Staff Report

Nacho Figueras lived up to his reputation by playing his fiery brand of polo at the seventh annual Santa Ynez Valley Polo Classic on June 23, leading the Piocho Ranch Team to an exciting 5-3 victory in the day’s featured match. Figueras scored 3 goals in the match against John Benitz’s Wildhorse Studios.

The event was hosted by Piocho Ranch-Happy Canyon Vineyard and was attended by more than 1,100 guests in one of the most beautiful venues in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The Polo Classic benefits Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People (PHP) in its delivery of basic-needs services to seniors and youth with limited resources.

A Bentley and a Rolls-Royce, both from Polo Classic sponsor O’Gara Coach Westlake, lead the Sheriff’s Mounted Unit, the American flag, and the parade of players onto the field at the Polo Classic.

In a match earlier in the day, sponsored by O’Gara Coach and featuring all female players, Team Bentley Westlake tied Team Rolls-Royce Westlake at a score of 3 to 3. This was the first time that the Polo Classic spotlighted women’s polo, which is experiencing rapid growth.

“The women’s match could not have gone better,” said Meghan Gracida, one of the players and player coordinator for the match. “Both teams played hard and played with class. We each feel grateful that we had the opportunity to play the sport we love for an amazing cause.”

Each year the Polo Classic conducts a hat contest, consistent with polo tradition. A guest Judge, Richard Mineards, was recruited to officiate. He is the Montecito Journal columnist who is well known for his coverage of Britain’s Royal Family.

In the most prestigious category, best ensemble, the prize was won by Valley celebrity Kelly LeBrock.

“The day was a huge success in two ways. We raised some much-needed funding but we also made many new friends as well as renewing many friendships,” said Dean Palius, PHP CEO. “This remarkable event would not be possible without a large cast of volunteers and PHP staff led by Event Coordinator Erica Valdés and Event Committee co-chairs Nancy Hunsicker and Mila Hart.”

“Additionally, throwing a party for 1,100 that involves horses and other athletes performing at a remote location requires a large investment in logistics, security, rentals, catering, and stage production. These expenses are underwritten by our generous sponsors.”

To view the full contingent of sponsors and patrons, visit

To learn more about PHP, its programs, and ways to help, visit or call 805-686-0295.