Cancer survivor ties for the Non-Pro lead

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Wendy Warne's Western wear displayed a bit of flair Saturday morning.

With her loud pink long-sleeved shirt, the cancer survivor said she put on the garb with no purpose in mind.

"It was just what I already had ironed this morning," Warne said with a laugh.

Warne and Squeakys Playboy marked 216 to tie for first place in the $20,000 Non-Pro Any Age go-round standings at James Brown Arena.

Tara Gaines and Patrick La Dual, as well as Shanna Wise and Felina Flo, matched Warne and her horse for the top spot. The top 10 horses with scores of 212 or better advanced to tonight's finals.

"I believe I have the horsepower to win it," Warne said. "But everything has to be right. There's too much involved."

Warne is grateful for the opportunity to show her horse after the past few years. In 2007, Warne was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 31. She went through multiple hospitals before ending up at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She finally got on the right track, receiving months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Despite feeling down at times, she found hope through her friends in the cutting horse business.

"I had a ton of support from this industry," Warne said. "Everybody was phenomenal from the time I was sick."

Her cancer has been in remission for almost a year. When she received her release to ride again, one of her now-retired horses that was previously injured recovered in time for her to jump back aboard.

"That got me going," she said.

An account manager for a data management computer system, Warne, of Pageland, S.C., will be making her first finals appearance in Augusta. In her past two showings here, she did little in the go-rounds.

"This," she said, "is like getting a monkey off my back."

Whether she and her 13-year-old gelding win today, Warne said she's just thankful for the opportunity.

"All of us are blessed just to be able to do this and to be strong enough to sit on these horses," she said. "It's just a blessing."

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

TODAY AT THE FUTURITY

The Classic Open first go-round will begin at 9 a.m. Later in the afternoon, following the completion of the Classic Open, the $100,000 Amateur for 5/6-Year-Old finals will be held. The $20,000 Non-Pro finals will follow.

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