The formula for the 2002 futurity is quite simple: more money equals more entries.
When the 23rd annual Augusta Futurity opens at 8 this morning with the first go-round of the $20,000 Non-Pro Any Age, the number of competitors is expected to exceed last year by 100 riders. The show, which drew 530 riders in 2001, runs through Feb. 2.
Augusta Futurity show chairman Pete May said that $50,000 added to the show's purse lured more competitors. The additional money came from futurity sponsors.
"You kind of roll the dice when you add that much money, hoping they will come," he said. "If they don't come, it really hurts you.
"That is a huge amount of added money. And that brought the competitors out. We felt like that would do that, but we weren't 100 percent sure. We were hoping that's what it would do, and it did."
In 2001, the total purse was $648,685, with $200,000 in added money from sponsors and the gate. A $50,000 increase in added money for this year's show will boost the first-place prize money for the Futurity Open from $20,932 a year ago to nearly $30,000. The total purse will be approximately $700,000.
"We're going to have a few more entries, which will run the prize money up, which is what the professional competitors really like," May said. "With the amateur competitors, prize money is not really an issue. But it is with the top professionals."
During the inaugural show in 1980, the total purse was just $64,000, and first-place money for the Futurity Open was $11,000.
"We have 10 times the amount of purse since 1980," May said. "That's a huge number."
Aside from the money, the show's schedule has been changed this year. While the show has nine events - the same as the 2001 futurity - most of the Non-Pro competition was moved to the end of the show.
That move also produced more entries. In the 5-6-year Non-Pro event, there were 99 entries two weeks ago, 19 more than a year ago.
In the 4-year Non-Pro, there are nine more entries than there were last year.
A Non-Pro competitor is basically a part-time cutter who doesn't make cutting a full-time profession.
"They said it created so much off time for them off their job that it was one of the problems," May said. "Some of the non-pros just couldn't come to the show because they were having to stay here so long."
Another show change is the elimination of the regular Thursday night Futurity Open semifinals, which previously sent riders into the finals. The Area 18 Youth Scholarship Cutting event will now be held that night in place of the semifinals.
"A lot of competitors have asked us to do that," May said. "All the other shows have dropped the semifinals and we were the only show left with the semifinals."
Now, riders will advance to the finals from the second go-round, which saves them one ride. Also, the semifinals money will go straight to the finals purse.
May said he hopes this year's show runs as smoothly as the 2001 event.
"Everybody felt good when the show was over last year - the workers, the competitors, the volunteers, the spectators," he said. "I didn't hear anything but positive things about last year's show. I expect it to be similar to last year's show, except better."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 114.