On Sunday, July 17, the sun shone down perfectly onto the U.S. Polo Assn. Grandstand Field to welcome a record crowd of spectators, beautifully turned-out horses and polo players. The two lucky teams to open the second game of Farmers & Merchants Bank Silver Cup bracket play were BenSoleimani.com (Ben Soleimani, Luckitas Criado Jr., Jeff Hall, Iñaki Laprida) and Klentner Ranch (Justin Klentner, Jake Klentner*, Jesse Bray*, Santiago Toccalino). Both teams came out hungry for victory in what was simultaneously the first final of the high-goal season, which kept the game close all six chukkers.
Klentner Ranch, rated 18 goals, began with a goal on handicap, up against 19-goal BenSoleimani.com. Trading a solitary goal each, the first chukker ended in favor of Klentner Ranch holding onto their one-goal handicap, 2-1.
The second chukker kicked the game into high gear, with both teams putting three goals on the board. Toccalino headed the scoring for Klentner Ranch, with two penalty conversions and a field goal. For BenSoleimani.com, Criado Jr. nailed a defended Penalty 3 through the posts to score. Laprida continued the goal exchanges, scoring two from the field to maintain the gap 5-4.
Klentner Ranch’s Santiago Toccalino on a breakaway.
Klentner Ranch decided to pull ahead in the third outscoring their opponents. Bray headed the effort with back-to-back field goals then a final one to end the first half. BenSoleimani.com stayed in the game with Criado Jr. and Hall contributing to the score, but the half ended 8-6 in favor of Klentner Ranch.
The tides changed in the second half of the game. BenSoleimani.com managed the balance between defense and offense with stellar control shutting out Klentner Ranch. Hall caught on fire in the fourth with a field goal from the 60-yard line, then another right out of the line-up. Criado Jr. scored for BenSoleimani.com as well, to place BenSoleimani.com in the lead 9-8 for the first time of the match.
Klentner Ranch’s Justin Klentner and BenSoleimani.com’s Jeff Hall lean into the physicality of the match.
BenSoleimani.com continued their powerful play in the fifth chukker, adding four more goals. Klentner Ranch put their best foot forward to stay in the game, with Bray converting a soaring Penalty 5 from midfield. However, BenSoleimani.com held onto a substantial lead 13-9 heading into the final period.
In the final chukker, Klentner began to climb their way back with two goals, but it was not quite enough and BenSoleimani.com ended the game with a final score 13-11. Most Valuable Player was award to Hall for his passionate play and accuracy in front of goal. Open Kilovatio, a 14-year-old Argentine dark bay gelding owned by Soleimani and played by Laprida received Best Playing Pony honors. Open Kilovatio also garnered the Best Playing Pony award in the 2021 USPA America Cup Final under Laprida.
Paquito de Narvaez drives to the goal in L.E.N.Y.’s first victory over Farmers & Merchants Bank.
Earlier in the day, L.E.N.Y. (Santino Magrini*, Paquito de Narvaez, Kristos “Keko” Magrini*, Matias Magrini) defeated Farmers & Merchants Bank (Danny Walker, Lucas Criado, Peke Gonzalez*, Facundo Obregon) 14-8. The USPA Farmers & Merchants Silver Cup will continue Friday, July 22, and end with the final on Sunday, August 7.
*Kristos “Keko” Magrini is an Active Team USPA Member. Jake Klentner, Jesse Bray, Santino Magrini and Peke Gonzalez are Team USPA alumni. 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.