The fourth day of the Augusta Futurity was surprisingly on the quiet side.
In the Futurity Open class, which normally produces a handful of exceptional runs, only one out of 126 was memorable during Monday's first go-round.
Smokin Duehickey rang up a 219 in the show's premier class, which is for 4-year-old horses.
The stallion, owned by Burke Sullivant, was ridden by 29-year-old Jason Clark, who is making his Augusta Futurity debut. Clark and Sullivant are from Gainesville, Texas.
Finishing second, at 218, was Sweet Shorty Lena, owned by Jody Galyean of Ardmore, Okla., and ridden by Kathy Daughn of Weatherford, Texas.
In contrast to the low scoring Monday, there were five scores of 219-above in the first go-round of this class last year, with a 221.5 leading the way.
"It's been a tough day showing -- the cows have been tough," said John Mitchell, who had a solid day, marking 216s on both his mounts to easily advance to Wednesday's second go-round.
The testy cattle didn't bother Smokin Duehickey, who Sullivant ranks as "one of the top three horses in any major event in the U.S."
"He's got a lot of special stuff to him," Clark said of Smokin Duehickey. "He has a lot of presence."
Smokin Duehickey, a stallion by Dual Pep out of Miss Smokin Hickory, is a natural as cutting horses go.
"With the style he has, he can steal a lot of points from the judges," Clark said. "That's pretty unique. You don't train that in them.
"He has a lot of natural draw," Clark added. "He brings those cows to him. A lot of horses scare a cow. You don't train that in them. They've either got it or they don't."
"He makes it look so pretty and easy," said Sullivant, who will be riding the horse in today's first go-round of the Futurity Non-Pro class. "He drops down and kind of mermerizes a cow. He drops down to eye level with them. He doesn't spook them; he lures the cows to him."
Smokin Duehickey did it the hard way Monday, overcoming a less-than-favorable draw to mark the 219.
Smokin Duehickey worked last in the fourth, 11-horse group of the day. By that late in a draw, most of the good cattle already have been worked. All that remains are the most unruly of the unruly cows, ones that no one wants to challenge.
"When you go last in the draw, the cows left are still fresh for a reason," Clark said. "That's why you really have to pay attention to them and know every cow in them. This horse is really strong and smart. In a small pen like this one, you need both of those."
Considering the circumstances, Sullivant said Clark "showed the horse as good as anybody could show him. He cut last in the herd and took his time. It was a great run. I couldn't be more tickled."
The cattle were generally uncooperative because of the change in temperature they were experiencing. After sitting outside the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center in the rain, snow and cold, they were moved inside to the warm building. Because of their heavy winter coats, cows prefer the cold.
The last set of cattle of the round left the cowboys shaking their heads. The cows generally failed to show respect for their horses, running past them and back to the herd at an alarming rate.
"They're coming in here mad and not wanting to cooperate," said Corky Sokol of Brenham, Texas.
Sokol said he was relieved to mark a 215 on his horse, A Hocus Pocus Cat. The stallion came into the show as one of the favorites after finishing second in cutting's top show, the National Cutting Horse Association World Championship in Fort Worth, held in Texas last month. In the finals there, A Hocus Pocus Cat marked a 222. The winner in that show, Shania Cee, is not entered in Augusta.
"I was trying to get through the run and not put myself out of the cutting," said Sokol, who drew next-to-last in a bunch.
"I got him through the run and built some confidence," Sokol said. "Maybe we'll draw a little bit better next time and cut a little better cows."
ReachDavid Westin at (706) 724-0851.
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