Harness racing has experienced both a decline and a resurgence.

Harness racing has experienced both a decline and a resurgence.

Harness racing fell after reaching its pinnacle at the turn of the century, with famous horses, new records, and more significant crowds, while it continued at county fairs, on the Grand Circuit, and in Europe. Some blamed the shift on the vehicle’s emergence and the road horse’s demise, even though most racing had long taken place on tracks. Others ascribe the decline to a dislike of gambling-related corruption, which resulted in manipulated races, disqualifying racers for breaking gait, and the easy pulling up of a horse by a driver without demonstrable discovery.

Two events turned the tide. The mobile starting gate (aluminum wings installed atop the back (of a car that starts slowly, then accelerates away) In 1940, Roosevelt Raceway in New York City introduced night racing (There was some night racing in the 1890s and in 1927 in Toledo, Ohio.); and in 1940, Roosevelt Raceway in New York City introduced pari-mutuel (q.v.) racing under lights
In some aspects, the sport grew in popularity in the same way that flat racing did. After 1948, attendance nearly tripled, state revenue nearly quadrupled, purses nearly tenfold, the number of horses starting fourfolded, Its membership in the United States Trotting Association (formed in 1938 after the governance of harness racing was restructured). fell into disarray) nearly quintupled.

New Zealand and Australia and France, Italy, Sweden, Austria, and Russia all saw significant growth in harness racing. The Roosevelt and Yonkers raceways in New York City and the Meadowlands in New Jersey dominate the US and Canadian harness racing. However, there are large centers in Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Montreal. In the meantime, the county and state fairs are thriving. An international Roosevelt International Trot developed international competition in 1959, the International Pace series at Yonkers in the 1960s, and the World Driving Championship in 1970.

The state of harness racing.

By 1980, harness racing appeared to have no bounds regarding purse money, attendance, stud fees, and horse prices. Horses that earned $1,000,000 were surpassed by $2,000,000 winners. In 1980, a race at Meadowlands had a purse of more than $2 million, with more than $1 million going to the winner. The difficulty of policing corruption was made more difficult by using drugs on horses for medical purposes. There was over-racing (usually ten races on a day’s card). Although flat racing and harness racing caters to distinct audiences, a dedicated horseplayer may leave after the ninth race at a flat-course track and still have time to eat before the evening’s harness racing began.


The quickest of 3,000 horses at a horse show in Valkenburg, Holland, engaged in trotting matches as early as 1554. In 1777, at Soestdijk, the Golden Whip, Holland’s most famous trotting event, was held for the first time. Around the same period, Aleksey, Count Orlov, started breeding a potent trotting strain at his Russian stud farm. The Orlov trotter descended from his stallion Barss became the cornerstone of Russian trotting stock.
The Norfolk Trotter, which first appeared as a breed in England around 1750, was primarily a road horse, but due to its speed, it was occasionally utilized for road racing as a diversion for its owners. The majority of its bouts consisted of trotting a set distance in a set amount of time.

Trotting in North America has a history in road racing, although there were trotting tracks in the United States in the early 1800s. In 1806 at Harlem, New York, a Yankee trotted a mile over the way in 2:59. In 1810, at the Hunting Park track in Philadelphia, an unknown trotting gelding from Boston decreased to 2:48 1/2. Harness racing was also popular at county fairs in the United States and agricultural fairs in eastern and central Canada.

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