By: Sharon Robb

WELLINGTON, FL —

Polo has been a Gracida family tradition for decades.

Memo Gracida’s father and three of his uncles won the U.S. Open in 1946. Memo’s brother Carlos, son Julio and cousin Ruben are all U.S. Open champions.

But none of the Gracidas or, for that matter, anyone in the history of American polo, can match Memo Gracida’s record of 16 U.S. Open titles or his 21 straight years as polo’s highest-ranked player.

After “retiring” in 2007, Gracida returns to International Polo Club Palm Beach to play the 20-goal schedule for La Herradura, including Thursday’s season-opening Herbie Pennell Cup.

For the first time in six years he will play alongside his brother, Carlos, a nine-time U.S. Open winner, and family friends Alvaro Fernandez, the team’s player-patron from Monterrey, Mexico, and Jose Donoso, younger brother of Chile’s Gabriel Donoso, who died following a polo fall while training in 2006.

At 56, Memo Gracida, who lives at his polo facility in Martin County, is one of the oldest players. Rated at 7 goals, he has been playing summers in Argentina while running his horse business.

“I officially retired from the professional circuit and playing around the world, but I decided to come back to where the action is and play a little polo with family and friends,” he said.

“Before it was always about the winning. Now it’s about having fun and showcasing my horses that I produce and train. Playing with Carlos brings back great memories and great experiences. We still have a lot of good polo in us.”

The Gracida brothers will add another page to the family scrapbook when they compete against their sons. Memo’s son Julio, a 4-goaler, will compete for Valiente. Carlos’ son Carlitos, a 3-goaler, will play for Audi.

La Herradura, which means horseshoe, is among an impressive field of 18 teams for the 20-goal season.

The two-day Herbie Pennell Cup also features defending champion Coca-Cola led by Gillian Johnston, one of only two women playing the 2013 schedule; Lechuza Caracas; and Villa del Lago.

Thursday’s semifinals are La Herradura against Villa del Lago at 1 p.m. Coca-Cola plays Lechuza Caracas at 3 p.m. The final is at 3 p.m. Sunday.