Claiming four trophies in total, Klentner Ranch rounded out a perfect season at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. Starting what would be an incredible streak by winning the 2021 Pacific Coast Circuit Intra-Circuit Cup, the club’s first USPA 12-goal tournament, Klentner Ranch continued their spectacular undefeated run in the 16-goal series with the Robert Skene Memorial, the Silver Cup® and the Pacific Coast Open.
As a direct result, the outdoor handicap changes that were announced last week by the USPA saw Jesse Bray*, who played a key role for Klentner Ranch, raised to 7 goals, effective in June, 2022. Bray spoke to CLICKPOLO from his farm in Indio, California, after the announcement.
Jesse, how do you feel about reaching 7 goals?
“Reaching 7 goals has been one of my personal goals for a long time. My dad reached 7-goals, so I knew I had to at least get there! I don’t think this changes my long-term goals and organization much, other than I need to keep investing in my horses and working hard.”
What does your new handicap mean for your organization?
“The organization has played a huge role in getting me to where I am now. My dad and I have a small breeding operation and he has a few horses ready to join the string in the next few years, but I am always looking to improve my string. Cell Tower had a really good season. I bought her when she was younger and my dad spent a season working with her and playing her and she really stepped up this year. Also my little grey mare, Disney, proves to be a great chukker every time I get on her. She never gives up. She was previously named Best Playing Pony in the 2017 Pacific Coast Open Final so this is her second time winning Best Playing Pony in the Pacific Coast Open.”
Did you expect to have such a great season with Klentner Ranch?
“I don’t think anyone expects to go into a season and be undefeated. Of course, that is everyone’s goal, but Santi Toccalino really impressed us with the idea of playing one game at a time. We went into every game with that mentality and it turned out to be a fairytale season. I started playing with Justin [Klentner], Jake [Klentner] and Luke [Klentner] in the 8-goal and 12-goal and to now have three Pacific Coast Open titles (2021, 2020, 2018) with Klentner Ranch is a great feeling. We work hard and we work for each other.”
Jesse Bray playing Disney in the 2021 Farmers & Merchants Bank Silver Cup® Final.
How will your year continue?
“This winter I am planning on going to Wellington, Florida, to play in the 16-goal league. I played in Wellington a few seasons before going back to Indio, California, and I am looking forward to going back. I know it is something people repeat over and over, but playing better polo and improving my string is the best way for me to continue to improve as a player.”
Do you plan to play in Argentina?
“As soon as my visa is approved, I am going to Argentina to play the season there. I am working on building a string in Argentina so that I can keep playing there during the main season. I had a really good experience playing there last year and am looking forward to another good season.”
What can you say about polo in California today?
“California is my home. I grew up playing in San Diego and Indio and now in Santa Barbara. I will miss being at Eldorado Polo Club this winter, but I know they have a great season lined up. On the weekends, Eldorado Polo Club will have six or seven games going on at the same time. It’s a great place for people of all levels to play.
I think that Santa Barbara is the best place to be in the summer. It’s very competitive. You know that every time you walk onto the field, it’s going to be a tough match-up. There is a great group of people who come back year after year to the club. We have some new teams that have joined us at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club and I hope people continue to come and enjoy the club.”
Jesse Bray prepares to make a powerful shot downfield.
*Jesse Bray is a Graduating Team USPA Member. 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 courtesy of ©David Lominska.