As snow fell Tuesday morning, Augusta Futurity show chairman W.S. Morris III made an addition to his prepared speech to the Champions Club.
"I hope the weather outside is not going to last that long," he said. "We had a pretty rough winter last year, but we got through it all right. And I hope we will this year."
At last year's Augusta Futurity, snow fell on the fourth day. The average temperature was 40.7 degrees, and attendance fell from 32,500 in 1999 to 30,500.
Morris made his comments at the annual Champions Club Roundup meeting at the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce building.
The Champions Club is a 91-member Augusta Futurity patrons group, which pays annual dues that go into the purse as added money.
The Champions Club Roundup meeting is a kickoff event for the 2001 Augusta Futurity, scheduled for Jan. 26-Feb. 3 at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.
There will be two main changes in this year's cutting horse show, the largest east of the Mississippi River. First, the America's Greatest Cowboy contest, a single-elimination invitational event that was revived in 1999 after a five-year absence, has been dropped from the competition.
Second, there will be fewer riders. Because of new National Cutting Horse Association rules that restrict the number of horses shown in a day, the show will have 666 riders, down from a record of 740 riders last year.
"That number is down a little bit from last year by design," Morris said. "Some of these shows go on too long, and some of them keep a judge on the stand for much too long."
Despite the drop in entrants, the prize money will not decrease, Morris said. He estimated the show will offer about $750,000 in prize money, including $200,000 in added money from sponsors and the gate.
"That's an estimate at this point because we don't have all the numbers in," he said.
Morris took time to recognize the 15 new Champions Club members as well as the corporate sponsors.
"This is always a very special time for me, for us together, because it gives us an opportunity to say, `Thanks', to those people who joined the Champions Club and who help this show work and happen," Morris said.
Meanwhile, another 100 stalls have been added to the Hippodrome in North Augusta, bringing the number of stalls to 600. Horses in the Augusta Futurity are stalled at the Hippodrome and also practice there.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222.
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