HARNESS RACING 101
Welcome to the wonderful world of harness racing! This primer should help you get started enjoying the racing experience, but the real thrill comes from actually paying a visit to the track nearest you!
THE STANDARDBRED The horses used in harness racing are Standardbreds, and only a registered Standardbred may compete in a sanctioned harness race. The origins of the Standardbred trace back to Messenger, an English Thoroughbred foaled in 1780, and later exported to the United States. Messenger was the great-grandsire of Hambletonian 10, to whom every Standardbred can trace its heritage. Standardbreds are a relatively new breed, dating back just over 200 years, but it is a true American breed. The name “Standardbred” originated because the early trotters (pacers would not come into the picture until much later) were required to reach a certain standard for the mile distance in order to be registered as part of the new breed. The mile is still the standard distance covered in nearly every harness race. While Thoroughbred racing has long been known as the sport of kings, the dependable, athletic Standardbred brought racing to the common man, first between neighbors on community roads, and later at state-ofthe-art racetracks. Standardbred racing has long been known as the sport of the people, and both the sport and the breed are as much a part of our American landscape as cowboys and apple pie. As it evolved it gave the United States some of its first “sports heroes,” including the great Dan Patch, the legendary Adios and the great grey ghost, Greyhound. In many respects, the Standardbred resembles the Thoroughbred. However, it is often more muscled and longer in body, and does not stand as tall, averaging between 15 and 16 hands. The head is bigger and may even sport a Roman nose. This breed appears in varying colors, although bay and brown are predominant. It weighs between 800 and 1,000 pounds. Standardbreds are known for their docile personalities and willing temperaments.
WHO IS AT THE TRACK Some other people you will see/hear at the track helping to put on the races include:
Announcer: He sits in a booth on the roof and is the voice you hear calling the race.
Mutuel Clerk: The person who sells you a betting ticket.
Outrider: Seated on horseback, he or she leads the horses out for the race and helps with any
Photographer: He or she takes a picture of every winning horse and their connections in the winner’s circle, and the owners, trainers, drivers
Starter: He rides in the starting car from behind which the horses start the race.
Dave Palone (born February 26,
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