Not horsing around

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Last year, Roger Wagner recorded one of the finest weeks in Augusta Futurity history.

Roger Wagner rode Pet Squirrel to victory in the 2006 Futurity Open. He also placed second and third in other events.  Special
Special
Roger Wagner rode Pet Squirrel to victory in the 2006 Futurity Open. He also placed second and third in other events.

Wagner captured the Futurity Open finals, finished second in the Classic Open finals and took third in the Western Horseman Cup Open finals.

"It's been a great week," Wagner said after the show ended. "It's always tough in Augusta. But it turns out if you can be successful it's something to remember.

"You couldn't ask for much better."

Who will step up this year and, like Wagner, have a career week? Much will be learned soon as this year's edition of the Augusta Futurity kicks-off, running from today through Jan. 27 at James Brown Arena.

There are a few changes to this year's version of the show. The $100,000 Non-Pro Any Age competition has been added, bringing the number of official events to nine.

Another change which will affect riders and spectators alike is the scoring system. In years past, the Augusta Futurity has displayed scores from all five judges throughout the arena. The highest and lowest scores are dropped and the remaining three comprise the rider's total.

Last year, the National Cutting Horse Association implemented a new rule which forces sanctioned shows to display just the total score for the rider. Individual scores from all five judges will not be announced until the following day.

The Augusta Futurity plans to abide by the NCHA rule and display just one score.

Another change comes with the wildly popular Extra Inning World Championship bull riding competition, which has sold out James Brown Arena each of the past three years. The event switches from its typical Friday position to Saturday night. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the bull riding will begin at 8.

Like the bull riding, the annual Wrangler Family Fun Fest will move back a day. The free event will run from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday on Seventh Street in front of the arena.

There will be pony rides, a petting zoo, a Western town, music and clogging.

However, the main event is the Augusta Futurity itself. More than 600 entrants are expected for the largest cutting horse event east of the Mississippi River.

Last year, the show featured 743 entries from 31 states, Canada and Italy.

The 2006 show also featured a purse which topped the $1 million mark ($1,082,140) for the third consecutive year. The Augusta Futurity is expected to reach the $1 million total again.

The Classic Open and Non-Pro finals will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday. The Western Horseman Cup finals will begin at 7 p.m. on Jan. 26.

The show wraps up with the main event, the Futurity Open and Non-Pro finals Jan. 27. Opening ceremonies begin at 5:30 p.m.

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


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