 to 40 people on his teams during tournaments. All this work required somebody who knew how to put together a winning polo team. Memo was hired for the job.

With Memo at his side, Rawlings' Orchard Hill team won the biggest tournaments in the country, including two U.S. Opens. The two grew so close, Memo made Raw-lings godfather of his son, Julio, who would grow up to be a professional polo player.

Rawlings also learned an important life lesson by playing with Memo: Don't be so cheap.

"At the time we played with Memo, he was one of the best in the world. And my father told me, 'You've really invested in good people in polo, but you're cutting it short in investing in people at your business,'" Rawlings remembers. "Spending that large amount of money for polo helped me become more generous, and money became not as important as it may have been otherwise."

But what made Memo great also led to a rift. After almost 15 years playing with Memo, Rawlings felt he knew how to manage a polo team and decided to give himself more decision-making powers. But the way Rawlings tells it, Memo refused to relinquish control.

"With Memo, it was always high levels of preparation -- sometimes, I believe, overpreparation," Rawlings says. "He wanted to do and did run just about everything with the polo team."

When Rawlings decided to take more control, Memo left the team. Rawlings filed a lawsuit for breach of contract, and the two haven't spoken since 2005.

The end of that relationship came at a time when both Memo and Carlos were climaxing in their careers. Memo went on to win the Camacho Cup in 2009 but didn't garner any other major accolades. Already in his late 40s and winding down from the grueling schedule of polo stardom, he was beginning to settle his record, which is among the winningest: 16 World Cups, seven U.S. Opens, an Argentine Open, and a British World Cup.

But Carlos is considered the more decorated of the two brothers. According to polo expert Webbe, Carlos won nine U. S. Open Championships, five Argentine Opens, a record ten British Opens, and seven World Cups. Carlos was also the only non-Argentine awarded the Olimpa de Plata award, given to the most valuable polo player in that country.

When it came to U.S. Open titles, Memo wasn't without a little controversy. In 2007, while playing for La Herradura, he and his teammates were banned from the International Polo Club for one year after throwing a match to Lechuza Caracas, losing 18-7. And Memo didn't hide his intentions, explaining he lost on purpose to get into a more favorable bracket for the U.S. Open.

"It was a strategy to save the horses and players for the U.S. Open, the one tournament we have had our sights set on all season," Memo told the Sun Sentinel, adding: "When we were presented with a series of circumstances that allowed us to be better positioned to win the Open by losing the semifinals of the Gold Cup, we lost."

"We were hurt because we had a long relationship with him," Rawlings says. "And when you get hurt, you don't always act the best way possible. I regret the whole thing happened." But Rawlings says he has no ill feelings toward Memo these days.

Each went on to achieve more success. Rawlings, in need of a new star, approached top-ranked Adolfo Cambiaso, an Argentine superstar, and went on to win three more U.S. Opens.

Two weeks before Carlos' death, he and Memo planned on going to polo at the International Polo Club in Wellington, as they did most Sundays. Being the stars they are, this meant mingling with the glitterati.

However, shortly before the match was scheduled to begin, the game was canceled due to petty disagreements between the two teams. With the club mostly empty, Carlos and Memo had a chance to catch up -- a rarity in their busy lives.

The two had gone through big personal changes in the past three years that involved their own families. Both went through divorces, Memo with his wife of 30 years and Carlos with his wife of 22 years.

Memo, engaged to Meghan McCalip, was planning to remarry later in the year, and Carlos' girlfriend, Monica Sierra, had a baby on the way. Being so preoccupied with their own issues, the two brothers had drifted apart.

"We just sat there for a long time and talked about everything: my family, his family -- we hadn't talked like that in a long time," Memo recalls. "And I said we needed to bring our families back together. Together, as a family, the Gracidas are better. We should stick together."

Memo proposed that they bring their children -- all adults now -- and significant others for a dinner and talk about becoming closer as a family. Carlos agreed.

"That's when I told him something that I really don't think I ever told him before," Memo says, tears forming in his eyes. "I told him I loved him."

Unfortunately, the planned dinner never happened. Carlos' accident at the Everglades Polo Club cut his life short. But Memo is grateful for their last moment together, just the two brothers alone and sitting by a polo field.

"It might sound strange, but I think that game was canceled for a reason," he says.

Today, Memo plans to continue the legacy in new ways.

His son, Julio, and Carlos' two sons, Carlitos and Mariano, are all professional polo players. But they were given tremendous shoes to fill. Julio, age 26 and currently rated four-goals after a dip from six-goals last season, will be the first to tell you he's no Memo.

"I don't have their natural skills, but they were such good teachers that you could learn how to play at a level higher than you're maybe supposed to," Julio explains.

But the polo life is definitely one worth living.

"We don't live in reality," Julio says. "We play a fun game for a living, and we get to travel around the world with amazing people. We go to France, England, Argentina -- all over -- and we play polo. It's just not a normal life."

Julio carries on the Gracida tradition of expert horse-rearing, waking up every morning before 6 a.m. to exercise his horses. He owns 15 on his ten-acre property in Wellington.

Memo, who still plays on Catamount, a 12-goal team, keeps horse ranches in Martin County, Argentina, and Mexico. However, he's in the process of centralizing his horse operation in Mexico, where he plans to relocate permanently in the next year or two.

"I've been spending more and more of my time there, so I figured maybe I should just live there," he explains. "You get older and you feel like going back to your roots."

"We get to travel around the world with amazing people... It's just not a normal life."

Memo says he plans on coming back to Palm Beach once in a while, but he wants to help grow the game in his home country.

"I want to help bring it to television so people around Mexico learn and watch polo," he says. "I want to create a polo field where people can come watch the games and have a good time." He gestures at the expansive greens at the Wellington Polo Club: "Maybe something like this."




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