Farmers & Merchants Bank Claims Gulfstream Pacific Coast Open Title After 8 Chukkers of Intense Competition
It is the general consensus that when the Pacific Coast Open title is on the line, competition heats up at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. Klentner Ranch and Farmer & Merchants Bank, each in their first PCO final, did not disappoint, taking the match to an unprecedented eight chukkers of play. It was anyone’s game as the clock ticked down, but the luck turned in favor of the Farmers & Merchants team. Lucas Criado found the elusive goal posts on a deep neckshot, clinching victory for the team.
Fouls gripped the flow of the game the first two chukkers, but Klentner Ranch was able to create a slight lead in the first two chukkers of play. Facundo Obregon easily converted two open goal penalties and left Bray to handle the field. Brother Geronimo Obregon cleared the path for his teammate as Bray flew down the open field alone towards the goal mouth giving his team a one goal advantage, 4-3.
Farmers & Merchants Bank shut down their opponents in the third chukker, catching them in several costly fouls. Felipe Vercellino sunk three open goal penalty shots, pushing his team into the lead. A final goal in the chukker by team captain, Lucas Criado, gave FMB a strong three goal lead going into halftime.
Klentner Ranch spent the halftime period refocusing on their strategy and slowly began their comeback in the fourth chukker. Farmers & Merchants Bank kept their opponents in check, holding them from scoring from the field while maintaining a two goal lead, 8-6.
Dan Walker opened play up mid way through the fifth chukker as he confidently scored atop a quick mount for FMB’s only goal of the fifth chukker. Two goals by Facundo Obregon brought Klentner Ranch to within one before the final chukker of play.
Vercellino converted an open goal penalty to widen to two goals favoring Farmers and Merchants Bank early in the sixth chukker. With adrenaline pumping, Geronimo Obregon stunned the crowd with his ball skills as he wound his way through traffic on multiple plays, picking up a penalty one and scoring an incredible neckshot to tie the game in the final chukker of regulation play.
Though the first six chukkers of regulation play were filled with excitement, it was the two overtime periods that brought fans to the edge of their seats as both teams battled for the win.
The first ball of the seventh chukker was bowled in near the Farmers & Merchants Bank, but Bray took control of the ball and raced towards the ocean end of the field. He was unable to find his teammate ahead of him and the ball stayed in play. Several players hopped on fresh horses as it was apparent the chukker was going to continue. Players tried time and time again to get the ball through their respective goals, but neither team was able to score in the first overtime period.
Fans cheered as players mounted back for the second overtime period of the match. Klentner Ranch received a favorable call from the umpire, but the ball flew wide of the posts, giving Farmers & Merchants Bank control of the ball from the knock in. Lucas Criado, the highest rated player on the field, sliced a long ball through the uprights and secured the victory for his team.
After celebrating their victory, Criado spoke highly of his opponents and the tough match they played to USPA Marketing Director, Matt Baran, “I’m so happy, because we have never made it to the final in this tournament,” said Criado. “Finally, we made it to the final and to win in second overtime is crazy! I think both teams deserved it, we made a difference in the beginning, but the game was really tied from the fifth until the very last goal. The other team, I’ll tell you, they played tough and they are big fighters, but finally we were lucky today. I’m really happy for Danny too, this is my sixth season with him. So to make it to the final with him and win in second overtime, it was great. I hope it was a good game for everyone to watch.” Criado was awarded Most Valuable Player and the Robert Skene Award.
Best Playing Pony honors were given to Disney, a 12-year old Canadian thoroughbred owned by Jesse Bray.
“Disney is one of those special horses you own. She has the biggest heart. I played her in five of the eight chukkers today and every time I asked her for something, she gave it to me and more. I couldn’t be more happy with her and how she played. She will be a getting a well deserved rest.”