Smith Hangs Tough in First Frontier Circuit Rookie Race

Pennsylvania barrel racer Molly Smith has made her childhood dream of rodeoing professionally become a reality.
Molly Smith leads the First Frontier Circuit Rookie race. Photo courtesy Molly Smith

After attending the famous Cowtown Rodeo in Woodstown, N.J., a young Molly Smith was hooked on the fast-paced sport of barrel racing from that time forward. She made the switch from riding hunter-jumpers to riding barrel horses and never looked back. Fast forward to 2021 and Smith has not only competed in the famous Cowtown Rodeo, but she has captured wins in the sizeable sandy arena. Smith is the current rookie race leader going into the First Frontier Circuit Finals to be held Harrisburg, Pa., January 13-15, 2022. 

Molly Smith’s first year in the First Frontier Circuit can best be described as a “rollercoaster,” if you ask her. The 27-year-old from Garnet Valley, Pa., works in pharmaceutical marketing by day and chases her rodeo dreams by night. 

Smith started out her season aboard JJ Catch My Drift, whom she calls “Captain.” Captain is a 9-year-old gelding by PC Lonewood Special, out of Scooper Chickatee. Smith describes him as a free runner who behaves more like a dog than a horse. An injury early in the summer left Smith unmotivated and horseless, but she has great friends who offered up both support and a mount to help light her fire again. Jennifer Singleton gave Smith the opportunity to ride Famously Perkin, aka “Beaux.” Beaux, a 6-year-old gelding by Born Ta Be Famous out of First To Perk, proved to be a challenge at the start for Smith. The gelding’s large ego and the aggressive style needed to jockey him tested Smith and stretched her confidence thin. However, after a frustrating adjustment period with many barrels left on the ground, Smith adapted to the style that suited Beaux, and sparks began to fly. The team dominated the last few weeks of the regular season to rocket back up the standings to the No. 8 position with $4,210 won. 

“Winning the First Frontier Rookie of the Year would be the ultimate childhood dream come true,” said Smith. “It hasn’t been the rookie year that I planned on, but I think it would show that when you don’t give up on yourself, you can go and accomplish your goals.” 

Smith says that this year has taught her that you can learn something from every one of your competitors, and she looks up to many of the cowgirls from the northeast that she has watched throughout the years. Even with a comfortable lead going into the Circuit Finals, Smith will have to watch out for the closest rookie race contender, Karlee Benincasa. Benincasa is coming out of the regular season in the No. 12 position with $3,853 won.