Big names rise in first go-round of Open

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Between them, they own 17 Augusta Futurity titles. So it was only fitting Wednesday afternoon to see their names atop the Futurity Open leaderboard.

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Phil Rapp, aboard Smoothe Bye Design, marked 220, as did Skip Queen and Austin Shepard in the Futurity Open's first go.   Photo by Dave Hart
Photo by Dave Hart
Phil Rapp, aboard Smoothe Bye Design, marked 220, as did Skip Queen and Austin Shepard in the Futurity Open's first go.

More info: augustafuturity.com

Phil Rapp, Austin Shepard and Skip Queen each recorded scores of 220 on their respective mounts to share the lead after the event's first go-round.

The top 22 horses with scores of 206 advanced to today's second go. The finals will be held Saturday night.

Rapp, a 10-time Augusta champion from Weatherford, Texas, marked his scored atop Smoothe Bye Design. Shepard, a four-time Augusta champion from Summerdale, Ala., posted his mark aboard Scooters Stylish Cat.

Queen rode Smartys Man, a gelding by Smart Lil Scoot, who is owned by Luis De Armas. The Venezuelan won an amateur title in Augusta in 2010, but couldn't make this year's show.

Queen, who has been riding the horses of De Armas for about "two to three years," purchased Smartys Man in February for De Armas. Two of the best attributes of Smartys Man is his fluid motion and pretty stop, Queen said.

In their first event together at the Abilene Spectacular earlier in the month, Queen and the gelding he's been training for 11 months put together a decent run (210) in the go-round but didn't mark enough to reach the finals.

That experience, though, paid off in the Futurity Open first go. Queen said Smartys Man built on that Abilene Spectacular run and came out much improved.

"All of them kind of mature and come on," he said. "It's no different than playing ball."

Queen and his mount also benefitted from their draw. The pair ran first among the second bunch of 16 horses.

"Going first, this is where you want to be here," Queen said. "We were just able to go out and cut some really good cattle.

"The whole time he felt pretty good."

Queen, and his wife Elizabeth, are South Carolina natives who now reside in Lipan, Texas, with their two children. Skip said the pair had plenty of reason to come back to the Augusta Futurity this year.

He's employed to ride horses owned by his mother-in-law, Becky Elliott, as well as another South Carolina horse owner.

Even if he didn't have horses to ride, Skip Queen said Augusta holds a special place in his heart.

"I needed to come over," Queen said. "It's where we learned to cut. It's where our roots are. I wanted to come."

Schedule

All events today through Saturday start at 9 a.m. inside James Brown Arena, unless noted.

TODAY: Second go-round of Classic Open, followed by second go-round of Futurity Open, followed by second go-round of Classic Non-Pro, followed by second go-round of Futurity Non-Pro.


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