Last Sunday, August 21, about 2,500 polo fans gathered at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (SBPRC) in Carpinteria for the second of three weekends of the Gulfstream Pacific Coast Open (PCO). Hosted by the U.S. Polo Association and the SBPRC, this is the premier polo event in Santa Barbara and one of the top polo events on the West Coast. The 16-goal tournament, which this year features six top teams, dates back to 1909, and has been held at the SBPRC since 1952.
Many notable figures in the polo world were in attendance, and the crowd was a sea of blazers, classic dresses, and fashionable hats. Ambassador Glen Holden, who played in the PCO for 30 years and many times both with and against Prince Charles, shared how he never misses a PCO match. Dr. Richard Caleel and his wife, Annette Caleel, watched from their box as did Pat and Ursula Nesbitt. The trophy, which Holden declares is the most beautiful in polo, is a five-foot-high silver-and-gold cup with panels depicting polo scenes, precious stone accents, and a crown of an eagle supporting a globe.
According to Bob Puetz, executive director of U.S. Polo Association Services, who flew in from Florida for the tournament, “the PCO has always been one of the most difficult tournaments to win, and this year is no exception. Many of these teams have established organizations that work all year long to ensure each player and each horse is properly prepared for the tournament. The horses are the key component, and it usually takes several years to get all the pieces to come together.”
There were plenty of thrilling moments throughout the day watching the three games, which resulted in Farmers & Merchants Bank (FMB), Restoration Hardware, and Klentner Ranch advancing to the semifinals.
The final match of the day, between FMB and Lucchese, was a close one, with the teams tied in four of the six chukkers, and FMB ultimately winning 10-9. Lucchese, which is the defending champion and has won four of the past six tournaments, fielded a team that included stars Nacho Badiola and Jeff Hall, while playing for Farmers & Merchants Bank was Lucas Criado and Danny Walker. As usual, most of the team members in the tournament are American or Argentinian.
A shoot-out was held to determine the remaining semifinalist between Lucchese and FMB Too!, and FMB Too! qualified. The semifinals will be held on Friday, August 26, and will pair up teams that have not met in the tournament before. The finals follow on Sunday, August 28, and will air on NBC on September 11 at 6 p.m.
Stomping of the divots at halftime was also part of the fun here, as was the after-party with DJ Fab at the clubhouse and on the field. All in all, it was a splendid day at polo.