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.