In the UK, horse racing fans are most familiar with traditional racing where the jockey rides on the horses back. But in other parts of the world, and even in the UK itself, there are several variants of the sport. In today’s betting climate of online bookmakers, many punters will see these listed. However, many fail to understand the concept. The most common discipline is trot/harness races.
Before even thinking about betting on a sport, a punter should always gain a basic grasp of the event itself. Here’s all you need to know about these types of races.
Trot Racing (inc Harness Racing) V Traditional Racing
In traditional horse racing, horses run at full gallop with a jockey on their back. Harness racing is different for two main reasons. Firstly, the jockey is placed in a two-wheeled car (known as a sulky), which is dragged by the horse. In fact, the jockeys are actually labelled drivers. Secondly, as the name suggests, horses race at a trot.
The easiest way to explain this is to picture a chariot race with only one horse and a slower pace. In many ways, harness racing is viewed as a safer type of horse racing – at least compared to jump racing. Having said that, there have been instances where the sulky can cause a hazard.
Breeds of horses can vary between territories. As a standard rule of thumb, though, North American races are exclusive to standardbred horses. Finnhorses, French, and Russian trotters can be used in different parts of Europe.
Harness races can start from a standing position or from behind a moving gate. Meanwhile, drivers do use whips, but under very strict guidelines. In some territories, it’s banned altogether. The events are broken into two types of race too.
The most common form of harness racing in Europe is trotting. The rules of this variant stipulate that horses must move diagonally. So, when the front right leg moves, the left hind leg moves. This is a slower race than pacing and is particularly popular in Scandinavia, France, and Malta.
Used in North America, Australia, and the UK, pacing is a faster option. The main difference, other than the breed, is that the legs move laterally. So the right legs move at once, followed by the left. Horses often wear straps to aid this natural movement.
The Prix d’Armerique
The world of harness racing hosts several prestigious races throughout the year. But none are bigger than January’s Prix d’Armerique. The annual event started in 1920 and has prize funds in excess of €1m. The winner alone takes around half of that.
It’s an event that’s held at the famous Hippodrome de Vincennes in Paris. In 2016, over 35,000 spectators watched as Bold Eagle gave driver Franck Nivard his fourth win in the 2,700m race. The youngest horse of the race set a new track record in the process.
While the famous Prix d’Armerique is a 2,700m race, a lot of harness races are held over considerably shorter distances. In North America, the vast majority are raced over 1,609m (one mile). Meanwhile, Scandinavian races are usually either 1640m, 2140m, or 2640m – although some 3140m races do exist too.
Malta is another hotbed for harness racing with a number of 2140m and 2640m events taking place throughout the year.
The Triple Crowns
Given that there are two types of harness racing, it’s no surprise that there are also two Triple Crowns available too. Whether a trotter or a pacer, the races involved are restricted to three-year-old horses.
The pacer Triple Crown consists of Cane Pace at Freehold Raceway, the Little Brown Jug at the Delaware County Fair, and the Messenger Stakes at Yonkers Raceway. The trotter Triple Crown is Hambletonian at Meadowlands Racetrack, the Yonkers Trot at Yonkers Raceway, and the Kentucky Futurity at The Red Mile.
Betting On Harness Racing
From a punter’s perspective, the main focus is to put the odds in their favour. Given that pacers are less likely to break stride, many punters prefer to bet on this type of race. However, trotting is still popular too.
There are various types of bet available. Given that most races are held with relatively large fields, one common method is to play multiple lines on small stakes. By combining a NAP with a variety of horses in other races, the chances of success are increased. Even though the individual line stakes are minimal, they can produce huge returns.
As with traditional thoroughbred racing, though, research is key. Getting to know courses, horses, and drivers will increase those hopes of success on picking out a winner.