What is Harness Racing?

The readers of EZ Horse Betting may be particularly familiar with thoroughbred racing which is conducted on a flat track where each horse is ridden by a jockey. There is another popular form of racing, however, that also offers exciting betting opportunities at your online racebook. It is called harness or standardbred racing and you can make bets online just like you do for thoroughbred horse racing. Here is a brief introduction.

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What is Harness Racing?

In harness racing the horses used are referred to as standardbreds. These horses are typically larger than a thoroughbred and for good reason. They wear a harness in the race which is attached to something called a sulky. The sulky is basically a cart which pulls a rider. The horses compete with one another to see which horse can pull its rider across the finish line first.

Harness racing is conducted on an oval track just like the one used in thoroughbred racing. Many races are conducted at a mile or more in distance. Unlike thoroughbred racing there are some notable differences in how harness racing is conducted. It has a very strict set of rules which determine how the horses competing are allowed to run.

Standardbreds in harness racing must maintain a certain type of gait when they run. If they break this gait at any point during a race, the horse must shuffle to the outside of the track and regain its gait before reentering the race. As you can imagine, breaking stride as it is called usually spells disaster for a harness racer. They lose valuable ground and position in the race which they may not be able to recover.

There are two types of races in harness racing and each of them requires a horse to have a specific gait. These are called pace and trot. Pacers and trotters race very differently from one another. The manner in which they travel is noticeably different.

It is also worth mentioning here that these two types of animals are not permitted to compete against one another for the purposes of a betting race. Pacers only compete against pacers and trotters only compete against trotters. There are many stakes events held each year for each kind of standardbred. There are also bloodlines which specialize in either style, just like there are thoroughbred specialists. There are also races for horses in different age groups, and harness racing even has something that is very much like the Triple Crown.

The Running Start in Harness Racing

There is no starting gate in harness racing. As you can imagine, it would be very difficult for a sulky to be stuffed inside a starting gate. Also the horses would be compromised if they did not have an opportunity to establish their stride before the race began. So, instead of a starting gate the horses in a harness race will eventually line up behind a car which has two long wings on either side. These wings function as a starting mechanism.

Once the horses have established their stride for the race and the place on the track where the race begins is reached, the wings on the side of the car begin to be drawn in. This allows the horses behind the gate to move forward and begin the race in earnest. Like thoroughbred racing, one will see harness racers attempt to save ground and establish position by moving to the inside of the track.

After the race is started the car moves beyond the reach of the horses and then off the track where it cannot interfere with the running of the race. If there is a malfunction in the starting mechanism then the race can be declared a no contest and a non betting event.

Drivers in Harness Racing

In harness racing the individual who steers the horse along the race track is appropriately called a driver. The driver sits in the sulky and uses a set of long reins to control the horse’s movement and forward progress.

Something you will immediately notice is the vast difference between harness drivers and traditional thoroughbred jockeys. There is no weight restriction for drivers in harness racing. It is not uncommon to see a driver in a harness race weigh 130 pounds or more. Of course, the lighter a driver is the better it will be for the horse. A horse that has to pull more weight during a harness race will be at a disadvantage.

The driver in a harness race is permitted to carry a long whip just like a thoroughbred jockey. But this whip is much longer than the one a jockey carries. In fact, it is called a buggy whip. The driver will lean back as he drives and use the whip on the horse’s flanks in order to encourage it to give its best speed.

You already know that thoroughbred racing is filled with danger. A jockey can be severely injured while riding in a race. It is also so in harness racing. Some of the most violent collisions have occurred on the harness racing track. This usually happens when one sulky collides with another. A sulky can easily flip and become a catapult, tossing the driver high into the air.

How to Bet on Harness Racing

Most online racebooks offer wagering on harness tracks. You can select the track from the menu of venues you are given when you log in. Once you have chose a track to wager on, then all that remains is to decide how you want to make your bets.

All of the bets that you are used to making in thoroughbred racing are also available on the harness track. You can make straight Win, Place, and Show wagers on each race. If you are feeling especially lucky you can make an exotic wager like a Daily Double or an Exacta. The type of bet you make will determine the type of return you will receive in exchange for your winning bet.

The horses in a harness race are all given numbers just like they are in a thoroughbred race. You simply identify the number of the horse you would like to bet on and then choose which type of wager you would like to make and the dollar amount you are willing to bet. It’s a very simple process.

Do you think you might be ready to give the exciting world of harness racing a try? Then head over to this online racebook and create your account. You can be making bets in a matter of minutes on your computer, smartphone, or tablet. You will even get a nice welcome bonus, free past performances, and access to free race replays when you sign up today.

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