It was "moving day," for riders in Wednesday's second go-round of the Futurity Open.
The 65 horses who made it to the second go-round jockeyed for the coveted 29 semifinal spots in the Augusta Futurity's premier class, which is for 4-year-old horses.
It took a two go-round total of 428.5 to make tonight's semifinals, where the slate will be wiped clean and all horses start the event. Counting ties, 32 horses made it to the semifinals.
For first go-round leader Kathy Daughn of Weatherford, Texas, the idea was to have a uneventful run and avoid a train wreck that would knock her out of the cutting.
She accomplished her mission, following her opening 223 with a 219.5 on Rosanna Dual to be the top horse through two go-rounds. Her total of 442.5 was three points higher than Faron Hightower (223-216.5) on Dual N Merada.
"I just wanted to have a clean run," Daughn said. "I didn't want to do anything to hurt our chances before making it (to the semifinals). I knew the mare was really good."
On the other end of the spectrum from Daughn were Aiken's Steve Pickett and Donald (Polly) Hollar of Brenham, Texas. They needed to go all-out if they expected to advance.
Pickett and his horse, Little Peppy Zan Man, owned by Donnell and Vicki Lambe of Randleman, N.C., answered the call. The result was a 217.5 and a spot in the semifinals. Pickett had a 212.5 in the first go-round so his aggregate total was 430, or tied for 22nd place.
Hollar made the biggest second go-round move. He marked the top score of the week, a 224, on Little Short Stuff, owned by the Wichita Ranch of Brenham, Texas. Like Pickett, Hollar had to `hit the accelerator,' as the cutters call it, during his ride. He marked only a 210 in his first go-round ride.
Pickett was the only Augusta-area trainer to make it through to the semifinals. John Starrak of Edgefield, S.C., had a 213.5-210- 423.5 on Chickory Chunk and Eddie Braxton of Millen, Ga., had a 210-210- 420 on Doc Pete Mills and a 212.5-198- 410.5 on Little Peppy Skeet.
Pickett is bidding to become the first Augusta area-based trainer to win a title in the 18-year history of the show.
On Wednesday, Pickett knew he'd need a strong score to make semifinals.
"I had to go down there and make a run for it," Pickett said. "There was no safe-and-easy this time."
With that in mind, Pickett cut cattle that he knew would challenge his horse.
"I picked the ones I thought would look at my colt," Pickett said. "When they look at him, he gets real bright in front of them. I decided I needed to go ahead and call on him. He needed to grow up. He's a 4-year-old now."
Pickett was a finalist in the Futurity Open three years ago, but has had "a few dry years," he said. "I haven't been that well-mounted in the last couple of years"
Defending Futurity Open champion Jody Galyean of Ardmore, Okla., made it to the semifinals on two horses. Ima Little Peppier (216-215.5) and Smart Equalizer (216.5-215) both filnished at 431.5, or tied for 15th place.
This is the first show Galyean has ridden Ima Little Peppier, who is owned by Joe and Mike Ayers of Holliday, Texas. Galyean has only had the horse for two weeks.
"We're still trying to figure each other out a little bit," Galyean said. "I'm starting to get my confidence in him more and more all the time. Hopefully, now I can go ahead and open him up a little bit more."
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