Augusta Futurity show chairman Pete May admits that bigger is not always better.
Last year's nine-day show had a record 740 entries. It forced the competition to run late into the evening many nights, making for long days for judges, competitors and volunteers.
So, for the 22nd annual Augusta Futurity, which begins today and runs through Feb. 3 at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, there will be fewer riders and fewer events.
"We have reduced the show to a more manageable size," May said. "We let the show just kind of get as large as it would go, not thinking it would get as large as it would last year. It got too large last year."
New National Cutting Horse Association rules, which restrict the number of horses shown in a day, reduced the field to 666 entrants. Also, there will be nine events instead of 11, as the America's Greatest Cowboy contest and the $5,000 Non-Pro have been dropped.
"That is an optimum-size show," May said. "Quite honestly, we feel everybody's going to be much happier. We will still go to 9 or 10 every night, but it won't be unreasonable. The judges can get some sleep and the people in town can go out and get some dinner. They can enjoy their experience more."
May said the futurity looked for solutions, and thought about adding another day. However, that wasn't feasible.
"We could've added another day to the show but that was a negative because most people didn't want to stay here any longer," May said. "If you come to this show for nine days, from Texas it takes you a day and a half to get here and go back. So we've taken somebody away from home for almost two weeks. Every day that you add is an unfair burden."
One of the positives of a smaller show is the prize money. May estimates that the purse will be slightly smaller than last year's $778,544. However, the $200,000 of added money will not change.
"From that standpoint, it's actually a more cost-efficient show (for riders) to come to," May said. There's fewer slices of the pie. If you're going to get to eat a lemon pie, you'd rather eat it with three people instead of seven people."
The nonsanctioned America's Greatest Cowboy competition began in 1990 and ran through '94. After a four-year absence, the competition returned the past two years. NCHA rules could signal the end of the event.
"That was a specialty event that we started ourselves," May said. "That event just took up part of these numbers and time slots that we didn't have. We felt that was the first thing that had to go."
Today, the futurity will begin with two go-rounds. The $20,000 Non-Pro Any Age starts at 8 a.m. and will be followed by the $50,000 Amateur Any Age.
Saturday, families will be admitted after 6 p.m. for $10. There will be three finals competitions after 6 p.m., including the $20,000 Non-Pro Any Age, the $50,000 Amateur Any Age and the Area 18 Youth Scholarship.
"I don't care if they have 20 members in their family, it doesn't matter," May said. "We want people to know that there's a very inexpensive time that they can come. It'll be a good night for them to come."
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