SANTA BARBARA, CA. (August 8th, 2021) – One of the oldest United States Polo Association tournaments, the one-hundred-and-twenty-first edition of the Farmers & Merchants Bank Silver Cup returned to the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. After three weeks of play, the gripping final on Sunday, August 8, came down to undefeated Klentner Ranch (Jake Klentner, Santiago Toccalino, Jesse Bray, Justin Klentner) and Farmers & Merchants Bank (Daniel Walker, Lucas Criado Jr., Lucas Criado Sr., Matthew Walker).
Klentner Ranch asserted themselves early, highlighted by the play of Bray. “We attack, we hit the ball hard and we run. We play simple polo and make sure all four players are involved,” said Bray, as he led the charge with two goals in the first chukker. Farmers & Merchants Bank were awarded a Penalty 1 in the opening stages of the second chukker, involving two of the seven total yellow cards issued during the match. The exceptional play of Criado Jr., scoring two field goals in the chukker, helped tie Farmers & Merchants Bank 3-all, but Justin Klentner scored before the horn sounded to restore a one-goal advantage for Klentner Ranch. High speed, running and open style play highlighted the third chukker, the teams alternating three goals each with back-and-forth action. “The more we ran, the better we knew we would play, ” stated Bray. Jacob Klentner and Matthew Walker added a final tally each to leave the score 7-6 in favor of Klentner Ranch entering halftime.
The frenetic pace carried into the second half with nine combined shots between the two teams in the fourth chukker, but it was Klentner Ranch’s accuracy, finishing fifty-three percent from the field, that allowed them to extend their lead. “We took advantage of the opportunities we had. I thought we shot to goal pretty well and our goal percentage was high,” stated Bray.
Teammate Toccalino pushed Klentner Ranch’s lead to three after hammering two field goals to end the chukker. Desperate to pull within reach, Farmers & Merchants Bank team owner Daniel Walker scored on the opening play of the fifth chukker, but Klentner Ranch responded with Bray’s third goal riding Cell Tower.
A tense final chukker resulted in Farmers & Merchants Bank pulling within one goal after consecutive Penalty 2 conversions from Criado Jr., but Klentner Ranch maintained a narrow lead. Emotions ran high as three yellow cards were issued in the last three minutes, but a final Penalty 4 conversion from Toccalino sealed the victory, as Klentner Ranch celebrated the 14-12 triumph. “I’m really happy they brought me to the team,” said Santiago Toccalino on joining the Klentner Ranch organization this year. “This organization is a great organization, it’s a family organization. I’ve been received really well and I’m really happy to be here.”
Most Valuable Player was awarded to Jesse Bray for his six-goal performance. Bray attributes much of his elevated play to 8-goal teammate Santiago Toccalino. “The way he can take control of the game is incredible. I’m learning a lot playing with him this summer…I think he has a really incredible mind for the game and the way he plays is similar to the way I think I can play. He definitely makes me play better.”
Bray’s eight-year-old thoroughbred mare Cell Tower, played in the first and fifth chukkers was named Best Playing Pony. “I bought her as a four-year-old from Matthew Gonzalez. Last year was her first season of high goal. I feel very comfortable on her and know I can win any play I go to. She’s strong, has a really nice mouth and a lot of speed, those are her best attributes. She is a very complete mare”. – Cristina Fernandez; United States Polo Association
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