Chubby Turner finally won the Open Championship at the Augusta Futurity.
It only took 39 years.
“I never won here,” he said with a smile, waiting to pick up his trophy for the win with Wanna Duel. “I’ve been to several of them, I’ve even judged it once, (and) I came to the first one in 1980 and I was second. Pat Earnheart, who’s now deceased but was a real good friend of all of ours, he won it and I was second in the very first one, so this is pretty cool.”
Turner, of Weatherford, Texas, guided the sorrel Dual Rey mare to a 220 in the first of two sets in Friday night’s finals in Augusta, Georgia. Although happy with the performance, the Equi-State Elite $2 Million Rider fully expected someone in the field – which included 2017 National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity Open Champion Dual Reyish — to ride off with the top prize.
“I didn’t think I’d win it. I just thought, ‘Wow, I’m gonna get a nice check out of this deal.’ I mean, Austin (Shepard) had four horses and there were several great horses there,” Turner said. “The cows were just a little bit blah there tonight, and it was hard to get hooked up and I just happened to get two that worked. If I’d have cut a third one I’d of probably messed it up, so it just worked out.”
The win earned $10,000 for owner J5 Horse Ranch Management LLC, of Weatherford, which bought the daughter of Zacks Fifth Avenue (by Zack T Wood) last year from Ty Cole Performance Horses. She was bred by RCJ Cutting Horses LLC, of Euless, Texas.
Turner said his arena helpers were the key to getting the cows he and Wanna Dual, aka “Vita,” needed to win. The roster included Jonathan Rogers, Gaylon Wells, Austin Shepard and his long-time helper Lindy Burch, of whom Turner quipped, “We’ve been together for more years than she wants to admit.”
“They just found me the cows down there and I’m telling you, those two herd-holders, they’ve been with me all week and I had trouble cutting the first few days here,” said Turner, who will turn 70 in February. “I was trying to power cut: too much to them, too quick, and they told me to use patience more and wait, which I did.”
A tack change also may have played into Turner finally getting his win in Augusta.
“I didn’t do very good at the (NCHA) Futurity in Fort Worth,” Turner said. “I didn’t even make the second go-round, but I’ve been working her a lot and gaining and finally it clicked to me, something yesterday, that I needed to change, and I went to a softer bit.”
He made the change the day of the Augusta Futurity, digging into his tack stash to find a bit that he thought would do the trick for Vita. It was a Buster Welch bit, an old one he recalled once using on a Paint mare while going for a World Championship.”
“I’ve won a lot of money in this bridle. I’ve had it for about 40 years,” he said.
The bit must have had some magic left in it, because Turner said Vita, who he described as a cool mare who responded to the softer bit, worked better in training the day of the Augusta Futurity then she’d ever worked before. She also seemed to feel right at home in the cutting pen at James Brown Arena, a place Turner said he’s also always liked.
“I’ve always done well here. I don’t know (why),” he said. “It kind of fits me and it’s just a really cool place to come.”
The night of the Augusta Futurity, it was also the best place to be.
“Well, I’m the luckiest man in Augusta, I think,” Turner said, smiling.
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