Originally created 01/04/06

Changes could increase attendance of futurity

The Augusta Futurity will continue its trend of big-money shows.

As the cutting horse event prepares for its 27th edition, it will feature a $1 million purse for the third consecutive year.

"I'm here to report to you our show is as healthy as it's ever been,'' Augusta Futurity show chairman William S. Morris III said. "We're financially solvent. We're looking for perhaps the biggest group of contestants we've ever had."

Morris spoke at the annual Champions Club Roundup on Tuesday at the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. He recognized the 64-member Champions Club, a patrons group that financially supports the show.

The Champions Club typically gives $250,000 in added money to the show. This year, that number has been increased to $260,000.

"It has given us the assurance, it has given us the base, it has given us the capital to go forward," Morris said of the Champions Club. "I'm happy to say every nickel we make on this show, which generally is just a few bucks, not much, that at the end of the year goes back into the prize money and other things that we need."

The Augusta Futurity, which is second only to the Masters Tournament in local economic impact, is scheduled for Jan. 19-28 at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.

The third annual Extra Inning World Championship bull riding competition will be held Jan. 20.

Last year, the futurity attracted 671 entries from 31 states, Canada and Italy. Morris said he expects another large number of competitors, especially because last month's NCHA World Championship Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas, was the second-largest show in its history.

"When they're up, we're usually up," he said.

This year's futurity will feature several changes, which could increase attendance, including:

- Contestants may enter three horses of each age, instead of two, in every contest.

- The $100,000 Amateur 4-year-old and $100,000 Amateur for 5/6-year-olds contests will replace the $50,000 versions.

- All contests will take the top 20 percent plus ties to the finals.

Last year, 28-year-old Michelle Hall became just the third female cutter to win the open finals.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.


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