On Sunday, May 29, the Lisle Nixon Memorial came to a riveting conclusion at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (SBPRC) in Carpinteria, California. Thousands of people flocked to the club to witness the action and enjoy an overwhelming display of sportsmanship, athleticism and horsemanship. The featured final pitted the star-studded Los Padres (Prince Harry, Juan Guerrero, Kristos “Keko” Magrini*, Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras) against Mokarow Farms (Brendon Stenzel, Robert Stenzel, Facundo Obregon, Kevin Mokarow).
Los Padres took off with royal force and assertion in the first half, owning the scoreboard for three chukkers straight and holding Mokarow Farms to just four goals. 16-year-old Magrini stood at the forefront of the offense, contributing seven of the team’s nine first-half goals. Humble in the wake of his stellar performance, Magrini credited his teammates for most of his success, remarking, “My teammates were working for me to score the goals.”
Kristos “Keko” Magrini contributed seven goals in the first half for Los Padres.
Sunday’s match was the second time Los Padres met Mokarow Farms, yet their first meeting had produced a much different result. Figueras shared what he and his team learned from their game against Mokarow Farms earlier in the tournament and the necessary strategy changes they had to make in order to generate quick and effective success. “We spoke a lot about concentration on our marks. We were a little loose in the previous game and being very concentrated on our men was what we talked about most.” Guerrero also discussed position changes the team made, adding, “[We decided] I [should] stay behind playing in the back and Nacho [should play] more forward.”
Despite Los Padres’ immediate dominance, Mokarow Farms kept in the mix, with a penalty conversion from Obregon and three goals total from dynamic brother duo Robert and Brendon Stenzel. But Los Padres’ impressive ability to find the goal both from the field and on the penalty line gave them a commanding five-goal lead heading into the second half 9-4.
Returning with newfound energy and a reworked strategy from the mind of Coach Todd Offen, Mokarow Farms rode back onto the field ready to mount an extreme comeback. Outscoring Los Padres for the first time, Robert Stenzel found the goal twice from the field and was able to draw a Penalty 1 to begin closing the gap, 11-8. Obregon and Prince Harry both made it onto the scoreboard in the fifth chukker to keep the three-goal gap intact 12-9 moving into the final chukker of regulation play.
Mokarow Farms’ Rob Stenzel works the ball away from Los Padres’ Kristos “Keko” Magrini.
In the sixth chukker, every player and horse came out with fire in their eyes. Notably, Obregon emerged riding a chestnut gelding, Machitos Crawford, that changed the entire game. Obregon outplayed the field, scored three goals and drew a Penalty 1 while aboard the Mokarow owned Best Playing Pony. He traded these goals with Magrini, but a final backshot goal from Brendon Stenzel in the last minute of play sent the game into overtime, tied in a 14-all stalemate.
“We were up by three goals going into the last chukker, so going into overtime was a tight but exciting moment for us,” Figueras shared of the minutes leading up to overtime. Guerrero added, “I think what caused us to tie in the last chukker was that we lost most of the throw-ins and we made a lot of fouls. [So] it was key to enter [overtime] very concentrated, [especially] because we had the bad side of the throw-in.”
The overtime was intense, yet quick and decisive. Off a broken play on the boards, Figueras visualized the prestigious trophy in his team’s future and propelled his horse into another gear to steal the ball from Obregon on the nearside and run the length of the field, finishing the golden goal with a perfectly-placed neckshot. The final goal crowned Los Padres as the Lisle Nixon Memorial victors, 15-14.
Most Valuable Player Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras.
Celebrating the triumph, Guerrero reflected on what inspired his team to dig deep for this win, sharing, “I think what motivated me and my teammates the most was losing the previous final, which was very similar. We didn’t want to have that feeling [again].”
Also elated with the outcome, Figueras made a special point to express his love for and pride in his team, saying, “I love playing with my longtime friend Harry. He has been playing really well in spite of how little experience he ha[s] in really competitive polo. Juan and Keko are two very young players, which gives you an amazing edge of youth and passion. [Sometimes] you have to deal with their inexperience for being so young, but their talent is so big that it has been so much fun riding this rollercoaster with them. I love my team.”
Prince Harry and Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras embrace following their Lisle Nixon Memorial overtime victory.
For his consistent and passionate display of polo, Figueras was presented the Most Valuable Player award. 14-year-old Machitos Crawford (Cindy x Monaguillo), played by Obregon in the sixth chukker and owned by Mokarow, received Best Playing Pony honors. Casita Robada, played by Prince Harry, was awarded Best Playing Pony Amateur.
Best Playing Pony Machitos Crawford. Played by Facundo Obregon and owned by Mokarow Farms, pictured with Kevin Mokarow, David Itaguirre, Jean Carlos Olivera.
“Los Padres is a new and exciting project. We are testing the waters, but we basically wanted to have a real team playing in tournaments in a very competitive environment and using that team as a platform to raise money for charity,” explained Figueras. “We are very happy with the results so far and hopefully more excited things [will] come in the future.”
Best Playing Pony Amateur Casita Robada. Played by Prince Harry, presented by Patrick Nesbitt and pictured with Facundo Nievas, Alejandra Nievas and Daniel Nievas.
*Kristos “Keko” Magrini is an Active Member 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 courtesy of ©David Lominska.