Members number 25 in elite club

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The Augusta Futurity has been around 29 years, but there's a select few who comprise an exclusive club within the show.

In almost three decades of competition, thousands of cutters have ridden their mounts on top of the red Georgia clay inside James Brown Arena. Only 25 of them, though, belong to the prestigious "225 Club."

Kory Pounds and Cats Quixote Jack became the latest members of the 225 Club after recording the top mark of the 2008 show. Pounds and his horse marked 226 in the Western Horseman Cup Open finals, winning the competition by four points.

During the Augusta Futurity's first 23 years, judges awarded just 11 scores of 225 or better. In the past six years, 14 scores matched or exceeded that number.

Five judges rank runs between 60 and 80 points, with half-points being allowed. The final score is reached by dropping the highest and lowest scores and adding the remaining three scores. The highest possible score is 240.

For cutters, a score of 220 is considered exceptional. Tag Rice and Chiquita Pistol set the Augusta Futurity's benchmark with a score of 230.5 in the 2003 Futurity Open finals. Rice and his famed mare came back the next year and rung up 230 in the Classic Open finals.

Those two scores stand alone atop the list, ahead of a once seemingly unreachable mark. Four-time Classic Open champion Pete Branch and Little Badger Dulce recorded 227 in the 1995 Classic Open finals. Their record stood for eight years, until Rice and Chiquita Pistol came along.

In the same 2003 Futurity Open finals, Lindy Burch and Play Peek A Boon, marked 227. Burch is the lone female cutter in the 225 club.

In 2006, Matt Gaines and Matt Miller joined the club. Gaines and One Time Pepto scored 229 in the Classic Open finals, the top score in event history. Miller and Hokies Cat marked 225 in the Futurity Non-Pro finals, the highest score in that event's history.

Two years ago, Skip Queen and Sister CD had the show's top score of 227 in the Classic Non-Pro finals. Sister CD recorded another top score, a 226 with Paul Hansma aboard, in the Western Horseman Cup Open finals. Austin Shepard and Woody Be Tuff matched that total in the Classic Open finals.

If the cattle cooperate, cutters and horses may have a shot at marking 225 or better. Last year, just making 220 was a struggle.

Just 10 horses in nine official events marked a score of 220 or better. A year earlier, 15 horses reached the 220 mark.

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

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