Hundreds of horses from all over the United States and across the globe traveled to Kay Rodgers Park in Fort Smith for the Old Fort Days Futurity and Derby.
Approximately 600 horses will compete this week.
“I brought six futurity colts,” said Donald Keller, a participant.
Keller drove 15 hours from Virginia for the event. His goal: “Try to win the golden dream here, make some money,” he said.
Organizers estimate approximately $400,000 is up for grabs.
“The money here is phenomenal,” said Johna Ryan, a participant. “It’s great money and everybody wants it."
Ryan traveled from Wisconsin with her horse, nicknamed “Booty.”
“It’s a privilege to even get to run here,” she said.
People from Alaska, Brazil, and even Canada come to compete. “
It’s the most prestigious," said Beverly Sharp, secretary of the futurity. "This is the one everybody wants to come to."
Trainers start working with the horses while they are young. Riders must navigate the horse around barrels in the arena and the fastest time wins.
“It takes two full years to have a horse that’s capable of winning at this class,” said Keller.
Only the top 40 horses make it to the futurity finals. The top 20 derby horses make it to the finals.
“Blackberry Smoke is ready to go have a good time,” said Keller. “He’s not the most serious barrel horse, but he is a party animal,” he said.
The first round of events kicks off Thursday. Admission is free that day and Friday. Tickets to the finals on Saturday are $6.