It's Zacara!
ROLDAN LEADS TEAM TO PCO VICTORY.
By Gwen Rizzo

Eight-goaler Nick Roldan led Zacara over Piocho Ranch 14-10 to take the 20-goal Pacific Coast Open. The tournament was played in August at the Santa Barbara Polo Club in Carpinteria, California, and was sponsored by Bombardier. The final also served as the second leg of the Triple Crown of Polo and was filmed by ESPN2.

 

Four teams competed in the event, played as one division with teams playing off against each of the other teams. The teams with the two best records advanced to the final. Zacara was the favorite going into the final after finishing the preliminary rounds undefeated. While Zacara had secured the top spot, the second spot could have gone to any of the other teams. It wasn’t decided until the last round of games. Going into the last round Zacara was 2-0 with plus-10 net goals, while its opponent, Audi Polo, was 1-1 with 0 net goals. Even a loss, unless in the unlikely event it was by more than 10 goals, would still allow Zacara a spot in the final. A win by Audi would most likely give the team the other spot in the final. With an almostguaranteed spot in the final Zacara could have cantered around, given a lackluster effort and tried to save its energy and that of the horses for the final. Instead, the team took the high road and played to win. And win they did, overwhelming Audi 13-9.

The teams were tied at four goals after two periods before Zacara kicked into high gear. Patron Lyndon Lea scored from the field early in the chukker and was followed by a pair of goals from Ruki Baillieu while Roldan and Back 5-goal Brandon Phillips closed the door on Audi. At the half Zacara was leading 7-4. The second half continued similarly with Zacara hammering in six field goals while Audi was held to five goals from 9-goal Gonzalo Pieres, all but one from the penalty line. The loss eliminated Audi from the tournament and offered the second spot to the winner of the last game between Piocho Ranch and Grant’s Farm Manor/ERG. Pieres put forth an outstanding effort, as he did throughout the tournament, despite the loss.

Just a few days before, in a second-round match between Zacara and Piocho Ranch, Piocho’s captain, 8-goal Memo Gracida, fell with his horse. Teammate 6-goal Kris Kampsen was traveling behind Gracida at a high rate of speed. Kampsen was unable to stop, and he and his horse went down over the top of Gracida and his mount. Though the horses were OK, neither player was able to continue. Five-goal J.J. Celis filled in for Kampsen, while Gonzalito Pieres substituted for Gracida. Though Pieres played for the Audi team, this type of substitution is allowed in certain instances, particularly when a high-goal player is injured because a similarly rated player who is not already on another team is not always available. Piocho was trailing 6-2 when the accident happened. Zacara went on to win convincingly, 14-7. Though Kampsen was feeling well enough to play the next game, Gracida was not. His 9-goal brother, Carlos, stepped up to take his place. This put the team above the 20-goal limit. Piocho Ranch patron Tom Barrack, rated 1-goal, handed the reins to his son, Arated Tom Barrack Jr., to bring the team back to 20 goals. Julio Gracida, who had been playing at No. 1, switched to Back, while Barrack Jr. took the No. 1 spot.

With both Piocho Ranch and Grant’s Farm Manor/ERG in a do-or-die situation for the last preliminary round, the pressure was on. Kampsen put Piocho on the board in the first with a pair of penalty conversions, while Grant’s Farm Manor/ERG came up empty. Nine-goal Paco de Narvaez put Grant’s Farm on the board in the second with a pair of goals, while Piocho was held to one goal by Carlos Gracida. Gracida added three field goals and Kampsen a Penalty 4 conversion in each of the next two periods to jump ahead 12-5. Grant’s Farm, however, didn’t give up. The team slammed in seven goals in the last two periods while holding Piocho to just two goals, but it wasn’t enough and Piocho took the 14-12 win to advance.

Every year, the high-goal season is capped off with the Pacific Coast Open ball on the last weekend. The ball is traditionally on Friday night so those playing in the final can attend and not miss any sleep the night before Sunday’s match. This year the ball was held at the beautiful Montecito Country Club in nearby Montecito. Upon arriving, guests were treated to champagne as they mingled on the scenic lawn overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They also had a chance to check out the latest Lexus car models. Lexus is a sponsor of the Triple Crown of Polo. Later, guests moved inside to enjoy a delicious dinner and some entertainment from a group called The Three Waiters. They surprised everyone by going up to the podium to make an announcement and broke into song to begin the show. They interacted with the audience throughout the show, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Inside, the impressive Pacific Coast Open trophy was showcased, and guests enjoyed marveling at all the names engraved on it, dating back to the early 1900s. The Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame also had a presence with its traveling exhibit on display.

The next day, Audi Polo and Grant’s Farm Manor/ERG met to play off in the consolation round, billed as the Western Badge and Trophy championship. Audi Polo, which began with a one-goal handicap, got the scoring going almost immediately. Teammates Pieres, 7-goal Juan Bollini and 3-goal Sunny Hale each scored while Grant’s Farm was held to a lone goal from 6- goal Jeff Blake. Pieres scored again in the second, but 4-goal Andy Busch answered, as did Blake. Pieres added a hat trick in the third while Busch scored the only goal for Grant’s Farm. The half ended with Audi leading 8-4. Blake scored the only goal of the fourth, but Audi came back with three unanswered goals in the fifth to increase the lead. Paco de Narvaez scored his first two goals in the sixth, the only goals scored, but it wasn’t enough for Grant’s Farm Manor/ERG and Audi took the 11-7 victory. On Sunday it was time for the muchanticipated final between Piocho Ranch and Zacara. Memo Gracida was still not up to playing. He was replaced by 8-goal Julio Arellano, which allowed Tom Barrack to get back in the saddle, alongside Kampsen and 5-goal Julio Gracida. With Barrack back, Julio Gracida resumed at the No. 1 spot. Meanwhile, Zacara lined up with the same team, consisting of Jack “Ruki” Baillieu, Lyndon Lea, Nick Roldan and Brandon Phillips. Both teams were rated at 20 goals, so the game began evenly. Piocho Ranch knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but its players were confident in their chances and were up for the challenge.

Before the match got underway, the club had a brief tribute to player Miguel Torres Sr., who recently succumbed to brain cancer. Torres was a staple in Santa Barbara for many years. His sons, 18-year-old Miguelito and 14-year-old Santi, both of whom have been playing with the White Birch team in New York and Connecticut this summer, were there, as was his wife, Kellie. Santi led the traditional parade of teams around the field, riding a horse and leading his father’s horse with his boots turned backward in the irons. Torres’ fatherin- law sang in tribute to Miguel.

After the ceremony was finished, the ball was tossed in to start the action. Barrack Sr. got Piocho Ranch on the board first with a field goal. Roldan evened things out with a Penalty 4 conversion, then went ahead after Piocho knocked the ball over its own backline and Roldan converted the ensuing penalty shot. Roldan tapped in a Penalty 2 early in the second, followed by a field goal from Phillips. Barrack Sr. and Kampsen responded, but Roldan and Baillieu had the last words to take a 7-3 lead. Barrack Sr. and Baillieu traded goals in the third and fourth, and Kampsen and Phillips swapped goals in the fourth. Zacara still hung onto a four-goal lead going into the fifth chukker. Goals by Arellano and Kampsen cut Piocho’s deficit to two. But Zacara kept up the pressure, scoring three more. Arellano added a pair of goals to end the chukker, but despite his efforts Zacara was leading by three going into the final period. Piocho Ranch was close enough to still be in the game. But Zacara wouldn’t let up on the pressure. Zacara played great defense, stopping the drives of its opponents time and again. Piocho shot on goal no less than five times, but each time the ball went wide. Phillips managed to find the uprights one last time to seal the 14-10 victory for Zacara.

Trophies were awarded to both winners and runners-up. Roldan was honored as the final’s most valuable player-pro, while Lea was named most valuable player-amateur. Lea’s Salsa was honored as best playing pony-amateur; and Petaka, owned by Memo Gracida and played by Julio Arellano, took best playing pony-pro honors. Gonzalito Pieres, who played for the Audi team, was awarded the Skene Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

The Pacific Coast Open is the last of a trio of 20-goal tournaments that make up Santa Barbara’s high-goal season. More often than not, teams play in all three events. Winning all three is a monumental task and hasn’t been done for many years. This year, only two of the four teams played in all three tournaments. Audi and Grant’s Farm Manor/ERG competed in both July and August. Long Beach/Klentner Ranch and Gehache played the month of July to compete in the Robert Skene Memorial and the America Cup, while Zacara and Piocho Ranch played in the America Cup and the Pacific Coast Open. In the first tournament, Grant’s Farm Manor/ERG edged Gehache 11-10 to take the Robert Skene Memorial. In the second, the America Cup, with all six teams in the lineup divided into two divisions, Piocho Ranch overcame Grant’s Farm Manor/ERG 14-12.

 

Audi
Melissa Ganzi
Juan Bollini
Gonzalo Pieres Jr.
Sunny Hale

Grant’s Farm Manor/ERG
Scott Wood
Jeff Blake
Paco de Narvaez
Andy Busch

Zacara
Lyndon Lea
Ruki Baillieu
Nick Roldan
Brandon Phillips

Piocho Ranch
Tom Barrack
Julio Gracida
Memo Gracida
Kris Kampsen

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