While most were focused on Olympic gold in late July and early August, Klentner Ranch was focused on Silver. The team went 4-0 to get to the final of the USPA Silver Cup at Santa Barbara Polo Club in Carpinteria, California, Aug. 8, where it earned the top spot on the podium. The historic tournament began in 1900 and was first called the Junior Championship. It was renamed the Twenty Goal in 1938, before being named the Silver Cup in 1974. Traditionally, it has been played at the 20-goal level but last year was dropped to the 16-goal level. It was played at the same level again this year and again was sponsored by Farmers & Merchants Bank.
The tournament began on July 25 with six teams divided into two brackets. Klentner Ranch (Jake Klentner, Santi Toccalino, Jesse Bray, Justin Klentner) got off to a good start, beating Santa Clara (Luis Escobar, Nico Escobar, Lucas Escobar, Federico Escobar), 11-8, in its opening game. The first round finished out with Lucchese (John Muse, Facundo Obregon, Jeff Hall, Kristos Magrini) edging Bensoleimani.com (Ben Soleimani, Tomas Alberdi, Iñaki Laprida, Santiago Wulff), 15-13, and Farmers & Merchants Bank (Danny Walker, Lucas Criado, Lucitas Criado, Matthew Walker), slipping Antelope (Grant Palmer, Santiago Trotz, Tomas Garcia del Rio, Segundo Saravi), 8-7.
The second round had Farmers & Merchants Bank slip Bensoleimani.com, 8-7; Antelope beat Santa Clara, 14-12; and Klentner Ranch crush Lucchese, 19-11.
With 2-0 records, Klentner Ranch and Farmers & Merchants Bank had already earned spots in the semifinals. Nonetheless, Klentner Ranch continued its dominance in the third round, downing Farmers & Merchants Bank, 16-11. Lucchese defeated Antelope, 12-9; and Santa Clara earned its first victory, edging Bensoleimani.com, 11-10. Antelope and Santa Clara tied on record, both finishing 1-2, however Antelope’s second round defeat of Santa Clara put it in the semis along with Lucchese that finished with a 2-1 record.
The first semi-final saw Farmers & Merchants Bank rally to best Lucchese, 15-14, after trailing by six going into the second half. The other semi-final saw Klentner Ranch oust Antelope, 13-10.
Bensoleimani.com and Santa Clara—the teams that didn’t qualify for the semi-finals—played the USPA America Cup final, held prior to the Silver Cup final.
In the America Cup final, defending champion Santa Clara was made up of two sets of brothers: Nico and Lucas Escobar and their father Luis and his brother Federico. Hoping to celebrate again this year, the team faced a determined Bensoleimani.com, looking for its first victory.
Bensoleimani.com adjusted its line-up, moving Iñaki Laprida forward, hoping to increase its chances.
Santa Clara started with a one-goal handicap and Lucas Escobar added to it in the first chukker with a Penalty 2 conversion. Luis Escobar traded goals with Iñaki Laprida later in the chukker to end, 3-1. Bensoleimani.com’s new strategy began to pay off in the second and third periods. Laprida, leading from the front, scored twice in the second and Alberdi contributed three in the third, helping the team gain a 7-4 advantage at the half.
Nico Escobar got Santa Clara rolling again with a pair of field goals in the fourth to bring the team within one, but he was matched by Laprida who got back the three-goal lead. Bensoleimani.com kept up the pressure with Alberdi adding two more and Soleimani adding one to enter the final seven minutes holding a five-goal advantage. The team held on for the 14-11 win. It was the third time Ben Soleimani has added his name to the trophy. His Restoration Hardware team won it in 2013 and 2018.
Alberdi, who contributed five goals, was MVP and Open Kilovatio, a 13-year-old Argentine gelding owned by Ben Soleimani and played by Laprida, was Best Playing Pony.
The Silver Cup final was set with Klentner Ranch facing Farmers & Merchants Bank. The match-up had three father-son duos on the field. Justin Klentner and his son Jake faced Danny Walker and his son Matthew and Lucas Criado and his son Lucitas. It would prove to be a real battle between worthy adversaries that had experienced some tensions in an earlier match; however the umpires kept things in check and handed out a bevy of yellow cards–eight in fact—throughout the game.
Once the ball was thrown in to start play, Klentner Ranch wasted no time with Bray, riding 8-year-old Cell Tower, a pretty bay mare, putting in the first goal in just 13 seconds. He tapped in another goal at the chukker’s halfway mark while under pressure from Matthew Walker. With just a minute left, Klentner brought the ball to the goal mouth, but Matthew Walker backed it in the nick of time. Twenty seconds later, Klentner Ranch was awarded a Penalty 3 but Toccalino couldn’t connect, allowing Farmers & Merchants to breathe a sigh of relief.
Early in the second, Lucitas Criado carried the ball to the goal but a bad bump by Justin Klentner nearly sent him into the goal post. He responded with a windmill of his mallet in protest, earning him a yellow card. The team was awarded a Penalty 1 and Justin Klentner was given a yellow card for dangerous riding. FMB was given a free hit from mid-field and sent the ball to goal but it went off a horse and rolled just wide. Danny Walker was whistled for an uneven ride-off a little over three minutes into the chukker. He was given a yellow card and Klentner benefited from a Penalty 2. Thirty seconds later, Danny Walker passed the ball to Lucitas, who sent the ball through the posts. Lucitas followed with another goal, hitting the ball on the bounce and sending it 100 yards. Late in the chukker, an umpire’s whistle stopped play but no foul was declared and the ball was throw-in. Bray took the ball and sent it to Toccalino who found the goal with just three seconds left in the chukker. That tipped the scales, giving Klentner a 4-3 lead.
Lucitas knotted the scored early in the third on a neck shot from about 45 yards after a pass from Danny Walker. Bray took back the lead a minute later but Lucitas fired from 125 yards to tie the score once again. Later in the chukker, time was called after Toccalino took a hit in the face. A neck shot by Lucitas bounced off his knee guard and hit the frame of his goggles. The lens cut his nose and sent blood dripping down his face. Tough as nails, Toccalino was back on his horses a few minutes later, sending the ball to Bray. Jake Klentner held out the opponent, allowing Bray a clear path to the goal. With a minute left in the chukker, Justin Klentner was called for a bad bump on Lucas Criado, rocking him. It earned him his second yellow for dangerous riding and sent him off the field for two minutes. FMB was awarded a Penalty 2 and Matthew Walker easily converted it, leveling the score at 6-all. But it was short-lived as Jake Klentner found the goal with just four seconds left in the half, giving Klentner Ranch the 7-6 advantage.
It was clearly still anyone’s game. Bray increased the lead to two early in the fourth, but Lucas Criado responded, carrying the ball along the backline with his teammates taking out the opponents and slipping it between the posts. Toccalino won the ensuing throw-in and took the bouncing ball straight to goal. Bray got the ball back to the other side of the field, leaving the ball just in front of the goal line before it was cleared but Toccalino recovered it and sent it through the posts for the 10-7 lead, the biggest difference thus far.
The last two chukkers were bogged down with fouls, with seven of nine goals, including five Penalty 2s, scored from the penalty line.
Danny Walker jumped on the loose ball and sent it through the goal after Bray lost control of it, but Bray answered back, taking the ball through traffic to hit the mark. FMB got closer after being awarded another Penalty 2. Two minutes later, Klentner was awarded a Penalty 3 after Toccalino fouled Lucas Criado, who responded by reaching over Toccalino’s horse. Toccalino converted the penalty, regaining the three-goal advantage, 12-9, going into the final seven minutes.
FMB had its work cut out for it, but it was up for the challenge. Lucitas converted a pair of Penalty 2s and before you knew it, only a single goal separated the teams. Toccalino slipped a Penalty 2 of his own between the posts but Danny Walker negated it with his own Penalty 2 to keep the difference one, 13-12, with 2:30 left. Bray was also given a yellow card on the play. FMB was running out of time and with under a minute left, Lucitas got impatient and was whistled for an uneven ride off. He was given his second yellow card and Justin Klentner was given his third, this time for unsportsmanlike conduct. Both were sent off the field for the remainder of the game. Toccalino sunk the Penalty 4 awarded on the play, ensuring Klentner Ranch the victory. The teams played three on three for the remaining 36 seconds. Required to serve two minutes in the penalty box, Justin Klentner and Lucitas Criado will have to sit out the remaining 1:24 of their first Pacific Coast Open games.
Jesse Bray was named MVP and his mare Cell Tower wore the Best Playing Pony blanket home.
It was the second time Farmers & Merchants Bank and Klentner Ranch faced each other in a final this season. The teams met each other in the final of the Robert Skene Memorial. Again, Klentner Ranch was undefeated, while Farmers & Merchants Bank advanced after winning a shoot-out between tied teams.
Farmers & Merchants led in the first chukker after Lucitas Criado traded penalty conversions with Santi Toccalino, and Danny Walker scored two in a row. Toccalino turned up the pressure, single-handedly scoring nine goals in the next two chukkers. His efforts gave Klentner the 10-6 lead at the half.
Lucitas Criado scored back-to-back goals in the fourth, kick-starting a comeback. The team managed to outscore Klentner, 7-5, in the second half but was unable to overcome the first half deficit, ultimately falling, 15-13.
Santiago Toccalino, who scored a dozen goals in the afternoon, was named MVP, while Lucitas Criado’s Rococo was named Best Playing Pony. Action continues with the Pacific Coast Open, played from Aug. 15-29.