Canada is known for some of the nicest race tracks in all of North America. Woodbine and Fort Erie are both beautiful race tracks that host many important thoroughbred racing events each year. There is also another type of horse racing in Canada that gets its own share of attention. Harness racing in Canada is enjoyed throughout many provinces at tracks large and small. Here is a closer look at the sport that some people affectionately call buggy racing.
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What is Canadian Harness Racing?
Harness racing in Canada is called many names. Its real name is standardbred racing, so named because of the breed of horses that compete in the events. It can sometimes also be called buggy racing because of the sulky that is pulled by each horses. This type of horse racing event is much different that what most thoroughbred bettors are used to.
Standardbred racing is conducted on a racing oval that is made of a dirt surface. On this surface a group of horses from the standardbred breed pull a rider in what is called a sulky. The sulky is a small buggy that is attached to a harness on the horse. The rider, or driver, controls the sulky with a set of reins and encourages the horse with a whip. The horse that crosses the finish line first is the winner of the race.
It all sounds simple, right? In truth there are certain elements that make harness racing more difficult than it looks. For starters each horse is required to maintain a specific gait when it runs. If the horse breaks this gait it must go to the far outside of the track, bring itself back into step, and then rejoin the race. As you can imagine, breaking a gait almost always causes a horse to lose the race they are in.
There are two types of running styles in harness racing. There are pacers and there are trotters. Each of these types has a specific running style, and the two types of runners do not compete against one another in harness racing.
Another unique thing about harness racing is the way in which the races are started. Horses draw themselves up behind a gate that is attached to a vehicle. Once the horses are all behind the moving gate, the arms of the gate on either side of the vehicle begin to open. This signifies the beginning of the race. All standardbred racing and harness racing in Canada and around the world is begun with a running start.
Drivers in Canadian Harness Racing
The drivers of a sulky in harness racing in Canada are not subjected to the same weight standards as jockeys that race thoroughbreds. They are allowed to weigh more than regular jockeys. Of course, the less weight that the horse has to pull on a race track the more advantage it will have. Some harness drivers may weigh as mush as 160 pounds or more.
You might be thinking that this type of racing is much safer than thoroughbred racing. In that assessment you would be wrong. Harness drivers have been killed before during a race when the sulky they were driving collided with another buggy. Drivers have been pitched high into the air when this happens, and the dirt they land on is no less soft than the dirt awaiting a regular jockey that falls to the ground.
How Does One Bet Harness Racing in Canada?
Wagering on harness racing in Canada is much the same as betting on flat racing. Bettors are allowed to make bets to win, place, and show. They can also bet exotic wagers such as the trifecta and superfecta. There are even Pick 3 and Pick 4 bets to choose from. All of the betting is ran through a tote board system. This means that betting on harness racing is parimutuel in nature.
It is even possible to bet harness racing at an online racebook. The only thing about this is that most online racebooks only carry harness racing from the major tracks in Canada. This means tracks like Woodbine which hosts a standardbred meet in addition to its thoroughbred meeting. The smaller harness tracks that are located throughout the provinces are all mostly local affairs. You will find plenty of fans in attendance making bets on these races.
To bet harness races in Canada with an online racebook you will first need to create a racebook account. At EZ Horse Betting we recommend several online racebooks such as TwinSpires, BetAmerica, and Bovada. At any of these you will be able to find harness track betting from Canada. Once your account is created you can access the betting menu from these tracks with a PC, phone, or tablet.
Handicapping Harness Racing in Canada
A full explanation of all the methods of handicapping harness racing in Canada is beyond the scope of our discussion here. What we can say is that speed in harness racing is not nearly as important as racing strategy and racing luck.
So many things can go wrong in harness racing that it is common to see many longshots winning the races. A horse can lose its gait, get stuck behind other drivers, or even have an accident. It is best to look for horses that have high marks in both form and class. This means that the horse has done well in its recent races and that it has been entered in the proper race by its trainer.
It also pays to look at the stats for jockeys and trainers. A very talented horse in harness racing will generally attract the services of the best driver. This is by no means the only information that you will need to handicap the races but it will get you off to a good start.
The other thing that we can recommend is that you watch as many harness racing replays from Canada as you can. You should be able to access these with your online racebook account.