Lender Support ekes out win in USPA national arena championship.

A few hundred people crowded around the spectator friendly arena of the California Polo Club in suburban Los Angeles on November 7 as Domingo QuestelÕs California Polo team, sponsored by Oldman/Cooley, Urban Dog and Arena Players, took on Billy Sheldon and his Team Lender Support Systems, Inc. in the 2009 USPA Arena Polo Championship game.

Lender Support Systems, Inc
Billy Sheldon
Carlos Galindo
Cary Burch
California Polo
Domingo Questel
Manuel Questel
Ardisher Radpour

“It’s going to be another Billy versus Domingo,” said 7-goaler Billy Sheldon as he was preparing for the game. “I’m not meaning to take anything away from the other players,” he added, “but Domingo and I have battled one another for years.” Rated at 6-goals, the Dominican-born Domingo Questel has been a mainstay of the California Polo Club in Lakeview Terrace, California, and has remained one of the West’s top arena players. Billy Sheldon is a product of Cowboy Polo competition in Poway, California, and developed into one of arena polo’s elite.

Carlos [teammate Carlos Galindo] makes us a very strong entry, and Cary Burch rounds out the team,” Sheldon offered. “The footing here is great, and the walls are solid. It should be a very fast contest.” Sheldon and Burch played together and won the event the last time it was played at the California Polo Club in November 2007. In that contest, Galindo was their opponent, losing to their team 8- 17 in the final.

Questel was guarded about the assessment of his California Polo team.

We’re going to have to play very disciplined, man-on-man defense,” he said. “They’re a very strong team, and we can’t let them take control of the game. We need to make them play our game.”

The championship game was the nail biter everyone had anticipated with each side trading scores in the early going. California Polo, with a 14-goal rating, charged out to a 6-4 lead after dominating much of the first half.

I think I let the team down in the second chukker,” said Sheldon. I was having horse trouble and couldn’t be there to back up my teammates. They got a few penalty shots that we could have otherwise avoided, and found ourselves trailing.”

Manny Questel powered the California Polo team through the third chukker as they continued to lead the 15-goal Lender Support Systems team.

They kicked our butts in the third chukker,” offered Galindo, “and the first half of the final chukker they continued to dominate us. But their horses appeared to tire in the last half of the chukker, and I think that was the difference.”

The defining moment came after Sheldon tied it at 11-11 and there were 18 seconds left on the clock. A California Polo player crossed Burch who was following the ball to the goal and the whistle blew. Lender Support Systems was awarded a 15-yard penalty shot that Sheldon executed for the 12-11 win and the 2009 USPA Arena Championship.

The team played well together,” Galindo said. “Billy [Sheldon] and I have played together before, so our team play was pretty comfortable.”

Carlos Galindo was named Most Valuable Player while Domingo Questel’s Aspen received Best Playing Pony honors.

We were pleased with the success of the tournament,” said California Polo Club co-founder and President Rodney Fragodt. “Everyone had a good time and we were treated to some great arena polo. We put this club together after polo ended at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center so that people could continue playing arena polo,” he added, “and we’re happy to see so many players and spectators enjoying themselves here.”

Spectators enjoyed an Argentine barbecue, thanks to the culinary talents of Leo Consenza, while watching the action on the field.

Billy Sheldon’s father, Russ Sheldon was also present for the contest. A governor-at-large of the USPA and a player whose roots rest firmly in the arena game, he touted the benefits of the arena game.

The economics of the arena game make it much easier to attract new players,” he said. “I believe that out of 375 USPA clubs, around 165 of them have arenas. Some clubs have both fields and arenas,” he added, “but some of them are strictly arena clubs.”

In polo’s infancy in America there existed two polo associations. One of them embraced the outdoor game while the Indoor Polo Association of the United States concentrated on the indoor or arena game. The two associations merged in 1955 with a promise to treat all polo equally, and it appears that Russ Sheldon is doing his part to make sure that is the case.

The California Polo Club was founded in 1995 and is an active member of the United States Polo Association. In an effort to make the thrill of polo accessible to its guests, students and members, the club is dedicated to providing top instruction and varied levels of competition to the residents of the greater Los Angeles area.


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