This year's Augusta Futurity broke records for entries and payout. The 4-Year-Old Open was won by Austin Shepard and Kittennish. • Photo by S. Sylvester Photography

Augusta Futurity Breaks Records with 2023 Show

This year’s Augusta Futurity helped kick off the 2023 show season with record entries and a record payout, organizers say.

Show Manager Sherry Fulmer said the event, held Jan. 13-21, reported a combined 1,551 entries between its weekend and aged event classes. It paid out a show total $1,003,864, also a record.

Great news, but it meant they had to order a lot more finalist buckles.

It was “a wonderful problem,” to have, Fulmer said.

“We made a decision early on that we would go back to the old ways of the Augusta Futurity where all finalists get a buckle. We projected a 10% increase over last year, because we were moving to a new arena so we thought some people would come who maybe were hesitant to come last year,” Fulmer said. “But we never projected the increase that we got. You couldn’t. I mean, one [class] went from 18 entries last year to 48 this year.”

Though the show changed arenas, it was once again held about two hours south of Atlanta, Georgia, at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, Georgia. For most of its history, it was held about 150 miles away at the James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia.

The 2023 Augusta Futurity was the first edition of the show run by new leadership in many years. Last year, Augusta Futurity co-founder and Morris Communications chairman William S. “Billy” Morris III, handed the reins of the host Atlantic Coast Cutting Horse Association (ACCHA) — and, thus, the Augusta Futurity — to new ACCHA President Mark Senn.

Morris, who remains on the Augusta Futurity Board of Directors, was honored at the 2023 show for his long service to the event. His many years of service to the Augusta Futurity were recognized on Jan. 20 during the show.

“This Futurity has been my love for over 40 years,” Morris said. “I am particularly appreciative of this recognition and honor.”

Though the 2023 Augusta Futurity 4-Year-Old Open and 5/6-Year-Old Open were both won by long-time show supporter Austin Shepard, this year’s Augusta Futurity attracted several trainers who hadn’t been on the show’s drawlists in many years. The lucrative weekend shows and non-pro aged event classes seemed to be particular draws.

While the show has paid well and attracted the stars of the sport in the past, it now uses the new leveled format offers more opportunities for entries at all levels.

“We used right at 4,100 head of cattle,” Fulmer said, noting that’s the most they’ve ever needed. “So, we’re just real proud of it.”