An electrifying day of finals highlighted the play on Sunday, August 9, at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Carpinteria, California), beginning with Santa Clara, led by three Escobars in Lucas, Luis and Federico (substitute for Francisco Escobar), capturing the 16-goal America Cup over Klentner Ranch. A relentless offense from Santa Clara shot at goal 23 times while also attempting seven penalties, leading to a second half upset and 10-7 victory to claim the tournament title.
Lucas Escobar goes for the hook on Klentner Ranch’s Jesse Bray.
A lightning quick start to the first half resulted in Santa Clara (Federico Escobar, Lucas Escobar*, Luis Escobar, Santiago Toccalino) and Klentner Ranch (Justin Klentner, Jesse Bray*, Geronimo Obregon*, Marcos Alberdi) providing end-to-end action on 17 combined shots through two chukkers. The whistle was rarely blown from the umpires in the opening stages leaving the two teams to battle for the lead. Toccalino and Bray scored for their respective teams in the first chukker but missed shots from the field in the second allowed Klentner Ranch to take the narrow one-goal lead with a Penalty 2 conversion from Obregon. “We have very good chemistry between all the members of our team so it’s very easy to play together,” Toccalino commented about Santa Clara. A stop and start third chukker saw the game move to the penalty line as Toccalino converted two of his four penalty attempts to end the half, while Klentner Ranch responded with field goals from Bray to leave the score tied 4-all leading up to a thrilling second half.
Missed opportunities in front of goal continued to prevent Santa Clara from taking the lead, opening the door for Klentner Ranch’s Obregon to convert his second penalty of the game to restore his team’s one-goal lead. Entering the fifth chukker, Santa Clara found their footing behind the father-son duo of Luis and Lucas Escobar, with the former assisting on Lucas Escobar’s two field goals which proved to be instrumental in Santa Clara taking the 7-6 lead. After standing strong defensively throughout the game and limiting Santa Clara to just four field goals, Klentner Ranch was unable to contain Santa Clara in the final chukker. Scoring the first three goals of the sixth, Santa Clara used their late momentum to complete a run of four unanswered goals, securing a 10-7 victory and the America Cup trophy.
Santa Clara’s Santi Toccalino reaches to make a hook on Geronimo Obregon.
“It’s an amazing day for the Escobar family!” Luis Escobar exclaimed. “Being able to win for Santa Clara with my son Lucas [Escobar] and my brother Federico [Escobar] and then have my son Nico [Escobar] win the Silver Cup® on the same day is truly amazing. All our hard work paid off in one day!”
Stepping in to substitute for his father Francisco, Federico travelled from Costa Rica to join in his family’s pursuit of the America Cup trophy. “All the credit goes to my brother Luis and my dad who managed to put together a great organization with few resources because of their love for horses and the game of polo,” Federico Escobar said. “Watching my nephew Lucas play made me very proud and Santi [Toccalino] is a great team captain.”
Lucas and Federico Escobar share a celebratory hug.
Scoring two goals during the crucial run in the fifth chuker, Lucas Escobar was awarded Most Valuable Player. “I had a blast winning this prestigious tournament with my uncle, dad and great player Santi Toccalino,” Lucas Escobar said. “It feels even better that it’s the second year in a row that I’ve won it. I feel like the team couldn’t have performed any better in the final and I couldn’t have won MVP without my teammates playing so well.”
Best Playing Pony was presented to Scar (First Down Dash (Quarter horse) x Raise Your Glass (Thoroughbred)), a 9-year-old American racing appendix played by Luis Escobar in the sixth chukker. “We bought her unbroken as a 2-year-old and she was made in our program. Although she was not an easy mare to make she finally started coming around last winter and is becoming very consistent,” Luis Escobar said. “In regards to the game I think her best qualities are her quickness in the turns and overall speed. This allows me to create space on my breakaways and I have confidence in my ability to make up ground defensively if needed.”
Luis Escobar also expressed gratitude to the members of his organization behind the scenes for all they do to contribute to the team’s success. “I can’t thank our staff enough: Roseanna Elordi, Luis (Tatu) Iribarren, Francisco Medrano, Rakel Kotlyar and Nico’s staff Carlos and Dario Zamora. We couldn’t do anything without them. Also of course my dad Francisco [Escobar] who mentors and guides me in everything I do.”
*Lucas Escobar is a member of Team USPA. Jesse Bray and Geronimo Obregon are graduating 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.
All photos ©David Lominska.