It comes as little surprise to see the name “Shepard” in another Augusta Futurity finals, but this time it’s not Austin or his father, Sam.
Harris Shepard marked 213.5 on Especially Thomas in the Futurity Non-Pro go-round Friday morning to advance to Saturday night’s finals. Mary Ann Rapp and Reyzin won the go-round with 217, while Jodie Cerny and Grace Kellie finished second at 216.
The top 17 horses with scores of 211 or better moved on to the finals, which begin at 4:30 p.m. at James Brown Arena.
Shepard, 18, is starting to cut his teeth in the cutting horse circuit. Last year, he showed in aged events on a full-time basis and he made the Augusta Futurity Non-Pro finals in 2012. Now, he works his schedule around college.
A freshman at Jefferson State Community College in Alabama, Shepard just finished his first semester. He plans to get a degree in business in the future, but he’s unsure where he’s going after junior college. Then again, college wasn’t his idea. His dad convinced him to enroll.
“I’d just like for him to get an education,” the elder Shepard said. “The main thing is in case you get hurt doing this and you can’t ride horses. I always worry about that.”
Harris Shepard lives in Verbena, Ala., with his parents, Sam (a hall of fame trainer) and Pam, and his younger sister, Emma. Harris also has two older siblings: Austin, his half-brother (who’s raked in more than $5 million in rider earnings), and Stephanie, his half-sister. Harris helps Sam with his horses, though this wasn’t what he thought he’d be doing when he was younger.
“When I was a little kid I didn’t really care for it much,” he said. “But when I was 13, I got roped back into it and have been hooked ever since.
“I’ve got a lot of great people to learn from, that’s for sure. I’m very blessed.”
Especially Thomas is a mare by Thomas E Hughes out of Smart Ricochet owned by Sam Shepard. The Shepards raised and trained the horse.
“She’s been a blessing,” Harris said. “She’s turned out to be a great mare for me.
“She’s got a lot of energy. She’s happy all the time. She’s real easy to train. Real smart.”