EquiStat’s 2020 Leading Rider and Owner Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi at the 2020 National Finals Rodeo.

The barrel racing industry didn’t merely survive 2020 and COVID-19, it found a way to thrive. Take a look at 2020 barrel racing statistics from EquiStat, and read our exclusive breakdown of the numbers below.

Article by Tanya Randall. Statistics by EquiStat.

COMPARING THE 2020 BARREL RACING INDUSTRY TO PREVIOUS YEARS HARDLY SEEMS FAIR. The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone, and in many ways, is still impactful today. Between shutdowns, quarantines, postponements and cancellations, barrel racers spent a lot of time on their horses. When the opportunity came to enter, they did so in droves. EquiStat, the statistical division of Cowboy Publishing Group, recorded fewer than 880 events in 2020 but saw a record number of entries. Nearly 325,000 entries helped keep barrel racing on an even keel with an industrywide payout of $30 million, just $1.8 million less than in 2019.

The largest portion was the more than $17.2 million given at open, youth and senior races using the divisional format and comprised nearly 60 percent of the barrel racing industry purses in 2020. The movers and shakers within the divisional ranks that helped bump purses by $2.8 million more than in 2019 are featured in-depth in the May 2021 issue of Barrel Horse News.

Aged events—futurities and derbies— accounted for $7.25 million in 2020 and represented 24 percent of all barrel racing purses. In spite of all the COVID cancellations, Equi-Stat tracked 232 futurities with a total payout of $6.42 million. In 2019, 195 events paid $6.245 million. The top 25 futurities paid $420,000 more than those in 2019; however, even though 37 more events –namely futurity side-pots—were recorded, the remaining events paid $250,000 less than the same group last year.

Valley Girls Barrel Racing Association Barrel Daze with its $130,000 approximate payout was the most notable cancellation in 2020. The end of the Diamonds and Dirt Barrel Horse Classic in 2019 also meant a $200,000 loss.

COVID also congested the schedule once the country opened. With several events scheduled close together, trainers were forced to prioritize. For many, the goal was to peak their horses for the lucrative fall events, like the Pink Buckle, and they often skipped events they normally would have attended, had they been held when originally scheduled.

While it would be easy to blame COVID for all the significant drops in purses, several large events held before the March shutdowns also declined. The restructuring of the Lance Graves Invitational was a $160,000 purse drop with the absence of the $93,000 offer in slot races in 2019. The Kinder Cup Classic also dropped by $77,000, also largely due to a decline in slot race entries.

Overall, slot races dropped by $278,000 in 2020. They paid more than $1 million in 2019 and just over $730,000 in 2020. The three new closed events—the Ruby Buckle-Guthrie, Royal Crown and Ruby Buckle-Memphis—did contribute an additional $1 million to the futurity industry that wasn’t available in 2019. Incidentally, most events with some sort of breeders incentive all saw increases in purses including the Colorado Classic, which not only was rescheduled but relocated as well, and the Ardmore Futurity, which hosted the $204,000 Blue Collar Breeders Incentive.

Derbies and maturities saw a $116,000 purse decline from 2019 to 2020 with a total payout of $829,012. More events were also tabulated in 2020 than in 2019. The biggest hits were the loss of VGBRA’s Barrel Daze with its cancelled $33,000 derby and the $41,000 lost with the absence of Diamonds and Dirt. Surprisingly, the Old Fort Days Derby was only down by $10,000, given it was rescheduled during the heart of the summer rodeo run.

While aged events held their ground, rodeos were devastated by the pandemic. Independent barrel racing events seemingly thrived due to incredible turnouts, yet not even 200-plus entries could make up the rodeo industry’s losses. Barrel racing at rodeos awarded more than $9.5 million in 2019, but with the countless cancellations in 2020, purses were slashed in half to just $4.76 million.

To put things in perspective, Canada didn’t have a single professional rodeo last year. California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada had less than 10 pro rodeos total.

Statistically Speaking

  • Incentive programs had an incredible impact, awarding $6.25 million—21 percent of the industry’s total purse— in aged events, open races and rodeos. The addition of the Ruby Buckle races and Royal Crown accounted for the majority of the $2.5 million increase in incentive purses.
  • Of the $6.25 million awarded through incentive programs, $3 million (48 percent) was awarded at futurities.
  • Equi-Stat tracked 21,982 horses that won money in 2020. Of that total, 1,330 (6 percent) won futurity money; 773 (3.5 percent) won derby money; 771 (3.5 percent) won rodeo money; and 1,941 (9 percent) won some form of incentive money.
  • Of the 1,330 futurity horses, 420 (32 percent) won money through an incentive, while 56 (4 percent) won money at a slot race.
  • Equi-Stat tracked 15,383 money-winning riders in 2020—1,005 (7 percent) won money at futurities; 676 (4 percent) won money at derbies; and 619 (4 percent) won money at rodeos.
  • The majority (18) of top 25 futurity horses were 4-year-olds, yet only three of the Top 25 Futurities were exclusively open to 4-year-olds.
  • Of the 11,609 owners recorded by Equi-Stat, just under 10 percent—1,106—were involved in the futurity industry.
  • The majority (12) of the Top 25 Overall Horses were Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers, while 10 were futurity horses.
  • Of the Top 10 Derby Horses, five were Top 25 Futurity Horses in 2019, one was a Top 10 Derby Horse in 2019 and a Top 25 Futurity Horse in 2018, and one ranked on both the Futurity and Derby Horse Charts for 2020.
  • Jets Top Gun, the No. 3 Futurity Horse with earnings of $143,003, was the leading 5-year-old amongst the Top 25. He was also the No. 6 Derby Horse with $15,882. Total aged-event earnings for the Blazin Jetolena gelding were $158,885.
  • Of the Top 25 Futurity Horses, 12 were campaigned by their breeders or by a family member.
  • Just two of the Top 25 Futurity Horses were purchased through a prospect sale. Goodbye Lane Seis sold through the 2018 Copper Spring Ranch Sale for $27,000. Mr Golden Jess, the highestranked Canadian futurity horse, sold at the Top Gun Horse Sale for $9,000.
  • Just three of the Top 25 Overall Horses were sale purchases. DM Sissy Hayday sold for $11,500 at the 2013 Texas Best Sale. Macgyver Moonflash sold for $6,000 at the 2017 Heritage Place Winter Mixed Sale. Red Man Jones sold twice, selling for $6,900 at the 2013 Jud Little Prospect Sale and for $16,500 at the 2015 Better Barrel Races Barrel Horse Sale.
  • Leading sire Dash Ta Fame had more offspring competing in 2020 than any other stallion. He had 100 more offspring running than No. 7 Frenchmans Guy, who had 255.
  • The leading freshman sire was No. 31 No Pressure On Me. A proven performer with a black-type pedigree, No Pressure On Me’s first 10 foals to the arena earned $140,135.
  • The lone American Paint Horse amongst the Top 100 Sires was No. 78 Mr Dominator with one foal— Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Chicks Keen O Pocopoo.

*Disclaimer: Owner statistics are only as good as the records of registering associations. EquiStat records are by date of transfer, not by date of sale. Therefore, horses may be listed under the name of their former owners due to either the date of transfer in relation to the date that money was earned, or the failure to transfer ownership to a new party. 

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