By Beverly Sharp, published in the May 2011 issue of Barrel Horse News

When the idea for The Old Fort Days Barrel Futurity was conceived in 1977, no one could have guessed the extent of its success. During its 33 years, it has evolved into one of the longest lasting and most prestigious barrel futurities going.

The first futurity was run in 1978, with 176 horses nominated and only $5,000 added money. The total purse that year was $30,929, with $11,227.23 going home with Dale Youree for his winning run on Moon Sales.

The derby was added in 1979 and restricted only to the horses that were paid in full to the first futurity. The following year, the maturity, which has since been replaced with another year of derby, was added for the previous year’s derby horses. Future

Fortunes Inc., recently joined Old Fort Days as an annual sponsor of $25,000 for members registered with Future Fortunes. In addition, they also distributed twenty $100 awards to contestants by drawing numbers.

Old Fort Days is also unique from other futurities as they have only one run to qualify for the finals. There is no money paid in the qualifying round, but every horse who makes the finals receives a check. The derby is restricted to horses that were paid in full to either one of the two previous futurities.

Old Fort Days has paid more than $11.2 million in prize money over the last three decades – an average of about $331,000 each year – with added money to the futurity alone totaling $670,000.

Establishing an arena record is difficult since the pattern has been shortened slightly since 1978. Fame Fox Kirk, owned by Ed and Martha Wright, set the fastest time recorded in the finals with a 16.283 in 2001. Kay Blandford is the only contestant to win all three events – futurity, derby and maturity – in consecutive years, winning all three on the same horse, The Key Grip.

Contestants come from all over the country to have a chance to win the big prize at Old Fort Days. Both amateurs and professionals bring their best and hpe to see their name on the presentation check.

The 2011 Old Fort Days Barrel Futurity will take place May 26-28 in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Old Fort Days Numbers

4: Horses who have won titles in multiple classes at Old Fort Days – Beata Redsage (1980 Futurity/1981 Derby), Poco Jae Eckel (1982 Futurity/1983 Derby), The Key Grip (1994 Futurity/1995 Derby/ 1996 Maturity) and See Me Later Yawl (1993 Derby/ 1994 Maturity).

2: Owners who have won the Futurity and Derby with different horses – Dale and Florence Youree (Moon Sales – 1978 Futurity/ Easy Spinner – 1989 Derby) and Mike and Janet Dahlen (Red Headed Jonsey – 2004 Derby/ Hoosier Fame – 2009 Futurity).

4: Number of Derby titles won by owners Ed and Martha Wright – Billy Bars Bug (1980), Rambling Rally (1984), Fame Fox Firk (2001-2002).

2: horses to win back-to-back titles – The Key Grip (1995-1996 Derby) and Fame Fox Kirk (2001-2002 Derby).

1: Owners with back-to-back Futurity champion horses – Betty McCauley/ Brandy Wilson (Streakin Henry in 2002/Memes Streakin Dash in 2003 – full siblings by Dash for Perks and out of The Streak Laico Bird mare Princess Streaks).

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