The score flashed. The crowd yelled out. And Michelle Hall leaned her head back in disbelief.
Hall and Play Stocks rung up 224 to win the Futurity Open finals by 4.5 points Saturday night at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center. Hall became just the third female cutter in 26 years to win the Augusta Futurity's crown jewel.
After missing the finals in her first Augusta appearance last year, Hall of Richmond, Va., earned the first-place check of $23,572.
Lloyd Cox of Fort Morgan, Colo., and Cats Moonshine placed second at 219.5 for $15,531 while Ronnie Rice of Buffalo, Texas, and Lean On Stylish finished third (217, $13,464).
"I never ever thought it would happen; I'm still a complete rookie at this deal," said Hall, who became the first female cutter to win the Futurity Open finals since Kathy Daughn on Playin Stylish in 1999. "This is just an amazing horse."
Play Stocks, a stallion by Playdox out of Bobs Preferred Stock, was born and raised at the Slate River Ranch. Hall began training him during the spring of his 2-year-old year.
"He's just so sweet," Hall said. "He's sort of the strong, silent type.Hall, 28, is a native of Vancouver Island, Canada. She made her way into the cutting-horse industry after not getting her dream job as a recruiting programmer at a college in Alberta, Canada.
"It was one of those days when I was so disappointed I didn't get my career job," she said. "Thank God I didn't."
Hall took a vacation job for trainer Lindy Burch and later made her way to Glade Knight's Slate River Ranch in Weatherford, Texas, where she loped horses. For the past four years, Hall has worked for Knight, and she is now his lead trainer at his main Slate River Ranch facility in Virginia.
Hall got a taste of cutting in the Augusta Futurity last year, but failed to make it past the second go-round of the Classic Open and Futurity Open events.
This year, Hall and Play Stocks rung up scores of 215 and 215.5 to make the finals by a half-point. The pair didn't hold anything back in the finals.
Riding sixth in the 23-horse draw, Hall said she felt good about her horse throughout the day. The two cut three cows in an aggressive manner to the delight of the thousands of fans on hand
.Hall and her horse marked the high score of the 10-day show."I was a little nervous on that first cow," she said. "But he was just getting it. He was stopping as hard as he ever had.
"When I went back in for the third cow, I knew he was on his game."The two came out of nowhere to win the event. In three fall futurities, the horse failed to make the finals.
"He just now started to get good the past two months," Hall said. "He started getting strong."