From Wikipedia, www.wikipedia.org
Harness racing is a form of horse-racing in which the horses
race in a specified gait.
They also usually pull two-wheeled
carts called sulkies, although races to saddle are still
In most jurisdictions harness races are restricted to
although cold-blooded horses are raced in
Scandinavia. Standardbreds are so called because in the early
years of the Standardbred stud book only horses who could trot or
pace a mile in a standard time, or whose progeny could do so,
were entered into the book.
Standardbreds have proportionally shorter legs than thoroughbreds
and longer bodies. They also are of more placid dispositions, as
suits horses whose races involve more strategy and more
re-acceleration than do thoroughbred races.
Harness races are conducted in two gaits. In continental Europe all
harness races are conducted between trotters. A trotter's
forelegs move in tandem with the opposite hind legs -- when the
right foreleg moves forward so does the left hind leg, and vice
versa. In Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and
the United States races are also held for pacers. Pacers'
forelegs move in tandem with the hind legs on the same side.
History of Harness Racing
The founding sire of today's Standardbred horse was Messenger, a
gray Thoroughbred brought to America in 1788 and then purchased
by Henry Astor, brother of John Jacob Astor. From Messenger, came
a great-grandson, Hambletonian 10 (1849-1876), who gained a wide
following for his racing prowess. However, it is his breed line
that he is most remembered for. From Hambletonian 10's four sons,
the lineage of virtually all American Standardbred race horses
can be traced.
Pacing races constitute 80% to 90% of the harness races conducted
in North America. The horses are faster and, most important to
the bettor, less likely to break stride (a horse which starts to
gallop must be slowed down and taken to the outside until it
regains stride). One of the reasons pacers are less likely to
break stride is that they often wear hopples or hobbles, straps
which connect the legs on each of the horse's sides. The belief
that hobbles are used to create this gait is a misconception. The
pace is a natural gait, and hobbles are merely an accessory to
support the pace at top speed, which also ensures safer races.
Most harness races start from behind a motorized starting gate.
The horses line up behind a hinged gate mounted on a motor
vehicle which then takes them to the starting line. At the
starting line the wings of the gate are folded up and the vehicle
accelerates away from the horses. Some European races start
without a gate.
The sulky (informally known as a bike) is a light two-wheeled
cart equipped with bicycle wheels. The driver carries a long,
light whip which is chiefly used to signal the horse by tapping
and to make noise by striking the sulky shaft.
Almost all North American races are at a distance of one mile,
and North American harness horses are all assigned a "mark" which
is their fastest winning time at that distance. Harness races
involve considerable strategy. First of all, drivers may contend
for the lead out of the gate. They then try to avoid getting
boxed in as the horses form into two lines -- one on the rail and
the other outside -- in the second quarter mile. They may decide
to go to the front, to race on the front on the outside ("first
over", a difficult position), or to race with cover on the
outside. On the rail behind the leader is a choice spot, known as
the pocket, and a horse in that position is said to have a garden
trip. Third on the rail is an undesirable spot, known as the
death hole. As the race nears the three-quarter mile mark, the
drivers implement their tactics for advancing their positions –
going to the lead early, circling the field, moving up an open
rail, advancing behind a horse expected to tire, and so on.
Unlike thoroughbreds, harness horses accelerate during the final
quarter mile of a race. The finishes of harness races are often
spectacular and perhaps more often extremely close. The judges
(equivalent to thoroughbred stewards) often have to request
prints of win, place, and show photos to determine the order of
Notable harness horses include Dan Patch, a pacer who was the
leading sports superstar in the United States in the early
twentieth century; Greyhound, a trotter who is arguably the most
dominant horse in any era of the sport; Bret Hanover, a pacer;
Cardigan Bay, a New Zealand bred pacer who was the first harness
horse to win $1 million in North America; Ourasi from France and
Mack Lobell of the United States, both trotters, who dominated in
the 1980s but who in their one confrontation competed so gamely
on the lead that they tired at the end and were overtaken; Cam
Fella, a pacer; and Matt's Scooter, a pacer.
Harness Racing Tracks
The most notable harness tracks in North America are the
Meadowlands Racetrack and Freehold Raceway, both in New Jersey,
and Woodbine Racetrack and Mohawk Raceway, both in Ontario
(harness racing is more popular than thoroughbred racing in
Canada). Important Canadian races are the North America Cup (for
pacers), the Canadian Pacing Derby, and the Maple Leaf Trot.
Since 1947, the "United States Harness Writers" Association
annually votes for the "Harness Horse of the Year." Since
inception, a pacer has received the honor 31 times and a trotter
25 times. An outstanding accomplishment for harness horses that
has only been accomplished by a few is the Triple Crown of Harness
Racing for Pacers and for trotters who make up one in five
standardbreds in racing it is the Triple Crown of Harness Racing
Some of the world's great harness pacing horses. Horses highlighted
in Red denote American Triple Crown winner
Bye Bye Bird
Handle With Care
Jenna's Beach Boy
Most Happy Fella
On The Road Again
The Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Trotters consists of the
following horse races:
- Yonkers Trot
- Kentucky Futurity
Some of the great harness trotting horses. Horses highlighted in
Red denote Triple Crown winners.
Lady Suffolk - the "Old Gray Mare"
Su Mac Lad