TAMWORTH’S Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre (AELEC) is starting to heat up as the first of four days of finals kicks off today in the 2014 NCHA Futurity.
After eight days of go-arounds, the cream has come to the top and, as well as the usual faces, there have also been some surprise winners.
Todd Graham is leading the charge towards the main event, the Open Futurity, and so far he has been joined by a couple of other Hall of Famers.
The Holden brothers, Corey and Dean, are on song, with Dean being inducted to the Hall in a ceremony tomorrow evening.
Last year’s winner, Phil Dawson from Glen Innes, is also hitting form and local rider Hugh Miles got lucky when he qualified for the final with a wild card.
Barraba non pro rider and trainer Amelia Tonkin has been turning heads as she has won a couple of events.
Tonkin already has three spots in the 25-horse final wrapped up after some great rides against professional trainers and riders.
Operations manager Sam Potter said Tonkin had been amazing over the past week.
“She only trains and rides her own horses but is always up there with the professionals,” Potter said.
Another non pro hitting his straps is Jamie Inglis.
Inglis is a board member of the NCHA and also a part of the well-known Inglis Thoroughbreds and Bloodstock company, William Inglis and Sons.
Inglis has so far won three non pro events and is heading into the finals looking for some more.
“Jamie (Inglis) is on fire,” Potter said.
The biggest surprise packet of the event so far is 70-year-old Billy Neville from Baerami in the Hunter.
Neville is leading the field of the Non Pro Futurity, the second biggest event of the fortnight.
His first ride polled a huge score of 146 on his horse Coconina, before finishing with a two-ride aggregate of 287 to lead the field into the final on Sunday.
That final will be ridden before the $200,000 Open Futurity wraps up the event for another year.
The annual sale will start this afternoon, with around 80 ridden horses up for auction from 5.30pm.
NCHA president Greg Sinclair said the event couldn’t be going any better.
“We have had great numbers both riding and watching and the weather has been magic,” Sinclair said.
The finals start today at 8pm and go right through until the Open Final begins at about 4pm on Sunday.