Many successful horses in the barrel racing industry have a Thoroughbred or two on their papers. Some great barrel horses even have a Thoroughbred parent. Martha Josey’s first barrel horse Cebe Reed was by the winning Thoroughbred stallion Frank’s Pal. Martha and Cebe won 52 consecutive races and qualified for the NFR in 1968 and 1969. While great barrel horses with Thoroughbred parents have become less common, we found three that have made an impression on the sport in recent years.
RLJ High Intensity
RLJ High Intensity, also known as Slick, is an eleven-year-old gelding by Streakin Again and out of Lite Me Up. Lite Me Up is an unraced Thoroughbred mare. She was bred by Jim Jackson and born in Texas. Her sire, Lite the Fuse, was an accomplished sprinter. He won the Carter Handicap twice, Tom Fool Stakes, Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes twice, and the Bold Ruler Handicap. His earnings totaled over $1 million and his get earned in excess of $20 million on the track. His top progeny include Going Ballistic, Ablo, and Fuse It. Some of his daughters, such as Lite Me Up, have crossed well on Quarter Horse stallions.
Possibly in part to his Thoroughbred dam, Slick is extremely fast and athletic. He had numerous futurity wins including the BFA World Championship Futurity, Southern Rebel Barrel Futurity, and East Coast Classic Futurity. He has won at the highest levels of the sport with at least four different riders. His most recent wins have been with Allie Chouest. The pair have won the Triple Crown Super Show, All American Youth, Patriot Barrel Race, BBR World Finals, and many other large barrel races. In total, Slick has well over $300,000 in earnings.
Pearl Snappin, also known as Pearl, is an eleven-year-old mare by Ketchum Cowboy and out of Naturally Best, by Peppy San Badger. Ketchum Cowboy was a Thoroughbred stallion bred by Overbrook Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. He was by multiple graded stakes winner Salt Lake and out of Snowmass, by the great Kingmambo. Ketchum Cowboy made one start under Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, finished fourth, and never raced again. He was purchased by the famous 6666 Ranch as a potential outcross sire. He was used as a cutting and all-around ranch horse until his untimely death. He only sired a handful of foals in his short time at stud and Pearl is an absolute standout.
Pearl is owned by Abby Pursifull of Paris, Texas. They have qualified for the American Semi Finals in each of the past three years. One year, they were second in the long go of the American Semi Finals. They ran a 13.8 seconds and won about $11,000. They had a good run in the second round, but just barely missed the cut off to go to AT&T Stadium. In 2016, Abby and Pearl won Rodeo Austin which is one of their biggest accomplishments. Pearl has also helped Abby win the UPRA Champion Barrel Racer title two years in a row and they are qualified again for the finals in November. In total, Pearl’s lifetime earnings are nearing $300,000!
This is what Abby had to say about her amazing mare: “Pearl has a huge heart. I wouldn’t call her a ‘barn burner,’ as in she’s not going to go blow away the competition. But no matter where we run, I know that I have a chance of placing. She is a placer and seems to adapt to our competition… She is a rodeo horse all the way. She’s hot, but she’s very smart. I know her every move and I can adjust to her moods. I am pretty much the only person that has ridden her since she was four years old, so I know every single button she has. She is crazy athletic. I love her roll-back style in her turns. I believe it helps us stop the clock. I think what makes her a great barrel horse is that she loves her job. She loves to do it just as much as I do. We click so well that it just comes easy for us both to do our job.”
Sierra Hall of Fame
Sierra Hall of Fame, also known as Eagle, was foaled in New Mexico in 2005. His sire was the legendary Dash Ta Fame and his dam was the Thoroughbred mare La Ganadora, by stakes winner Pirate’s Bounty. Pirate’s Bounty was a leading sire in California and his get earned over $30 million on the track. His top progeny include Pirate’s Revenge, Private Persuasion, and Feverish. Sierra Hall of Fame was not one of Pirate’s Bounty’s more successful grandget. He raced for his breeder Juan Sierra at three years old. He made two starts at Los Alamitos and earned just $600 on the track.
Eagle was never destined to be a racehorse. He had bigger things to accomplish in the barrel pen. After he left the track, he was trained by Chris Duke. Chris and Eagle won money at he LG Pro Classic Slot Race and were finalists at the BFA World Championship Futurity. He was purchased by Kassidy Dennison and her family. Kassidy sought help from barrel horse trainer Dena Kirkpatrick and started entering High School Rodeos. The rest is history.
Eagle helped Kassidy win the the Rookie of the Year title in the Turquoise Circuit in 2011. In 2013, they won the year-end title in the Turquoise Circuit and qualified for their first RNCFR. Then in 2014, they won the Central Wyoming Fair and PRCA Rodeo, the Fourth of July Celebration and PRCA Rodeo, the Livermore Rodeo, the Riverdale Rodeo, the Stonyford Rodeo, and the semifinal round at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Guthrie, Oklahoma. They qualified for their first NFR, placed in two rounds, won the third round, and finished the year ranked 10th in the world standings.
In 2017, Kassidy sold Eagle to Kellie Collier and her family shortly before the NFR. With Eagle’s help, Kellie placed in two rounds and was 8th in the average. The following season, they placed at several rodeos. Unfortunately, Eagle stumbled at a rodeo and suffered a catastrophic injury. Eagle may no longer be with us on earth, but he will always be one of the greats – half Thoroughbred and all heart.