• Equine Salute Invitational Honors Gracida Legacy Foundation

    Equine Salute Invitational Honors Gracida Legacy Foundation With Fun Event At Santa Rita Polo Farm

    The legacy of Carlos Gracida continued at the second annual Equine Salute Invitational recently held at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
    By Sharon Robb
    In a fun, but spirited polo match featuring some of the sport's top players, the Apollo Jets (Carlitos Gracida, Santi Torres, Mariano Gracida, Tommy Collingwood, Sophie Gracida) defeated the Arion Group (Julio Gracida, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan, Ben Maher), 7-4.

    Players said they were honored to participate in the event.

    Santi Torres of Apollo Jets stretches for the ball. Photo by Chiarofoto
    "Playing with my friends is always a lot of fun," said Juancito Bollini, U.S. Polo Assn. Ambassador. "Doing it for Carlitos and Nano and this cause is a pleasure. We are trying to keep Carlos Gracida's legacy alive and help the Gracida family and the Foundation."

    Carlitos Gracida of Apollo Jets battling cousin Julio Gracida of Arion Group for the ball with Mariano Gracida backing his brother up. Photo by Chiarofoto
    Added Grant Ganzi, "It means the world to me to be here. Carlitos and Nano are really close to me like brothers. I grew up with them. I looked up to Carlos always. He and Memo were always amazing when I was growing up and I learned so much from him."

    Mariano Gracida of Apollo Jets stretches to hook Nic Roldan of Arion Group. Photo by Sheryel Aschfort

    Maher, an Olympic gold medalist show jumper and three-time Olympian for Great Britain and longtime girlfriend Sophie Gracida, also a show jumper and daughter of recently inducted Ruben Gracida, added to the fun playing in the sixth and final chukker. Sophie Gracida scored the final goal.

    Arion Group teammates Julio Gracida, Grant Ganzi and Juancito Bollini regrouping between chukkers. Photo by Chiarofoto

    In perfect weather with a rainbow in the distance, the event that featured polo and silent auction continued the legacy of Mexican-born Carlos Gracida, who died on Feb. 25, 2014 at age 53 from a polo-related accident.

    Gracida reached 10 goals in 1985 and held the ranking for 15 years. Gracida won every major award in polo and is considered one of the all-time greatest players.

    Guests mingling in the VIP area during the game. Photo by Sheryel Aschfort
    Gracida was a five-time Player of the Year, nine-time U.S. Open champion and 10-time British Open winner. He won three Grand Slams in polo, the U.S. Open, British Open and Argentine Open. He is the only player to have won all three in a calendar year and did it three times in 1988, 1989 and 1994.

    His sons, Carlitos and Mariano Gracida, business partner Nick Valenta of The Arion Group and Grand Champions Polo Club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi spearheaded the successful event, still in its infancy.

    Arion Group teammates Julio Gracida and Grant Ganzi talking strategy. 
    Photo by Sheryel Aschfort
    "We think of Carlitos and Nano as family...part of our Aspen family, part of our Wellington family,"  said Marc Ganzi. "The Gracida family has deeply touched our souls. Their father was an incredibly special human being, someone who taught me a lot about not only about polo, but about life."

    Tommy Collingwood of Apollo Jets takes possession of the ball in traffic. 
    Photo by Chiarofoto
    Carlos and Mariano Gracida said they were overwhelmed by the support for the Gracida Legacy Foundation and graciously thanked friends, players and Marc and Melissa Ganzi during the post-game awards ceremony.

    Nic Roldan of Arion Group signing autographs for fans. Photo by Sheryel Aschfort
    "This means so much to me and my family," Carlitos Gracida said. "Wow, I didn't expect all of this. Polo with friends means even more."

    "Last year was the first time we did this, learning a lot, and this year was better," Mariano Gracida said. "Next year will be even better. It really was a great day. I just want to say thank you to my father. Without him, none of this would have happened. Everything I have learned from him I use every single day."

    Special Gracida Wine drink created by mixologists topped by the G brand was served during the game and halftime. 
    Photo by Sheryel Aschfort
    Gracida Legacy Wine was served at the after-party and silent auction in a large tented area with food and music. The wine label is gaining a following at various popular restaurants in Palm Beach County.

    Allie Azzaro's baked treats were a hit during the Equine Salute Invitational. 
    Photo by Sheryel Aschfort

    Proceeds benefitted the Gracida Legacy Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enrich the lives of community youth through a love of horsemanship and role models dedicated to instilling leadership skills, discipline and champion mentality. The Foundation also supports and assists families of fallen players. For more information or to contribute, go to GracidaLegacy.com

    Apollo Jets teammates Mariano Gracida and Santi Torres working together. Photo by Sheryel Aschfort
    The Arion Group is a personalized, all-encompassing management firm. The firm offers a wide array of services that allow clients to focus solely on their careers.

    Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.

    Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini and Grant Ganzi of Apollo Jets with Santi Torres and Julio Gracida of Arion Group getting ready for the Equine Salute Invitational. 
    Photo by Sheryel Aschfort

    Brothers Carlitos and Mariano of Apollo Jets and Juancito Bollini and Nic Roldan all smiles in front of the Jumbotron. Photo by Sheryel Aschfort

    The club features monthly 6, 8 and 12-goal tournaments and women's weekly league play during the winter season in addition to two 16-20 tournaments, $50,000 National 12 Goal, $100,000 World Cup winner-take-all 0-40-goal tournament, WCT Tournament and USPA National President's Cup.

    During the 2017 winter season Grand Champions attracted a record 72 teams and another 18 teams during the spring season.

    The trophy for the second annual Equine Salute Invitational. Photo by Sheryel Aschfort