angle-left Stake Race 101

Stake Race 101

Ride along and learn about AQHA’s fastest speed event: stake race.

stake race 2015 aqha youth world champion (Credit: Journal)

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By Isabelle Ritz for America’s Horse

Stake race is one of just six timed, or non-judged, events in AQHA competition (the others being barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway roping, team penning and ranch sorting), and there are divisions for youth, amateur and Select competitors.

The AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations lays out the details: 

  • The stake race pattern consists of two markers set 80 feet apart on either side of the center line.

  • Contestants are allowed a running start to complete a Figure 8 pattern around the markers.

  • After starting, they must cross the center line between the two markers, head to the left or right side of the first pole, complete a 180-degree turn, head to the second pole, turn around it in the opposite direction and then head to the center line to stop the clock. 

  • Contestants may use a riding crop to enhance the horse’s natural ability to race. 

  • The judge, at his or her discretion, may disqualify a contestant for excessive use of a bat, crop, whip or rope in front of the cinch.

What Makes a Good Stake Race Horse

  • Horses that excel in pole bending or barrel racing.

  • A horse that will "handle" to a certain point with speed.

  • Certain bloodlines with speed and agility.

If an exhibitor is competitive to make it to a world championship show, he or she will compete in one preliminary round. If the competitor places in the top 15, he or she will advance to the finals. The AQHA rulebook says that in the stake race, all horses enter the final round with a clean slate, meaning no times are carried from the preliminaries to the finals. To be eligible for a top-10 placing, an official time must be made in the finals.