After bouncing back last year, the Augusta Futurity is returning for an even bigger show.
In 2017, the largest cutting horse show east of the Mississippi River received a major adrenaline boost with the addition of one of the top events on the National Cutting Horse Association circuit. With the Mercuria World Series of Cutting making Augusta its first stop on its yearlong schedule, the show saw a major uptick in entries.
Now with the Mercuria event back for another year, the 39th edition of the Augusta Futurity is robust again. The show has added another day of competition, expanding to seven days. Also, the Augusta Futurity will feature some of the biggest names on the cutting horse circuit in Austin Shepard and Phil Rapp, the two all-time winningest competitors in Augusta.
Rapp won the Classic Open title last year, his 13th Augusta Futurity victory. Shepard is next on the list of Augusta wins with eight.
“We always enjoy coming to Augusta,” Rapp said. “It’s just a fun place to come. We love the town, we love the people. They’re so friendly and accommodating. So it’s special to do well when you get here.”
Veteran cowboy Craig Thompson claimed the 2017 Futurity Open championship when he and Reyzurbetsonthiscat marked 223 to win the finals by 4.5 points. Thompson recorded his third Augusta Futurity title.
“Augusta is very special,” said Thompson, who’s been competing here since the late 1990s. “I’ve been coming here a long time. They try to really put on a great show. It’s really a special win.”
At last year’s event, 597 entrants - an uptick of 238 from the previous year - came from 22 states, as well as Canada and Italy. Georgia had the most entries with 111, while Texas was just behind with 106. South Carolina had the third-most with 75.
The Augusta Futurity will begin Saturday night with one of the city’s premier annual events. The USC Aiken Extra Inning Bull Riding Championship, a companion event to the official show, starts at 7:30 p.m. at James Brown Arena.
On Sunday, two amateur events start the official competition. The $50,000 Amateur Any Age go-round begins at 8 a.m. and will be followed by the $35,000 Non-Pro Any Age go-round.
On Saturday, Jan. 20, the final day of the futurity, the Wrangler Family Fun Fest, a free event featuring live music, a petting zoo and more will be held in front of the arena. Inside the arena, four consecutive finals will start at 2 p.m.