|Carlos Gracida and Memo Gracida played together on winning US Open seven times, and have racked up endless trophies together over the years together. Their opening play of the season in the Herbie Pennell Cup was panned as a poor imitation of what was expected of the former 10-goalers, but their performance today in the 14-10 win over Orchard Hill in the opening match of the Joe Barry Memorial Cup had tongues wagging.
A fast-paced but tentative first chukker saw Orchard Hill’s Mason Wroe score the first goal of the match countered by a goal from Memo Gracida. Carlos Gracida gave La Herradura a 2-1 lead on a goal from the field with just over two minutes left in the chukker. An umpire’s whistle stopped the action with 50 seconds left in the chukker, and Orchard Hill tied it up at 2-2 on a Jeff Hall penalty conversion.
A pair of penalty goals from Carlos Gracida in the second chukker and another goal from the field from Memo Gracida had La Herradura in front 5-3 after the second. Hall converted a 40-yard penalty shot for a goal for Orchard Hill’s only score of the period.
The pace of the game continued to escalate in the third chukker as the Gracidas showed off the superior horseflesh they had become so famous for. Goals from Alberto Fernandez and Carlos Gracida went unanswered as they shut down the Orchard Hill offense and built a four goal, 7-3 lead to end the first half.
An epidemic of fouls infected the second half as both teams fought fiercely stop the opposing offenses. A pair of penalty goals from Carlos Gracida were answered by penalty conversions from Lucas Criado and Jeff Hall with La Herradura holding on to a four goal lead. Albert Fernandez made his presence known as he scored his second goal of the day, but Criado made good on a 60-yard penalty shot and the chukker ended with La Herradura in front by four goals, 10-6.
Two more penalty goals from Orchard Hill in the fifth chukker kept their hopes alive, but the Gracidas responded with a penalty goal from Carlos and a goal from the field from Memo. After five chukkers La Herradura continued to lead comfortably, 12-8.
Carlos Gracida scored on a 60-yard penalty shot to open the final chukker and two minutes later Fernandez added another as La Herradura stretched its lead to six goals, 14-8. Criado got one of them back on a penalty goal and Hall added another from the field but the Gracidas continued to dominate play in the 14-10 win.
“My timing is back,” said Carlos after the game, explaining that he hadn’t played competitive high-goal polo in two years, “but my reaction time has to get quicker.” He explained that he reacted by instinct before and now he was thinking before he would react. “You can’t take the time to think at this level of play,” he explained, “you have to react.”
“I thought Carlos played one of the best games he’s ever played,” said Memo Gracida.
The entire La Herradura team did their part with Alberto Fernandez filling in successfully for his brother Alvaro and Chilean 7-goaler Jose Donoso complimenting the play of both f the Gracidas.
“We’re not there yet,” cautioned Carlos, “but we’re getting closer every day.”
Carlos Gracida led all scoring with eight goals (six on penalty shots). Memo Gracida and Alberto Fernandez scored three goals apiece in the win. Jeff Hall set the pace for Orchard Hill with six goals (five on penalty shots). Lucas Criado scored three times (twice on penalties), and Mason Wroe added a goal in a losing effort.
Competition continues in the Joe Barry Memorial Cup with three games slated to be played on Friday beginning with a noon meeting between Goose Creek and Lechuza Caracas. At 1pm, Villa Del Lago will face Crab Orchard and at 3pm ERG will battle Faraway.