John Wold says his horse is not just smart, it's "scary smart."
"If he could speak," Wold said, "he'd read you the newspaper."
Wold and his horse, Pipen Hot Merada, posted the top score of the Futurity Open second go-round Wednesday with 217.5 at James Brown Arena.
The pair finished the go-rounds with an aggregate score of 433. The top 23 horses with combined totals of 428.5 or better qualified for Saturday night's championship round.
Brett Davis, of Texarkana, Texas, and Sly Angel will enter the finals with the top aggregate score at 434, with Matt Gaines of Weatherford, Texas, and Hoo Rey For Dreams and Jody Galyean, of Ardmore, Okla., and Mandalay Rey just behind in a tie for second at 433.5.
Davis and his horse drew up late, running 11th in a 13-horse bunch. After a first-go score of 218.5, he and Sly Angel navigated through a group of tough cattle for a 215.5 mark.
"I was in the position I wanted to be in," Davis said. "Then I got a bunch of cattle that were almost all black and it was hard to identify them. It was just tough.
"With good help, we snuck through there."
In the last bunch of 13 horses, Wold and his gelding cut three cows on a day when good scores were hard to come by.
"My horse was really good," he said. "I'm real happy with it."
Pipen Hot Merada, by Cats Merada out of Srs Munyeca, was raised at the Furst Ranch in Bartonville, Texas, where Wold works. It took almost no time for Wold to see the horse's promise.
"I had a guy breaking colts for me," he said, "and I watch him ride (Pipen Hot Merada) his second ride and I said, 'That's your last ride.'"
Wold has seen his share of quality horses since switching jobs almost three decades ago. He worked as a snow ski instructor in Montana for two years before becoming a cutter.
"I had to make a choice between a job that lasted nine months out of the year or a job that went around the year," he said. "And I always really wanted to ride horses."
Wold has been competing off and on in Augusta for the past 15 years.
He's made the finals just twice before in a pen that can be a challenge, he said.
"Every mistake is magnified because of the size and the shape and the depth of the ground," Wold said. "So if your horse goes too short or too far, it really shows big."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TODAY AT THE FUTURITY
The Futurity Non-Pro first go-round begins at 9 a.m. at James Brown Arena and will run until completed.
At 7 p.m., the Classic Non-Pro finals will be held. The Classic Open finals will follow.