ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The Texan Barrel Race is a new kind of rodeo event debuting at Abilene’s Taylor County Expo Center. This national competition is making waves not only for its unique format, but for the unconventionally high amount of prize money at stake.
“There’s yet to be this level of competition and payout, and that’s what we’re bringing to Abilene. The facility here is fantastic,” raved event organizer and owner of Group W Productions, Chris Woodruff.
Woodruff has organized many large rodeo and trade events in Las Vegas, but told KTAB/KRBC he is happy to return to his home state of Texas to debut this exciting new format of barrel racing, a competition he’s calling “The Texan.”
“The national finals rodeo in Las Vegas is next month… It’ll pay out a million dollars, but you had to earn your way to get to there, and you gotta be the top 15 barrel racers in the world – of which several of those are competing here this week,” Woodruff said.
With nearly 900 competitors gunning for their chance, there is a lot of money to be won. Daily prizes gross up to $1,500, plus a grand prize for the 1D champion of $100,000 along with a saddle made by Seven Saddle are on the line in each division.
The format has changed as well. In The Texan, competitors are able to enter up to three times, and each entry allows two runs that will be counted towards the prize money. That allows the chance for some to win multiple ranks with six runs total.
“It’s unheard of for the fourth and fifth D (divisions) to pay 50, 40, 30 thousand, second place 20,000. Y’know, those horses, probably, are only worth about 20 to 15 thousand,” explained Woodruff.
While competitions at this level usually have a grand prize purse that is paid into by entrants, this nearly $1 million purse is being funded by Woodruff and his company, Group W productions.
“Football players are making millions. The rodeo athlete is still the least paid… Somebody has to step out in the industry and say they believe in the industry. We have a great product,” Woodruff told KTAB/KRBC. “Hopefully, we can set a new standard for the barrel racing side of it.”
This kind of notable national event is exactly the kind Taylor County Expo Center Executive Director and Vice President, Rochelle Johnson said she and her team have been working to attract.
“It’s exactly why we built the Taylor Telecom Arena and First Financial Pavilion, and did the upgrades on Guitar Arena… We knew if we had better facilities we would attract larger events,” boasted Johnson.
It’s that support and investment from the community that Johnson said enabled them to bring in bigger and bigger events, and The Texan is an entirely new one. After seeing our facilities televised on the Cowboy Channel, Woodruff said Abilene makes the perfect backdrop for this first national outing.
“I know the city and the county have made a huge investment in this facility… Rochelle and her team here has really taken care of us, the city has gotten behind us. Abilene is a great location to have this kind of event,” Woodruff listed.
Johnson said this positive word of mouth and increased notoriety make it easier for Abilene to compete for events on the national stage.
“Even though we’re not the tourist attraction, maybe,” added Johnson, “we have a lot of great things here that make them happy to come to a smaller community, because we can treat them better.”
As of Monday, there are still a few spots open for competitors to enter. Exhibitions began Monday October, 16 and events run through Sunday, October 22. Admission is free to the public.