Harness Horse Racing

Within the exciting world of horse racing is a form of racing that is continuously increasing in popularity – Harness Racing. What exactly is harness horse racing? Harness racing is a horse race restricted to standardbred horses which compete in a particular gait. Typically the horses pull a sulky, which is a two-wheeled cart.

Harness horse races take place in two specific gaits, namely trotting or pacing. In trotting races, the standardbred horse will move its legs in a diagonal way, that is, left front and right hind on the ground simultaneously and then right front and left hind simultaneously. Pacers move in a lateral way, that is, the left front and hind move together, then the right front and hind together. Continental Europe only holds trotting harness races whilst pacer races are organized in Australia, the US, the UK, Canada and New Zealand. North America holds mostly pacing harness races as this tends to be a faster form of horse racing. Harness racing horses are not permitted to break their stride into a canter or gallop, if they do they have to be slowed down and removed to the outside to regain its stride. Pacers are the least likely to break stride as they wear special straps called hobbles or hopples which connect the legs on either side of the standardbred horse. Pacing is a completely natural gait and the hopples are used purely to support the pace when reaching top speed.

A number of well-known live harness races are held throughout the world. Top races in North America include the Breeders Crown series (12 races varied according to age, gender and gait), the Hambletonian (3 year-old trotters) and the Little Brown Jug (3 year-old pacers). Outstanding harness racing tracks on the continent are Freehold Raceway, Mohawk Raceway, Meadowlands Racetrack and Woodbine Racetrack. Exciting harness horse races in Australasia include the A.G. Hunter Cup, Miracle Mile, Australian Pacing Championship, Victoria Derby, Auckland Cup, New Zealand Messenger Championship and Australasian Breeders Crown. In Europe the nations most involved in live harness racing are Sweden, Italy and France. The most prestigious on the European calendar is the Prix d’Amerique whilst other popular races include the Elitloppet and Gran Premio Lotteria di Agnano.

As previously mentioned, harness horse racing is typically restricted to standardbred horses. The standardbred was so named due to the the fact that only horses who were able to pace or trot a mile in a set time would be entered into the Standardbred Stud Book. The notable difference between thoroughbreds and standardbreds is that standardbreds have longer bodies and shorter legs with a more placid disposition. Messenger could be said to have fathered the standardbred horse. Through Messenger’s lineage came Hambletonian 10 who became a renowned racer. He had four sons who through which the lineage of practically all of America’s standardbred horses is traced.

Live harness racing is a truly thrilling experience, with stunning horses and many opportunities to place your bets. Visit a harness racing track this season.

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