San Juan County riders win big checks at Salina barrel racing event

Three San Juan County riders made quite a bit of noise at the Xtreme Million Finals barrel races at the Blackhawk Arena in Salina, UT June 22-28.

Joanie Wilcox, Tamy Jaramillo, and Wendy Brandt all qualified for the inaugural event which drew over 1,000 riders from 30 different states and Canada and set a new world record for the largest payout in divisional barrel racing history, awarding more than $1 million in cash and prizes.

Wilcox was the top San Juan County finisher, claiming first place in the fourth division (4D) with a time of 16.367 on RF Big Dreamer. She brought home an impressive $23,758 (the eighth-highest payout) and a custom saddle from Burns Saddlery in Salina.

Jaramillo tied for the 23rd-highest payout, earning $13,036 with her fourth-place 3D finish in 15.875 on Smokem Shawnee.

Brandt tied for 3D 153rd with a time of 16.744 on Smart Valentine.

Amelia McCumber, who drove all the way from Nebraska, was the 1D champion and top check recipient with a prize of $67,338.

Wilcox said it was an exciting win for her, and she will definitely attempt to qualify for the event in 2021. Her husband, Mike, said if Joanie continues the impressive performance, he might finally be able to retire.

Divisional races are the most common type that amateur barrel racers are familiar with. The format is more “family friendly” than some competitions, pays out more places, and allows riders who might be a few seconds off the pace of the top horses to place or even win a championship.

Danna Burns-Shaw, fifth generation owner of Burns Management Services, which includes Burns Saddlery and Burns Events (the production company behind the event), told the Richfield Reaper the plan to build the biggest payout in divisional barrel racing history was imagined 20 years ago, but her family had been working on it full-time for the last two and a half years.

They weren’t about to let COVID-19 derail their dream. Work leading up to the Xtreme Million Finals included many qualifying riding events across the country, and just as the final stretch of events began, the coronavirus hit. 

Shaw told the Reaper that even though 79 events were cancelled due to the pandemic, organizers stuck with “plan A” but developed several contingencies to allow the show to go on.

“Our whole mission was to enhance the value of the sport,” Shaw said.

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