Nicole Aldridge is making herself right at home in the Augusta Futurity.
In her second appearance, Aldridge captured her second title Thursday, the first day of this year's show. Atop Outlaw Cat AKA Jack, Aldridge marked 217.5 to capture the $100,000 Amateur for 5/6-Year-Olds finals at James Brown Arena.
Aldridge of Killen, Ala., took home the first-place check of $5,487. Jason McClure of Hayesville, N.C., and Cats Gotta Merada tied with Seth E. Holcombe of Birmingham, Ala., and Like It That Way for second place at 215. The co-reserve champions won $4,048.
The 35-year-old Aldridge first competed in the Augusta Futurity last year alongside her husband, Randy. She defeated him by a half-point in the $50,000 Amateur Any Age finals.
Like last year, she again drew up late in the finals. In 2006, she won riding 11th of 13 horses. This time, she drew up ninth in the 10-horse final.
"My luck is I usually draw late," she said. "I've learned how to handle it."
And she's learned how to ride Outlaw Cat AKA Jack, a 6-year-old gelding by High Brow Cat out of Little Smashed. She immediately liked what she saw when she bought him last summer.
"He's so smooth," she said. "He's like riding on glass. He just coasts across the pen from one side to the other. He's wonderful to ride."
Earlier in the day, the pair marked 214 in the go-round to tie for fourth place, finishing three points behind McClure and his mare. Aldridge said the run settled her fears about the horse.
"I've always had real good luck with him," she said. "Then I rode him a little bit last weekend and there was just something not right. I couldn't figure out what it was. But I got on him today and he was right back to being Jack."
Aldridge, who helps Randy with his real estate development business, is starting to make a name for herself on the cutting horse circuit. With her latest victory, the mother of two boys - Harrison (13), Matthew (8) - and stepmother of one daughter - Randal (19) - has amassed more than $75,000 in six years showing cutting horses.
More than $12,000 of that total has come from her wins in Augusta, which is suddenly becoming her second home.
"I don't know. I've been real lucky," she said. "I don't know if the pen is a little smaller. Or if the cows just work good. I don't know. The whole thing just works for me."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.