Train wrecks and long faces were the order of the day in Monday's Futurity Open first go-round at the Augusta Futurity.
In the sport of cutting, a train wreck happens when a rider's horse can't control the cattle cut and the ride falls apart. In cutting, the name of the game is to cut a cow from the herd and then prevent its return to the herd.
When a rider `loses a cow,' he's hit with a five-point penalty from the five judges and scores so low he doesn't advance to the next go-round.
A few cutters, headed by Matt Gaines of Weatherford, Texas, and Boyd Rice of Spearman, Texas, did excel against the unruly cattle. All the horses in this class have to be 4 years old.
Gaines rode Jack Ruby DNA to a 221.5, the high score through four days of the nine-day event. Rice, a nephew of open cutter Ronnie Rice, had a 221 on Can You Handle It.
Sixty-four of the 116 riders in the class advanced to Wednesday's second go-round. It took a 209 to move forward, compared to a 210.5 in 1998 when the cattle were more cooperative.
Defending champion Bill Freeman of Rosston, Texas, advanced both of his horses. He had a 214.5 on Snicker Cat and a 213 on Katz.
Boyd Rice, 33, was the last rider to work in the class. It is usually the kiss of death to draw that late because all the good cattle have been worked by that time.
"It was all kind of forced on me," Boyd Rice said. "The cattle are so fast and hard. I didn't have much choice but to do what I did. It was going to be either nothing or a bunch (of points).
"I got lucky," said the 30-year-old Gaines, the youngest son of NCHA Hall of Famer Dick Gaines.
Not so fortunate was Ronnie Rice of Buffalo, Texas. Rice, one of the top cutters in the sport and a two-time Augusta champion, saw his hopes of winning the title on Dainty Playgirl go up in flames.
Dainty Playgirl, who carried Ronnie Rice to a $200,000 first-place check in last month's National Cutting Horse Association World Championship Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas, with a 225 in the finals, lost the second cow Rice cut Monday with 35 seconds left in the two-and-a-half minute ride.
Rice, who had a strong first cow, rode in, taking a zero and saving at least one more fresh cow for the riders behind him.
"That's the thing about it -- it doesn't matter who you are," Boyd Rice said. "When it doesn't work, it doesn't work. These cattle don't care who you are."
"When you get to Augusta, I don't think you can pick a horse (as a favorite)," said four-time Augusta champion Terry Riddle, who advanced both of his horses to the second go-round. "I think the cows are always in the lead here. It's whoever comes in second to the cows that win it."
Gaines' leading horse has impressive bloodlines. Jack Ruby DNA is by Dual Pep out of Playboy Ruby. Dual Pep won the 1990 Classic Open title here with Pat Earnheart in the saddle. As for Playboy Ruby, the mare won the 1991 Futurity Non-Pro title here with Phil Rapp aboard.
"He looks good on any kind of cow, fast or slow," Gaines said. "He's just a neat horse."
Gaines had the good fortune to draw first of the 12 riders in the sixth cattle group of the day. Riders would rather be early in the draw so they can have their choice of fresh cattle.
"The draw helped; it would be hard to do what I did last (in the group)," Gaines said. "I got the first shot at them and I picked three good cows.
"The cattle are the factor in the deal you can't control," Gaines said. "All you can do is make educated guesses and go cut them."
David Westin covers equine events for The Augusta Chronicle.