Three women in particular are glad the Augusta Futurity added the $50,000 Amateur 5- and 6-year-old class to the show this year.
It gave Alice Walton, Ora Diehl and Stacie McDavid a chance to rebound from forgettable days in other classes on Sunday and have a memorable day in this one on Monday.
This class is for riders with less than $50,000 in career National Cutting Horse Association earnings. They must ride horses that are 5- or 6 years old.
Walton, of Mineral Wells, Texas, had a 218, which was matched by Diehl, of Ruskin, Fla. McDavid, of Fort Worth, Texas, the winner of the $20,000 Amateur Any Age class here in 1998, had a 217.5.
It took a 215 to make Wednesday night's nine-rider finals.
For the record, Walton's disapointing rides on Sunday were a 206 and a 180 on her two horses in the Classic Non-Pro. It took a 210 to advance to the second go-round in that class.
"I had a terrible day on Sunday -- that's why I'm so happy with this," said Walton, who rode Scatter Hickory, a 6-year-old gelding, on Monday.
Walton's 206 in the Classic Non-Pro on Sunday came on the same horse, who Walton says lives up to his name because he scatters his front legs when he works a cow.
"It wasn't the horse's fault; I blew it yesterday, so this means the world to me," Walton said.
In her two rides on Sunday, Diehl had a 180 on Credit Doc in the Classic Non-Pro and followed that with a 203 on Dolled Up Dually in the $50,000 Amateur 4-year-old. Neither score advanced.
Diehl rode Credit Doc, a 5-year-old stallion in Monday's $50,000 Amateur 5- and 6-year-old.
"I've had some tough luck this week, so this makes you a believer again," said Diehl, who had poor draws until Monday. "I can do this. It seems like somebody picks you up from the seat of your pants and on you go."
In her only ride this week before Monday's 217.5, a frustrated McDavid failed to complete her run in the Classic Non-Pro on Sunday, taking a zero on Miss Toot N Shoot, a 6-year-old mare.
It was a different story on Monday with Miss Toot N Shoot.
"Each day can be completely different," McDavid said. "You do get down after a bad ride. My husband David has a saying and it is so true because cutting is so mental. He says the sun doesn't shine on the same dog's bottom every day. Basically, cutting's the same way.
"If I have a couple of bad runs, I think, well, maybe I should take a break from it," McDavid said. "Then I come back and have a decent run and it makes it all worthwhile. You're at the top of the mountain again."
All three women are enthusiastic boosters of cutting. Walton returned to the sport last year after a 10-year break. Diehl and her husband Frank sponsor the Tomato Futurity in Ruskin each year, and McDavid got hooked in 1997.
"This is the greatest sport with the greatest people," said Walton, who left the sport in order to start an investment banking company in 1988.
"I knew I couldn't build a good business and spend the time I needed on cutting -- I'd probably blow them both. I quit totally. I didn't see a cutting for 10 years because I knew I'd want to ride. I said once I get my business and team in place, I'd be back. It's a thrill to be back."
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