With chilly weather making a return to Augusta, it's a good time to wear a hat. A cowboy hat.
The 29th edition of the Augusta Futurity returns today with the $100,000 Non-Pro Any Age go-round. The event begins at 8 a.m. and kicks off the 10-day show at James Brown Arena.
Five amateur events fill the first four days of the competition. The Classic and Futurity Open and Non-Pro events run the final seven days. The Classic Open and Non-Pro finals are Jan. 24, while the Western Horseman Cup finals are set for the following day.
The Augusta Futurity Non-Pro and Open finals close the show Jan. 26.
Several high-profile companion events return as well. The Wrangler Family Fun Fest, a free event on Seventh Street in front of James Brown Arena, will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The event will feature a band, petting zoo, live bull for pictures and a Western town.
Later that evening, the Professional Bull Riders Tour makes its first venture to Augusta. The PBR event, which begins at 8 p.m., features 55 riders vying for the top prize of $10,000. The 2007 PBR Bull of the Year, Chicken on a Chain, is expected to be in attendance.
Phil Rapp, the 2007 Futurity Open champion, also is expected to return. Rapp owns more Augusta titles (eight) than any other rider.
One of the hottest cutters on the scene is Austin Shepard, of Summerdale, Ala. Shepard, who won the Classic Open finals on Woody Be Tuff last year for his first Augusta title, claimed the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity Open finals in December.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.