May 2010 saw the first ever Harness Racing meeting staged at Ffos Las Racecourse. The event was held in partnership with the British Harness Racing Club and future Harness Racing meetings at Ffos Las include Sunday 20th June 2010.
It is thought that Harness Racing originated in the mid 1700s. The earliest recorded race was on Newmarket Heath on 29th August 1750, when a bet for 1,000 guineas was made between the Earl of March and the Earl of Eglintowne: the challenge was for four horses to pull a four-wheeled chaise carrying one person over a distance of 19 miles in an under an hour.
Today, only registered Standardbreds can compete in Harness Racing. Standardbreds are so-called because early American trotters had to cover a mile within a fair ‘standard’ time of 2 minutes 30 seconds in order to be entered on the American Trotting Register. The main foundation sire of American Harness Racing stock was an English Thoroughbred called Messenger, who was exported to America in 1788. Today nearly all American Standardbreds can be traced directly back to one of his great-grandsons, Hambletonian.
Horses taking part in Harness Racing must trot and not break into a canter or gallop. Some horses trot ‘normally’ with diagonally opposite feet moving forward and back together, while others ‘pace’ by moving the legs on the same side of their body forward and back simultaneously instead. Pacing is a smoother movement than trotting and so ‘pacers’ are usually slightly faster than ‘trotters’.
To find out more about Harness Racing see www.bhrc.org.uk