In the end, the Grant’s Farm Manor polo team was stung more painfully than rival player Adolfo Cambiaso, who was attacked by a bee during the championship match of the Bombardier Pacific Coast Open at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club.
“It hurts bad,” Grant’s Farm owner Andy Busch said Sunday after his team took a six-goal lead over Lucchese, only to see Cambiaso lead a monumental comeback that resulted in a 15-15 deadlock at the end of regulation time. The match went into sudden-death overtime, and Cambiaso made swift work of it, capturing a loose ball and carrying downfield through the goal to give Lucchese a breathtaking 16-15 victory.
Lucchese won the PCO trophy for the third consecutive year since team patron John Muse hired Cambiaso, the 10-goal star from Argentina.
Grant’s Farm, trying to win its third title in 13 years, took advantage of penalties to build a 8-7 halftime lead behind Jeff Hall’s accurate shooting. The inspired play of Santiago Torres kept Lucchese in the game. Torres, an 18-year-old Carpinteria native, made some dazzling zig-zag runs to the goal aboard Noruega, a mare that is owned by Cambiaso.
Hall opened the fourth chukker with a booming goal from 120 yards out, igniting a 6-1 surge that pushed Grant’s Farm’s lead to 14-8. Lucchese chipped away in the fifth chukker with two goals from Torres and one from Cambiaso, and it was 14-11 going into the final period.
Cambiaso then took the match by the reins. Riding one of his finest horses, he controlled the ball and scored three quick goals to tie the score. Lucchese’s seventh straight goal came from Torres, who hit the ball out of a crowd to put the defending champions ahead, 15-14.
Polito Pieres, who had a shot intercepted at the mouth of the goal by Cambiaso, managed to break free and score a goal that drew Grant’s Farm even again, 15-15.
The remaining drama of regulation occurred when Cambiaso jumped out of the saddle with 1:14 remaining because of a bee sting on his sternum. The game was held up while he received medical attention. After he remounted, both teams protected their goals to preserve the tie.
After a 15-minute break, the squads lined up again, and within 40 seconds, Cambiaso was off and running ahead of the pack, and the outcome was not in doubt.