Last week the Florida First District Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that “barrel horse racing” was not a legitimate form of horse racing eligible for Pari-Mutuel wagering in the state of Florida.
The ruling came as good news to horse breeders in Florida, who have been fighting this legal battle since 2011 when Florida issued a license to Gretna Racing LLC to operate a racino and card room.
In Florida, card rooms and racinos must be connected to a licensed horse racing facility. Gretna was hoping that by convincing lawmakers that “barrel racing” and “flag drop racing” were forms of Quarter Horse racing, they could operate their card rooms and racinos without the expense of operating an actual real-life racetrack.
Florida Quarter Horse breeders have been fighting them every step of the way, arguing that it will irreparably harm the legitimate Quarter Horse racing industry.
But just what is “barrel racing” and “flag drop racing”?
Both types of races are common gymkhana or O-Mok-See events. Gymkhana and O-Mok-See are equestrian events that involve pattern racing; timed events where riders take turns completing courses or challenges. Barrel racing is also a common event at professional rodeos, usually for female riders, and has been growing in popularity over the years.
In a barrel race, riders take turns completing a cloverleaf pattern between barrels in a ring. Each rider’s run is timed by a judge or by an electronic timer. The rider with the fastest time is declared the winner.
In flag drop races, a rider has to complete a similar course of barrels in an arena, only in this type of race the rider has to alternate dropping flags from one bucket and picking them up from another. This type of race combines the speed of the horse with the agility of the rider, who has to both control the horse and manage the flags.
Again, the run is timed and the times of each rider are compared to determine a winner.
These events are certainly exciting, as evidenced by the growing popularity of women’s barrel racing at major rodeos around the country. Some rodeos have even started holding the barrel racing events after the bull riding events because of how popular they are with fans.
What’s at issue in Florida, however, isn’t whether or not these events are legitimate forms of “horse racing.” What is at issue is whether or not Gretna are the innovators of an entirely new form of Pari-Mutuel horse racing that will benefit riders, breeders and fans; or whether Gretna is attempting to exploit a loophole in the law so they can operate a casino without investing in the horse racing industry that has made brick-and-mortar gaming possible in the state.
What do you say? Would you like to watch and wager on this kind of racing? Or is this just a scam?