The worldwide polo community is mourning the death last Friday of Gabriel Donoso, the finest Chilean player in history and a much-loved regular of the English sport.
The 46-year-old, rated nine goals at the peak of his career, never regained consciousness after a fall in practice chukkas near Buenos Aires on Sunday, 6 November. He sustained serious head injuries and a fractured vertebra.
No other player was involved in the accident at the Centauros club in Pilar, 45min north of the Argentine capital. Numerous high-goal professionals — including England’s Luke and Mark Tomlinson — keep their ponies at the club.
According to reports in the Argentine national press, Donoso came off the front when his mount shied at a goalpost.
The Chilean played in England for almost 20 years, except in 2000, when he was lucky to survive a broken neck in a practice match — an injury some say may have exacerbated those he sustained last week.
A popular figure among polo fans and players, Donoso was a particular favourite of The Prince of Wales. He won the Queen’s Cup in 1988 with NCP Broncos, playing alongside George Milford Haven, Cody Forsyth and Martin Glue.
Five years later, he lifted the Gold Cup with Peter Webb’s Alcatel alongside Piki Alberdi and Nacho Gonzalez. Last season, he coached the Broncos and Ellerston teams.
Martin Glue, who knew the Chilean for 20 years, said: “Gabriel was a brilliant captain, and one of the most talented and structured players I’ve known. He was also great fun off the field.”
David Jamison, chairman of Cowdray Park, the club where Donoso spent the most time, said: “Donoso was a very clean player, and if he was on the opposite team you knew you had a battle on your hands.”
This is the second polo fatality this year. Pony Club player Catherine Yates, 20, died after a collision at Cirencester Park in August, while in 2004 experienced New Zealand player Paul Clarkin died in a polo accident in Gloucestershire.