Futurity continues Augusta's history with equine stars

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Quarter horses such as Smart Little Lena, Red White and Boon, My Guy Rey, Meradas Little Sue, Little Badger Dulce, Chiquita Pistol and Tap O Lena might not be familiar to the average Augustan, but they are legendary names to cutting-horse fans.

Those horses, seen in past years at the Augusta Futurity. have lifetime earnings of more than $500,000 each. They also have sired or given birth to other legendary horses, including some of the entrants in this year's Futurity, which is being held today through Saturday, Jan. 26, at James Brown Arena, 605 Seventh St.

Two well-known cutting horses -- High Brow CD and Desires Little Rex -- can be seen in the 4-year-old Futurity Open competition Monday.

High Brow CD, ridden by Austin Shepard, of Summerdale, Ala., in December won the prestigious National Cutting Horse Association Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas, and earned $250,000.

Desires Little Rex, ridden by Charles "Bubba" Matlock, of Whitt, Texas, placed second in the Fort Worth event..

THE AUGUSTA AREA has a rich horse history, dating back to the 1700s when pioneers arrived on the scene. Organized horse races offering prizes were held in the late 1700s not far from where the civic center is now.

Buffalo Bill Cody brought his Wild West show to Augusta in October 1878. He returned several times, including in 1895, 1901 and 1912, with some of those visits including sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

Horses were used in the filming of several silent movies in Augusta, including the early (pre-Shirley Temple) version of The Littlest Rebel, starring Western movie heroes William and Dustin Farnum. The Photoplay Co. of New York in May 1914 filmed the Civil War battle scenes for the film off Stevens Creek Road.

In 1920, The Arizona Bandit was filmed on the bluffs of the Savannah River in North Augusta, with local resident and skilled rider Ernest Hart as the star. The movie apparently was never released, most likely because Hart was arrested that July, two months after the filming, after a bungled train robbery. He and some cohorts tried to steal the payroll for the Marine base at Parris Island, S.C.

Probably the first truly famous horse to come to Augusta was Tony, who accompanied his owner and rider, cowboy movie star Tom Mix, for an appearance at the Imperial Theatre on Dec. 14, 1933.

Another film cowboy, Gene Autry, brought his horse Champion to Augusta's Bell Auditorium in 1948 and in March 1950. Mr. Autry didn't ride into town on Champion, though. He piloted his twin-engine plane to Augusta on the 1950 visit, landing at Daniel Field on the day of the show.

The Lone Ranger brought his horse Silver to Jennings Stadium at Augusta's Allen Park in July 1957 for two shows, with the dog Lassie also on the bill.

The cutting horses at James Brown Arena might not be as world famous as Tony or Champion or Silver, but they still are great horses to watch as they do their cutting thing.

Don Rhodes has written about country music for 37 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at don.rhodes@morris.com.

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