Harness racing is a category of horse-racing in which the horses race each other at a precise pace. They regularly drag two-wheeled sulkies, which are a kind of cart with two wheels.
Harness racing was the most widely accepted sport in the years before the Civil War. After the management of the Thoroughbred, racing was no longer in the hands of the South. Northern horseman desired to take control, but a depressed breeding market, a lack of strong jockey clubs to regulate the sport and an absence of promoters who could put together good races, kept the track in the doldrums. By the 1850s, there were more viewers who watched racing than any other sport. Also there were seventy tracks nationally, seven of which were in the area of New York.
These harness races were limited mostly to standard bred horses. Cold-blooded horses, so named because of a stable, calm temperament, raced alongside European horses which commonly have either Russian or French descendents. The standardbred horses are named so for the reason that only horses who could sprint a mile in an average time, or whose offspring could do such a thing, were qualified into the book.
Standardbreds have shorter legs than the Thoroughbreds, but they compensate with their longer bodies. Also, they are of a more obedient spirit. That suits horses whose race takes more strategy and a lot more acceleration than the Thoroughbred races.
Messenger was the name of Standardbred horse’s founding member. It was brought in 1788 to America and bought by Henry Astor, brother of John Jacob Astor. From this stud was born a great-grandson named Hambletonian 10 that is widely remembered for his breed line. The ancestry of practically all American Standardbred race horses comes from Hambletonian 10’s descendents.
The races can be split into two different steps: trotting and pacing. The difference is that the trotter tends to move its legs onwards in oblique pairs, while a pacer moves its legs to one side.
In continental Europe races are conducted entirely between trotters, whereas in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States races are also held for pacers.
Pacing races represent 80% to 90% of the Harness racing conducted in North America. They are quicker and, most noteworthy to the bettor, much less likely to falter pace (a horse that begins to run needs to be slowed down or taken outside in hope of regaining speed). One of the possible reasonings that pacers are less expected to break pace is that they frequently carry hopples or hobbles, belts which secure the legs to the horse’s sides.
A suggestion that hopples are supposed to create this stride is a mistake, the hopples are just an ornament to steady the pace while gaining top velocity.