CALGARY — When the prize money at the Calgary Stampede enters record-breaking territory, even riders from Texas will make the trek north, despite having 11 horses in tow.
The journey paid off to the tune of $27,737 for Louie Saggione III of New Boston, Texas. Saggione and his teammates, Erin Hill (Temecula, Calif.) and Gary Naughton (Grand Ridge, Ill.) took top spot in the 14 Class Team Cattle Penning Championships Friday at the Saddledome. A whopping 819 teams entered the event’s four classes, up from 650 in 2016, pushing the overall prize money to $400,032.
“When you put this much money up, you are going to get an exemplary group of competitors,” said Saggione, whose team posted an aggregate time of 132.420 over four runs, with 12 head penned. “We had a little luck and the team worked well together. We stayed calm and did what we needed to.”
Reserve Champions Shaylene Hunter, Carther Rice and Chrissy Santangelo were awarded a cheque for $18,491 for their time of 140.070 with 12 head penned. In Team Cattle Penning, teams have one thin minute to separate three specifically identified cattle from a herd of 30 and direct them into a 16-foot-by-24-foot pen at the opposite end of the arena. It’s a fast-paced dance between the riders and their mounts, and the cattle they’re aiming to pen.
Teamwork is paramount, with all three riders working in harmony to cut out the correct cattle and drive them to the pen. The four classes in Team Cattle Penning are based on relative skill and experience — in ascending order from 7 Class, to 10 Class, to 14 Class, to the trainers and travelling professionals of the Open Class. This year, teams faced off over three days of qualifying in the Silver Slate Arena in Stavely, Alberta, for the 20 available spots in each class.
Saggione, Hill and Naughton have ridden together for years and the Stampede is the kick off to their competition season. Hill qualified for Sunday’s Class 10 final and then the trio will head to California with those 11 horses Saggione drove up from Texas. (Despite the number of mounts, Hill ended up borrowing horses from other competitors for her rides.) First, though, there will be time for some “adult activities” at local watering holes, Saggione said.
A team from closer to home, meanwhile, took the 7 Class Team Cattle Championships, also held on Friday. Father and daughter Leonard and Danielle Gamache from Quesnel, B.C. earned their championship belt buckles and $32,452 payout for their four rides with teammate Christine Gray of Kamloops, B.C. The trio posted an aggregate time of 141.860 with 12 head penned, nailing consistent runs in the 30- to 40-second zone.
That the trio bested a field of 241 teams in the 7 Class is even more impressive when you learn Danielle is 15 years old. It’s not her first rodeo, so to speak, as she competed at Stampede last year (finishing in eighth spot) and won the Nationals in 2014 riding with her parents.
“I like to be competitive,” she said with a shrug when asked what keeps her engaged in the sport. Her father confirmed it, saying his daughter brings that drive for perfection to all that she does, whether it’s her schooling or rounding up cattle in front of thousands of spectators. Danielle will have a shot at another championship buckle on Sunday, as she also qualified in the 10 Class.
“The family that plays together, that pens together, stays together,” added Leonard, and as his son also competes, it really is a family hobby.
Also in 7 Class, an aggregate time of 161.700 with 12 head penned earned Jim Ward and Ty and Lani Cornelius the title of Reserve Champions and a cheque for $21,635.
For full results, please visit calgarystampede.com
About the Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede celebrates the people, the animals, the land, the traditions and the values that make up the unique spirit of the west. The Calgary Stampede contributes to the quality of life in Calgary and southern Alberta through our world-renowned 10-day Stampede, year-round facilities, western events and several youth and agriculture programs. Exemplifying the theme We’re Greatest Together; we are a volunteer-supported, not-for-profit community organization that preserves and promotes western heritage and values. All revenue is reinvested into Calgary Stampede programs and facilities.
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