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'Queen's favourite polo player' dies in freak accident in Florida after his horse falls

'Queen's favourite polo player' dies in freak accident in Florida after his horse falls

Posted by Alejandra Romo on February 26, 2014

A polo player who taught Princes William and Harry has died in a freak accident in Florida after his horse fell on top of him when the animal was hit in the head with a mallet.

Mexican Carlos Gracida, often described as the Queen's favourite player, was a favourite instructor with celebs and royalty, giving lessons to Prince Charles and his sons as well as King Constantine II of Greece and actor Sylvester Stallone.

The 53-year-old dad-of-two won most of the world's major tournaments, including the US Open nine times and the British Open 10 times. He reached a 10-goal handicap, the sport's maximum, and held it for 15 years.

Gracida, inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame two years ago, was a member of Australian magnate Kerry Packer's legendary team Ellerstina, which won the Argentine Triple Crown in 1994.

He was a nine-time U.S. Open winner, six-time Argentine Open winner and five-time Player of the YearHe also is the only player in polo history to have won the Grand Slam of Polo (US Open, British Open and the Argentine Open in a calendar year) which he accomplished three times, in 1988, 1989 and 1994.

His sons, Carlos Jr. and Mariano, are also professional players. His brother, Memo, is in the Hall of Fame, and his father also played. When Carlos Jr was asked in an interview for La Isla who he most admired, he replied: 'My father Carlos Gracida because he is the most dedicated and ambitious athlete I’ve ever known. He sets a good example in every aspect of life.'

Gracia learned to ride at the age of five, first played polo aged 10, and was competing in tournaments by the time he turned 14. He reached his 10-goal handicap in 1985 by the age of 25, joining his brother who held the same rank from 1980.

At the time the brothers were two of only 10 10-goal ranked players in the world. Gracida's most famous horse was Chesney, who won the Best Playing Pony award several times, including 1988, 1989 and 1991 at the British Open Gold Cup.

His personal favourite was Nony Nony, seven times Gold Cup winner in England. As well as teaching Princes William and Harry, he also played several times with them. He once said of the pair: 'My experience with the Royal Family was really something very special because they are true princes.

'I remember an anecdote from a training session in which Prince William arrived four or five minutes late for a class and said sorry more than anyone I've ever met in my life. They are fantastic people.' Recalling the day the Queen's eldest grandson introduced him to Kate Middleton he said: 'Prince William told Kate, "This person is the best polo player ever, he's a legend and he's the best and my father thinks the same.'"

The freak accident that resulted in Gracida's death happened at Everglades Polo Club in Wellington, Palm Beach County where he lived. Another player accidentally hit his horse in the head with a polo mallet.

The stunned horse whipped his head round and hit Gracida's head, knocking him unconscious. Gracida suffered bleeding and swelling on the brain and never regained consciousness after the horse fell on top of him after he fell off. Sons Carlos Jr and Mariano and his brother Memo, all professional polo players, were at his hospital bedside when he died yesterday night/on Tuesday night.


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