by Christine HamiltonThe American Quarter Horse Journal
The 2011 team penning world champions: Louis Saggione and Sprats Cat, Justin Underwood and Swinglo, Grady Underwood and Somebodys Riata. (Journal photo)
The longtime Texas-based team of brothers Justin and Grady Underwood, and Louis Saggione III had the top spot coming out of the team penning prelims, penning three cattle in 25.552.
They ended up with three sets of horses in the November 8 finals – fourth, eighth and 12th in the go.
But it would be their last team that would come in first: They penned three cattle in 36.166 to solidly capture the 2011 open team penning title.
The three men are familiar faces at the AQHA World Championship Show. Grady and Louis are the returning ranch sorting champs, and Justin finished third in the 2010 team penning. Louis was also part of the championship team penning team in 2008 and as a youth in 2001.
The Journal caught up with the new champs just before they headed back into the Jim Norick arena to compete in the open ranch sorting. Here’s a little of what they had to say.
Q. How does it feel to come out of there with another world championship?
Louis: It feels great. We had a lot of good runs and we kept things together and made things work.
Q. What’s your typical plan or strategy?
Louis: Well, we like to win! I usually start it out. We’ve been riding together a long time. We’ve tried every combination and that seems to work. These guys are brothers and have rode together a long time and seem to know what goes together and we’ve just had a lot of luck going that way, so we stick to it.
Q. How did you guys become a team?
Justin: Me and Grady have been riding together since we were kids, and then we ran into Louis here about 10 years ago. He just kind of picked up with us through thick and thin, and we’ve all kind of stuck together, and here we are.
Q. How did you all get into team penning?Grady: That guy standing over there (dad, Byron Underwood) is the one that got me and Justin into it. We’ve been doing it since 1998, a long time. (We’re) addicted to it, I guess, we can’t get enough of it.
Q. What’s one of the things you like about it, as a sport?
Grady: (Family) is a big part of it. We started out as a family and this has been great this year, our whole family has been here to watch. It’s a fun family deal, you start kids out young, old people, young people can all do it. It teaches you a lot, it’s a team sport, so there’s no single person or horse doing it, you’ve all three got to do it. It’s a lot of fun.
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Q. Tell me about your horses.
Louis: (Sprats Cat) I’m actually riding my wife’s horse, an 11-year-old gelding. Actually, about seven years ago he got real sick and the vet actually told us to put him down. A farrier, who owned the horse that Grady rode tonight, had him for a year, Bob Jameson,…and he come back good. We’ve been riding him ever since.
Justin: (Swinglo) Mine is a little mare I bought about two years ago, and she just really took to the sport and is really easy with the cattle, lets me ride her wherever I want to go. She just does what I want her to do. A nice horse.
Grady: (Somebodys Riata) Mine’s probably the only horse in here that could have gone in a halter class. The lady that owns it spent more time today brushing her and cleaning her -- she’s a pretty, gorgeous mare. I’ve ridden her for three years now. It seems like she was always one I’d maybe get third on or fourth on, and never would win on her. Finally got Kay that victory, and she was happy. She’s a great mare.
Q. What do you look for in a good team penning horse?
Louis: We go through a lot of them to find the caliber we’re riding here. I don’t know if there’s any one certain thing, but I know all of the horses that we were riding tonight have hearts as big as their bodies, that’s the main thing. We go through a lot of them to find those certain ones.
Q. About how many days on the road do you all spend a year?
Justin: I would say at least 90 to 100. We spend a good bit of time on the road.
Q. Is there anyone else you want to thank, or add about tonight and competing here?
Grady: AQHA for one. I mean, this is one of the finals that you go to where they put a lot into it. Everything in it is for the horses, the money – it’s an awesome equine event. There’s nowhere else we can go in the world that is as good as this right here.
Louis: We’ve all got to thank our wives and families for being behind us.
Justin: Yes, for sticking with us when we are gone.