Bet on Harness Racing


Historically, trotting contests in one form or another have been held since the ancient days of chariot racing, but the modern sport, as it is known today, developed in the United States in the early 1800's. The sport is still very popular in the United States where races are run on big tracks. Circuits of a half mile and particularly the big one mile paceways are conducive to fast times as the horses have fewer sharp bends to negotiate.

The outstanding pacer, Bret Hanover, set a mile rate of 1.53.6 on the big Kentucky circuit. Trotting is also very popular in France, Russia, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Germany. Interest in this type of racing developed almost simultaneously in both Australia and New Zealand in the early 1900's, the mutual interest culminating in the holding of the Inter-dominion championships, with the best horses from all States of Australia and New Zealand competing against each other annually, at a different venue, which is rotated between the Australian States and the two islands of New Zealand.

A pacer moves both left legs and consequently both right legs together. Although trotting is used as a general term covering both trotters and pacers it is a fact that in most countries where light harness racing is conducted most races are programmed for pacers, as they are generally speaking less inclined to break or gallop.

Almost all pacers race in hopples which assist them to maintain their pacing gait but it is not a regulation that pacers must race in hopples.

pacer harness racing

Both trotting and pacing are the two smoothest gaits that a horse travels and is less exacting than both cantering and galloping. For this reason both trotters and pacers are able to compete much more frequently than galloping horses.

trotter harness racing

A trotter's gait is to move the opposite legs in unison, i.e. left back leg and right front leg travelling in the same direction together.


The object behind all methods of handicapping is to give each contestant an equal chance of winning. This is achieved either by the application of weight, grading into different races based on time, or by penalising by distance. Galloping horses are handicapped by weight, based on their previous performances, or the handicappers assessment of their ability.

With greyhound racing the critera used for handicapping is time; a greyhound is handicapped in relation to the time it records in a race.

Trotters and pacers are handicapped by the third method — distance. Both pacers and trotters are handicapped by the same method, so to avoid any confusion a reference to a horse in this section means pacer and trotter.

Races for galloping horses and greyhounds are started from a barrier or a box in a straight line, each contestant running the same distance, whereas pacers and trotters run varying distances in the same race. As a pacer or trotter wins more races, it is placed 12 yards further behind horses it has previously beaten, therefore giving them a 12 yards start. This distance of 12 yards and multiples of 12 yards, i.e., 24 yards, 36 yards, 48 yards etc., is uniform for all distances run and on all tracks throughout Australia and New Zealand.

In galloping races, if the distance of the race is one mile, all horses run exactly one mile. In trotting and pacing races, if the distance of the race is one mile, the lowest class of horse in the race starts off the front line and runs the exact distance of one mile, with the better class of horses engaged in the same race running additional distances, i.e. 1 mile + 12 yards, 1 mile + 24 yards, 1 mile + 36 yards and so on.

The underlying principle behind the handicapping of pacers and trotters is based on how long it will take a horse to run one mile. A horse that can run one mile in two minutes is referred to as a two minute horse, simply expressed — 2.00. A horse that takes 2 minutes 8 seconds to run one mile is therefore a 2.08 horse, and one that takes 2 minutes 26 seconds to run one mile is a 2.26 horse.

This time is then known as its handicapping mark.


There are four basics to be understood in the handicapping of pacers and trotters; (1) automatic handicapping, (2) discretionary handicapping, (3) handicapping in the city or Metropolitan area known as Metropolitan handicapping, (4) handicapping on suburban, provincial and country tracks.