We're All Racing: Part 1

Barrel racing and flat racing are seeing more crossover in the sale ring and breeding shed.

It’s easy to say that barrel racing and flat racing are similar in that the fastest horse wins, but on the other hand, the two industries can sometimes seem worlds apart. In recent years, however, those two distinct worlds have come closer as barrel racers seek to add more speed to their bloodlines, and racehorse breeders and stallion owners seek new revenue streams. While hard numbers are difficult to come by, the fact that a barrel horse sold for $50,000 at this year’s Heritage Place Winter Mixed Sale – one of racing’s biggest auctions – is a good indication that the level of crossover between the two industries is on the rise. “I’ve seen an increasing number of barrel trainers at the January Heritage Sale that are buying straight racehorse prospects to make barrel horses out of them,” says performance horse breeder Jud Little, who stands seven stallions at his Jud Little Ranch near Ardmore, Oklahoma. “They are making a very significant impact on the racehorse sale industry.”

Not only are barrel racers making an impact on the sale industry, they are also having an impact on the breeding industry. Jud, who has been operating his ranch for more than 35 years, has long been an advocate of bringing racehorse blood into barrel racing. And he’s not alone.

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“The competition in barrel racing is so fierce now,” says Mary Ellen Hickman, president of Future Fortunes Inc., a stallion incentive program for barrel horses. “Maybe the dam is more of a working-bred horse, but they go to a racehorse sire to get some more speed in there.” After all, speed is the name of the game whether you are running down the track or around the barrels. “I’m all about that speed; it makes up for so many other things,” Jud says.

Racehorse Stallions for Barrel Racing

Racehorse breeders might not recognize many names in the pedigrees of Jud’s stallions, until they get to No Mas Corona. The 6-year-old stallion is by First Down Dash’s son Fishers Dash and is out of the winning Sizzle Te broodmare of the year Sizzling Lil, who has produced racing champions Corona Chick and Corona Kool. According to Jud, No Mas Corona flashed brilliant speed in morning workouts until an injury stopped his racing career before it even started. “We are primarily marketing him to barrel horse people, and they have really accepted him wonderfully. His first crop is now 2-year-olds, and we really like them.” But unlike with a racehorse stallion, where you can at least get an idea of his chances for success at the end of his first crop’s 2-year-old season, it takes longer in the barrel racing world where the majority of horses don’t compete until age 4 or 5 and sometimes don’t achieve success until they approach double-digit age. “It takes five years (to prove a barrel stallion), and it’s a painstakingly exhausting kind of thing to wait that long, but it’s just the nature of the beast,” Jud says.

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Jud has noticed that other barrel horse breeders are also adding race-bred stallions to their rosters. Many others are breeding to established race-bred stallions, and broodmares with racehorse blood have long been successful in barrel racing. “(All American Futurity winner) Bugs Alive In 75 has been a leading maternal grandsire of barrel horses for years,” he says. “It’s a matter of picking and choosing the right bloodlines. I’ve identified six or seven lines of horses, both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse, that might not suit on the first or second line of pedigree but I might like to see them on the third line. I constantly tinker with it.” Stay tuned for the second part of this series.