National Hockey League champions win the coveted Stanley Cup. Professional golfers in the United States and Europe compete for the Ryder Cup.
Now, horse cutters have a chance to earn their own measure of prestige - the Western Horseman Cup.
Thirty-two cutters have qualified through a season-long points system to compete in a special one go-round competition Jan. 29 during the 25th annual Augusta Futurity. Two champions - one open, one non-pro - will receive a check and, more importantly, have their names engraved on a permanent trophy and receive a smaller, replica trophy.
"For a serious competitor, the money fades away," Augusta Futurity show chairman Pete May said. "It just happens to be there. They seek peer recognition."
It'll be hard for the Western Horseman Cup finals champions to be ignored. Theirs will be the first names inscribed on the three-foot-tall trophy, which will be on display in a glass case in the National Cutting Horse Association headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
The trophy was designed in England by Nicholas Winton. It incorporates a miniature version of the current Augusta Futurity trophy, a bronze award given out annually to the top Classic and Futurity Open and Non-Pro champions, which displays a horse and rider in action.
With two handles, which make for easy lifting, the trophy is expected to be the envy of the cutting horse industry.
"It has a presence to it," May said. "It has personality. For such a great win, this will be a great memento."
Money won't hurt, either. The open champion will receive $50,000, and the non-pro winner will earn $30,000. The total purse of $250,000 is expected to push the 2004 Augusta Futurity total money above the $1 million mark for the first time.
With high stakes on the line, the Augusta Futurity wanted to ensure fairness with the event. The day before the finals, riders will draw numbered ping-pong balls. The cutter with the No. 1 ball doesn't ride first, but will be the first rider to decide his position in the draw.
"It's going to add ceremony, pageantry," May said.
May said he expects that after the Western Horseman Cup finals is held, interest will rise in the cutting horse world - especially among riders who have never competed in Augusta.
"This is adding a special feature that may bring some cutters here who haven't been before," he said. "We feel if they come here one time, they'll come back."
Western Horseman Finals Qualifiers by Horse, Owner, Rider Open 1. Chiquita Pistol (horse), Tooter Dorman (owner), Tag Rice (rider)
2. TR Dual Rey, David Plummer, Lloyd Cox
3. Meradas Rockalena, Gary and Kathy Benton, Boyd Rice
4. Play Peek A Boon, Oxbow Ranch, Lindy Burch
5. CD Lights, Motes and Hansma, Winston Hansma
6. MR Jay Bar Cat, Crystal Creek Ranch, Matt Gaines
7. High Style Travalin, Suzanne Rodnin-Silverberg, Gavin Jordan
8. Tapt Twice, Phil and Mary Ann Rapp, Phil Rapp
9. Sun Valley Shorty, James Vangilder, Roger Wagner
10. Boon A Little, Bill and Jill Freeman, Bill Freeman
11. Tess My Grit, Ken and Marcia Hanson, Matt Gaines
12. Sweet Lil Pepto, John and Dana Harrah, Mike Mowery
13. Smooth As A Cat, Tommy Manion, Matt Gaines
14. Cats Merada, Jack and Deborah Furst, John Wold
15. Freckled History, Tom and Jenifer Lyons, Tom Lyons
16. Santana Times Two, Steven Feiner, Jody Galyean
17. Peppy Plays For Cash, Lewie and Janie Wood, Kobie Wood
Non-Pro 1. Mary Ann Rapp
2. Scott Ferguson
3. Chad Bushaw
4. Lewie Wood
5. Elizabeth Queen
6. Dustin Adams
7. Greg Coalson
8. Lance Harrel
9. Benjie Neely
10. Skip Queen
11. Carl Gerwein
12. Alisa McCleary
13. Hope Justice
14. Julie McCloud
15. Alycia Bellenfant
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