Harness Horse Racing

Whether it is a race for trotters or pacers, harness horse betting offers exhilarating wagering action for horseplayers looking to pad their bankroll. Harness racing consists of two basic types of races. Trotters race mainly in Europe, while in the U.S. about 80% of harness races are for pacers.

The main difference between the two is that a trotter moves its legs forward in diagonal pairs (right front and left hind, then left front and right hind striking the ground simultaneously), whereas a pacer moves its legs laterally (right front and right hind together, then left front and left hind).

The Triple Crown

There are two separate Triple Crowns in harness racing, one for trotters and another for pacers.

The Trotting Triple Crown consists of the Hambletonian at Meadowlands Racetrack, the Yonkers Trot at Yonkers Raceway, and the Kentucky Futurity, held at The Red Mile. Eight trotters have won the Triple Crown, the last coming in 2006 when Glidemaster swept the series of races.

The Pacing Triple Crown consists of the Cane Pace at Freehold Raceway, the Little Brown Jug at the Delaware County Fair, and the Messenger Stakes at Yonkers Raceway. Ten horses have completed the Pacing Triple Crown, the last No Pan Intended, who swept the trio of races in 2003.

*Both series of races are restricted to three-year-olds.

Wagering Strategies to Help You Win

Before firing up the online wagering account, here are a few basic harness horse betting strategies to keep in mind to help maximize profits.

Post Position

With nearly all harness races contested at a mile, post position plays a key role in determining the winner. Horses that draw inside posts have less ground to cover, and generally are going to have better trips than horses that get parked wide or have to tuck in near the back of the pack and go around horses coming into the stretch.

However, this is common knowledge among online harness bettors, so there are times when the horses breaking from the inside posts are over bet.


If you plan on making a profit betting, it is a good idea to know your drivers, because at most harness tracks there can be a pronounced difference between the top drivers and the drivers that are going to burn your bankroll.

Harness racing past performances include a statistic called the Universal Driver Rating, which rates each driver according to numbers of starts, wins, seconds, and thirds.

A number of .300 is considered good, just like in baseball.

In 2010, driver Gilles Barrieau led the standings with a UDR of .460 from 615 starters. Second in the standings was Shawn Gray with a UDR of .415 from 1202 starters.


Just as in thoroughbred and quarter horse racing, class is a very important factor in finding winners. Horses that have been consistently performing in races with higher purses tend to have more class and win more often.

It is important to read the conditions of each race to help determine how each participant fits the conditions of a race. There are some trainers that enter horses in spots where they are just outclassed, and it is important to know that and eliminate them as a contender.

There are Four Basic Types of Races

1. Conditioned Races: A race where eligibility is based on age, sex, money won or races won.

2. Claiming Races: A race where any of the entrants may be claimed (purchased) for a specified amount.

3. Invitational, Preferred or Open Races: A race for the fastest horses on the grounds. In Invitational and Preferred events, the racing secretary invites the top horses he wants for a particular race.

4. Breeders and Sires Stakes: A race where horses are nominated. The owners pay a nominating fee, along with a series of regular payments, to keep the horse eligible for the race.

Time and Trip

With most races contested at a mile, it is easier to compare time in harness racing than it is in thoroughbred racing, where there are a variety of races. A thoroughbred might run in a mile race, then a race at 1 1/16 miles, followed by a 1 1/8 mile race.

It is hard to rely on times in that instance, but that does not happen in harness racing, simplifying the issue of final times. However, trips can greatly affect a harness horses’ final time. A horse that gets parked out wide (and will be designated in the program with a “O”) will lose a significant amount of ground, and that needs to be considered when evaluating final times.


Harness horses race more frequently than thoroughbreds, tend to keep their form longer, and run more consistently.

If a horse has lost form, look through the past performances on clues as to why. Was the horse competing at too tough a level? Was he parked out wide and lost ground in his last start? Was he competing at a track where he has a poor record? Was there a switch to a low percentage driver or trainer?

Spending extra time evaluating all of the handicapping factors can be the difference in moving your gambling bankroll from the red to black.