Ruben and Weston Gracida, left, and Devon and Michael Dailey share a light moment with horse Scarlett. The fathers and sons will compete in a Father's Day polo match today.

Father’s Day is best
on the back of a horse

It may not seem like the normal father-son activity.

It's certainly not as simple as asking to play catch in the backyard.

But when one's backyard is the Hawaii Polo Club, asking for a quick chukker is inevitable. At least for a family with the last name of Dailey.

"Polo is very much a family sport," said Michael Dailey, 50, a third-generation player in Hawaii. "It bridges generations. The horses demand so much involvement and time.

"It's one thing I shared with my dad when growing up in the late 1960s and early '70s, when the generation gap was at its strongest. He was a strong disciplinarian, a military man, but the one thing that really kept us going so we didn't drift apart was the fact that we had polo."

Dailey and his father, the late Fred "Mr. Polo" Dailey, talked about horses and game strategy. It's something that Dailey and his son Devon share now.

"It's always nice to play with my dad," said Devon Dailey, who just finished his freshman year playing polo for the University of Virginia. "It's great to be out with him or playing against him, especially if I can beat him."

The two won't be riding together today at the Mokuleia polo grounds. Michael will watch Devon and Team Hawaii take on Team Mexico, which features the father and son duo of Ruben and Weston Gracida.

Today's 2 p.m. Father's Day match continues a tradition of Hawaii vs. Mexico polo that dates back to the early 1900s when vaqueros would compete.

"There's been a long bond between Hawaii and Mexico, in equestrian and polo," said Michael Daily. "I guess you could call this match the Paniolos vs. Vaqueros."

Ruben Gracida, 52, has long been a top professional player internationally. He comes from a storied family, with cousins Memo and Carlos who are both rated at 10-goals, the highest rating possible.

Dailey and Gracida have known each other since Dailey's college days at UC Santa Barbara in the 1970s. Gracida, who competes for the Palm Beach (Fla.) International Polo Club, first played in Hawaii in 1979.

"It's a good family sport," said Gracida, a 5-goaler whose rating was once as high as 8. "We grew up playing in Mexico. I'm a third-generation player, Weston is fourth generation.

"The sport has allowed me to travel and play all over the world. What else is more beautiful than to come here and play in Hawaii? I even get to scuba dive."

The four males went diving yesterday afternoon offshore of the polo grounds. The teenagers -- both with one-goal ratings -- even got in a little surfing.

"It's fun playing with Dad," said 16-year-old Weston Gracida. "He's a fun coach, too. It's good that we can talk about the games after.

"Polo is a fun environment. With our family ... it was almost mandatory that I play. I enjoy it and it's fun playing with my cousins and my uncles. Memo being a 10-goal for 21 years is very impressive."

Weston Gracida said his training regimen includes weight training and riding horses daily. He played against his father in tournament polo for the first time last June in a match at the Santa Barbara Polo Club ... with the younger Gracida's team winning.

"I've been riding with him ever since I can remember," said Weston Gracida. "This past year is when I began to take it seriously.

"It's a different father-sport. It's not like breaking out a baseball and mitt. It means getting on a horse. It's a little more involved than playing catch but it's fun."

Michael Dailey agrees.

"No, we don't go shopping for bats but we do shop for mallets," he said. "Devon is always cockroaching my best sticks.

"It's nice to share this with him. Just like I shared it with my dad."

Hawaii Polo Club

At Mokuleia Polo Grounds
hawaii vs. mexico
Gates open: 11 a.m.
Game time: 2 p.m.
Admission: $5. Under 12 free
Information: 637-8088


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