With over $180,000 in total payouts and prizes, the Alberta Barrel Racing Association (ABRA) Finals is one of the most sought after events for racers.
This year, the association celebrated 20 years of finals at the Calnash Ag Event Centre from Wednesday, Aug. 19 to Sunday, Aug. 23 with over 1,000 barrel racers competing.
“There’s a lot of extra excitement around the fact that it’s a 20th anniversary,” said Janet Patriquin of the busy week.
Anyone looking for bigger prize money in North America has to travel to the United States and this year’s 20th anniversary could put the ABRA Finals in the top two payouts.
“We have more contestants than we’ve ever had. We have more added money,” Patriquin added.
Six ABRA members who competed in the 20 finals races each year received gold cards, which is a lifetime membership with the association.
Among the approximately 800 racers in the open category are also youth, about 270, and about 60 riders in the peewee division. Each competitor had two runs to get themselves into the top 15 spots in their division for the short go on the final day.
The payout goes to the top 15 riders in each division: 1D to 5D. Prizes for first place include a barrel, jacket, buckle and $2,500, explained Patriquin. If they make it to the short go, or finals, competitors have one chance to beat out the competitors.
The difference can come down to thousandths of a second, explained Patriquin. First place winner in the 1D division went to Melissa Harding of Bassano. Her time was 17.272, which was just ahead of Rene LeClercq, of Holden, who ran a time of 12.283.
With so many riders efficiency is important.
“We’re probably running the most efficient show yet. We’re getting through 60 to 70 (riders) an hour,” explained Patriquin.
Such growth at the ABRA Finals has given organizers few options for a big enough building. Patriquin says the ag event centre has enough parking and stalling for horses as well as bring the many vendors who show off their wares to potential buyers.
All this growth has given the ABRA Finals some incentive to work with another group in the United States to bring in more competitors. One of the reasons the finals gets so busy, added Patriquin, is anyone who is able to earn enough money at jackpots can compete.
“It’s an equal opportunity for all levels of competitors and horses,” she said.
“The whole family can pack up and come to an event,” added Patriquin.
Since its beginning the finals has grown. Patriquin said the first finals there were 100 competitors, a small amount compared to what they see today.
• First, Melissa Harding
• Second, Rene LeClercq
• Third, Sheila Chamulke
• Christine Drisner
• Cindy Goldsmith
• Lana Bohnet
• Jillian Ranks
• Jaycee Hunt
• Melissa Guenthner
• Kim Meise
• Morgan Marquardt
• Kathleen Couturier
• Michelle MacRae
• Kelli McLeod and Heather Moat