The Big League Barrel Race made its debut at the prestigious Somervell County Exposition Center in Glen Rose, Texas, on March 2, 2023. Produced by J&J Productions, the one-day 3D race boasted the lucrative opportunity for contestants to run for impressive payouts on a weekday.
With a $750 entry fee, Jodi Robertson, owner and producer of J&J Productions, was hopeful when releasing the The Big League Barrel Race entry form that the race would fill its 200 designated spots. To her surprise, the race filled in just five short days. Robertson claims she had such an overwhelming response that a wait list developed.
The three-divisional format attracted multiple National Finals Rodeo qualifiers and several $1 million-earning futurity trainers.
“I have been a contestant, and I have been a producer, and I understand the amount of money that it takes to get these horses to the point of entering. I truly believe the top horses need to be rewarded,” Robertson said.
The format also gave barrel racers an opportunity to compete against the best in the business without limiting the payout to top winners, giving every caliber of horse and rider the chance to run for life-changing payouts.
“Anybody on their best day has a chance to be in the 3D or above. Even if a horse has a bad day, most can still clock a second off,” Robertson said.
Robertson explains that her inspiration includes the team roping industry, which follows the higher entry fee, higher payout system. Robertson offered a payment plan to accommodate contestants.
The race exceeded her expectations, aside from the tornado that came through that evening. She noted there are several key components that play into producing a successful race of this prestige.
“As a producer, you cannot cut any corners,” Robertson said. “We ran three tractors at a time and drug the ground after every four runners, as well as flying an announcer in and having a designated photographer and live feed available for viewing. My priority is to make the contestants feel like we want them here by accommodating them. Every contestant who checked in received a Big League Barrel Race hat. I truly want my contestants to come back to my races.”
Robertson plans to host another Big League Barrel Race in October 2023. Entries in the original race have the first option to enter the second race, and empty spots will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis when entries open. She only plans to host two per year to make the race a sought-after, high-demand event.
Robertson notes that all of this is possible thanks to her help, contestants, and her four title sponsors — 70 Ranch Performance Horses, Elder Dodge, Doc Homes, and Noko Ranch.
Three-Divisional Payout Offers Life-Changing Money to Wide Array of Horses and Contestants
One of the most pivotal successes of the Big League Barrel Race was it offered a chance for any skill or experience level of horse-and-rider combination to compete in a slot race format.
In comparison to events such as the Pink Buckle Open 4D — in which higher entry fees are paid with higher payouts — the Big League Barrel Race followed suit in a non-incentive way, offering all open horses and riders the chance to compete and win payouts not offered anywhere else.
Jett Petkovich, an aspiring barrel horse trainer from Stephenville, Texas, entered the Big League Barrel Race aboard her recently purchased mare, Smooth Painted Wagon (A Smooth Guy x VF Paint Me A Prize, PYC Paint Your Wagon), with the intention of reaping the opportunity to compete in an open slot race against top-caliber horses and riders.
“I entered the Big League Barrel Race as soon as entries opened,” Petkovich described. “I primarily entered this race because of the 3D format. I believe any level of horse can take a wrong step in the barrel race and still be in the 3D and win a lot of money.”
Petkovich said she is very supportive of the barrel industry evolving toward higher entry fee, higher payout races.
“It feels very much worth the hard work, money, time, and effort I put into these horses to get lucky and win $7,000 at a barrel race instead of $200,” Petkovich said.
With the amount of money it takes to keep horses going in today’s industry with vet bills, farrier bills, and therapies for her horses, Petkovich said it is refreshing to see the industry evolving and to have the opportunity to run for profitable payouts in hopes to help replenish the costs associated with maintaining high-end barrel horses.
Petkovich prepared as much as possible beforehand for the race, using her favorite therapies such as Flexineb and Magnawave on her mare “Swaze” and arriving early the day of the race because of the tornado-like storms rolling in.
“I try to use Fallon Taylor’s mentality of, “How would you spend the day of the race if you had already won it?”” Petkovich said.
With a grateful heart and humble mentality, Petkovich tried hard to prevent the expensive entry fee and high payout from weighing heavy on her mind, and instead tried to focus on enjoying the moment and doing the very best she and her mare could do.
“It was so much fun entering the warm-up pen with multiple NFR and American qualifiers,” Petkovich exclaimed. “I am glad the race offered a 2D and 3D option, so I didn’t have to win the entire race to be competitive. I sent my mare down the alley being totally confident, and my main goal was to keep her moving forward around the barrels. We did step off the backside of the second barrel, but the entire time I focused on forward motion throughout the run. At the end of the run, I was so excited to have a clean run, and I hoped to place anywhere throughout the race, because there was so much money added.”
When Petkovich found out she won the 3D, she was overwhelmed with thankfulness and credits her success toward God for providing for her and bringing her this far. The large check meant a lot to Petkovich, to look at it every day and know it played a part in helping her reach her goals and dreams as an aspiring horse trainer.
Petkovich plans to invest a majority of her earnings back into her horses. She also plans to enter the October 2023 Big League Barrel Race with her winnings.