Story and photos © United States Polo Association.
Six extremely competitive teams arrived to compete in the renowned Gulfstream Pacific Coast Open, the final leg of the 16-goal series and highlight of the Santa Barbara season.
After bracket play, Klentner Ranch and Farmers & Merchants Bank (FMB) were the clear front runners both maintaining an undefeated record to secure their positions in the semifinals on Thursday, August 24, at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California.
Fans crowded the sidelines, tailgating fieldside, while polo devotees nationwide and internationally tuned into the USPA Polo Network livestream. Continuing their forward momentum, both teams delivered, running away with their wins by a considerable margin. Klentner Ranch defeated defending champions Restoration Hardware and Farmers & Merchants Bank triumphed over Lucchese.
The stage is set for an extraordinary Pacific Coast Open Final as the two powerhouse teams go head-to-head on Sunday, August 27, in a match that could be anyone’s game. Klentner Ranch captured the first 16-goal title of the season in the Karma Automotive Robert Skene Trophy, while most recently FMB took home the Engel & Volkers America Cup.
Which one of these local California teams will clinch their second win of the summer in the apex of polo on the Pacific Coast—find out this Sunday, August 27 at 6:00pm ET on the USPA Polo Network or in person at the celebrated Sunday match at 3:00pm PT.
Klentner Ranch Thwart Defending Champions Restoration Hardware 12-8
In the first semifinal match of the day, undefeated Klentner Ranch took on Restoration Hardware (1-2). A choppy game from the get-go, the first half remained close. Klentner Ranch came out firing, showcasing exceptional team play and their confidence as teammates in their second year competing together.
“It feels good playing together for a second year. It helps, we know how we play and we know each other a lot more. We changed the positions since last year and now we work a lot better.” – 6-goaler Facundo Obregon of Klentner Ranch
Facundo Obregon, riding Argentine Thoroughbred mare Capa, scored back-to-back field goals off two beautifully angled neckshots. Matt Coppola* answered with the first goal for Restoration Hardware to end the first 2-1. Restoration Hardware began to hit their stride in the third. Outscoring Klentner Ranch and closing the gap to a one-goal margin, Restoration Hardware trailed closely behind Klentner Ranch 7-6 at halftime.
Klentner Ranch came out full tilt in the second half, Facundo Obregon once again leading the charge immediately capitalizing on a broken knock-in to find the goal. A Penalty 2 conversion from Jason Crowder would maintain the gap, but Klentner Ranch turned up the heat in the fifth, shutting out Restoration Hardware to widen their lead 10-7.
Restoration Hardware unraveled as Klentner Ranch continued their onslaught of goals into the final chukker. Geronimo Obregon* added another goal to the board followed by a clean and straight Penalty 2 conversion from Jesse Bray*, his fourth of the day. Restoration Hardware’s Santi von Wernich was able to score one concluding goal before the thirty second horn, but it was too little too late as Klentner Ranch cemented their position in the final 12-8.
When asked what Klentner Ranch’s strategy is approaching the final Facundo Obregon smiled, “score one more goal than them. It’s going to be a tough game.”
Farmers & Merchants Bank Triumph over Lucchese 13-8
Lucchese (2-1) in third place on the leaderboard after bracket play faced undefeated Farmers & Merchants Bank in the second semifinal of the day. If the first semifinal was a touch stop-and-go, the second was a traffic jam, as both teams desperately battled for the last remaining spot in the Pacific Coast Open Final. The first chukker consisted entirely of goals off penalty conversions, FMB coming out ahead 2-1.
As the game slowly began to open up, so did the jaw dropping plays, including an incredible save by Lucas Criado in the goal mouth as the ball inched towards the white line spoiling a gorgeous 80-yard line drive from Lucchese’s Jeff Hall. Lucchese worked relentlessly towards their goal but their shots missed the mark as FMB continued to pound in the points to end the first half 7-3.
“I think it was a really tough game. Playing against Lucchese, they have a routine. Nico is really good with the ball, and that was our strategy to play with him on the ball.” –Felipe Vercellino of Farmers & Merchants Bank
Farmers & Merchants Bank fouls would keep Lucchese alive in the fourth and fifth as they maintained the gap 11-6, capitalizing exclusively on penalty conversions. At the same time, 17-year-old Nico Escobar took center stage for FMB. Escobar scored two excellent field goals, the second off a breakaway on his lightning fast bay Appendix Quarter Horse mare, Blur.
“6-year-old Blur belongs to Lucas Escobar, Nico is borrowing her. She came from Tink Elordi and she is super super handy and quick. The first 300 yards are always hers.” – Luis Escobar, father of Nico Escobar.
Tables turned in the sixth chukker. The teams traded goals throughout, Hall unleashing his customary prowess scoring two field goals. The Lucchese comeback was short-lived however, when two costly undefended penalties provided an equalizing opportunity for Farmers & Merchants Bank who walked away with the win 13-8, having never surrendered their lead once.
Escobar’s father Luis Escobar beamed on the sidelines, “I am extremely excited for Nico to play in the finals,” he said. “Tonight we relax, tomorrow we start to regroup for Sunday!” When asked what it was like to play against his father and younger brother Lucas Escobar during Pacific Coast Open competition Nico Escobar responded, “It was fun.
A little bit hard mentally playing against them. I would look up and see my club [Santa Clara] and everything that made me who I am and I had to work through it and concentrate on the game.” In regards to the final on Sunday, Nico Escobar answered with determination, “we need to be concentrated, play well, listen to each other and we will be fine.”
*Matt Coppola, Geronimo Obregon, and Jesse Bray are members of Team USPA. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.
About the United States Polo Association®
The U.S. Polo Association was organized and exists for the purposes of promoting the game of polo, coordinating the activities of its Member Clubs and Registered Players, arranging and supervising polo tournaments, competitions and games, and providing rules, handicaps, and conditions for those tournaments, competitions, and games including the safety and welfare of participants and mounts.
Founded in 1890, the United States Polo Association (USPA) is the national governing body for the sport of polo. USPA is currently comprised of almost 300 member clubs with thousands of individual members, and oversees 40 national tournaments. For more information, please visit uspolo.org.
About the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club
The Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club is the premier destination for polo on the West Coast. Located on the beautiful American Riviera, the Club offers three high goal fields, a Polo School, boarding facilities, polo lessons and country club amenities, including eight tennis courts and a fitness facility, all alongside the Pacific Ocean. The 2017 season opened May 5th and runs through the first week of October. For more information about the Club and to purchase tickets please visit www.sbpolo.com.