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Barrel racing is a popular event at rodeos. Riders, usually young women, race their horses around barrels in an arena in a cloverleaf pattern. The popularity of the sport has grown recently and now, it has its own races and competitive riders.
However in Gretna, Florida, a proposal to make barrel racing into a betting sport has run into stiff opposition. Quarter horse trainers and breeders are filing a lawsuit to stop it, claiming that the new event could harm their industry.
On race day at a new barrel racing arena called Creek Entertainment Gretna, which is located north of Tallahassee in Florida’s panhandle, barrel racers and their horses enter the gates of adjoining pens. After the starting lights go from red to green, horse and racers are off. It was over in only seventeen seconds.
There have been betting before in other barrel races, but the facility at Gretna is believed to be the first in the country to turn barrel racing into a pari-mutuel-type betting sport, where those who bet on the top three finishers split the pot.
According to the part owner of Creek Entertainment, Marc Dunbar, who is also an attorney and has worked for a long time in the horse racing industry in Florida, this type of barrel racing is still a work in progress and is part of an effort to bring new kind of customer to horse racing.
He also said that interest in horse racing has deteriorated in recent years the opposite is true for barrel racing.
Dunbar said, “When you travel around the country, what you see is, even with the biggest rodeos, they’re actually moving barrel racing to after bull riding — because it’s more popular now.”