Some of the most famous horses in Augusta Futurity history will make their return to the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center pen tonight.
They will compete in the America's Greatest Cowboy, a contest which ran from 1990-94 and is being revived this year.
The first round of the 32-rider, single elimination event begins tonight at 6 o'clock, followed by the second round. The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will be held Wednesday night, starting at 7.
There are 29 men and three women in the invitational event.
Because riders can be mounted on any age horse and can even change horses in between rounds in the Cowboy, legendary horses that are no longer eligible for the Augusta aged events (the 4-year-old Futurity and the 5- and 6-year-old Classic) are returning.
Heading the list is the 7-year-old Playgun and the 9-year-old Tap O Lena.
Cash Quixote Rio, a three-time winner of the Cowboy with Kobie Wood in the saddle, won't be returning because the horse is no longer being shown. Wood, the part-owner of the great stallion, will be riding Meradas Little Sue instead. Ronnie Rice, the 1991 Cowboy winner, will be riding Hickorys Farmer. Tom Lyons, the other former Cowboy winner, is not entered.
Playgun, owned by Dick Pieper of Marietta, Okla., is the only horse to sweep both Futurity classes (the open and non-pro) in the same year (1996) of this show. Pieper won the non-pro and Jody Galyean won the open that year.
Tap O Lena, owned by Phil Rapp, carried Rapp to the 1994 Futurity Non-Pro title. Rapp will be in the saddle again tonight.
Pieper brought Playgun here this week to ride in Thursday night's Parade of Champions contest, a one-rider event for former Augusta champions in the 20-year-old show. Pieper asked Galyean if he wanted to ride in the Cowboy on Playgun, who has nearly $200,000 in career earnings but hasn't been shown since September.
"I said `sure,"' Galyean, a two-time Augusta champion, recalls. "At one point in time during the Cowboy, I'll show him."
Galyean may have had the idea of saving Playgun until the later rounds, if he advances. However, that was before Galyean found out who he drew up against in the tonight's first round. That would be four-time Augusta champion Terry Riddle, one of Galyean's closest friends among the cutters.