Jim Vangilder had this silly preconceived notion that he wouldn't like riding a stallion. Turns out he was wrong.
Vangilder and Freckles Royally Doc marked 222 on the last run of the Futurity Non-Pro finals for a one-point victory Saturday night at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.
Vangilder of Jackson, Mo., and his stallion earned $20,063. Wesley Galyean and Spots Hot posted a score of 221 for second and a check for $14,109, while Skip Queen of Lipan, Texas, and Nurse Charles finished third (217.5, $11,758).
"I never had ridden (a stallion) before," Vangilder said. "I thought they'd be difficult to ride. Pretty tempermental. He seems to be very relaxed."
Vangilder first jumped atop his horse Wednesday, the day before the Futurity Non-Pro first go-round.
The two meshed so well, they entered the finals with the top two-round score.
"He's really a great moving horse," Vangilder said. "He's smooth. He's silky. He's got a lot of cow. It's just really fun, really enjoyable."
Vangilder bought the stallion, by Freckles Fancy Twist out of Miss Royally Doc, during his 2-year-old year. The horse, Vangilder said, was purchased with trainer Roger Wagner in mind.
In fact, Vangilder entered his other horse, Quintan Blue, to ride in the Futurity Non-Pro. But after Wagner advanced the mare to the Futurity Open finals, Vangilder switched to his second option.
It turned out to be a great decision for Vangilder, now a two-time Augusta Futurity champion.
Vangilder, who first started cutting in 2001, won the 2004 Classic Non-Pro with 227 on Zacks Lena.
"It was a great win last year," Vangilder said. "I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Winning here is just fantastic. I never dreamed I could possibly do it again, but here we are."
Thousands of fans braved icy conditions to witness Vangilder work his magic again. The show started on time and continued without a hitch.
In the early going, Spots Hot and Galyean made their move. The two cut three cows and recorded 221, a score that almost held up.
Spots Hot, a stud by Chula Deal out of Sweet Shorty Lena, entered the Augusta Futurity as the reigning NCHA World Championship Futurity Open champion.
Galyean, whose father, Jody, is a two-time Augusta Futurity Open champion, fell short of his first Augusta win.
Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back Mel Blount, who won four Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers, also sought his first Augusta Futurity title. Riding 18th in the 20-horse draw, Blount and High Brow Doll woke up the silent Augusta crowd and began putting together a solid run.
The pair ran into trouble, though, trying to make a quick cut on a third cow and lost that cut at the buzzer. If not for the last cow, Blount and his horse would've put together a top-three run. Instead, they finished at 205 for 14th place.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.