Harness Racing: A Brief History and Long Introduction

By: StableDuel Squad Published: 06/27/2023
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Innovation never stops for us here at StableDuel. After introducing the world of steeplechase to the world of contest play – we did it (again) and welcomed the harness game on board with awesome initial contests at Mohegan Pennsylvania,  The Meadows and Harrah’s Philadelphia.

What fuels the love at first sight at StableDuel? Consistency! These ponies run regularly and have deep form, which totally translates from what we love about flat racers. We also love learning new things and we had no idea about the history of harness racing beyond our big scores at the Meadowlands before we really got into the game.

The roots of harness racing can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Chariot races were popular in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, where horses were harnessed to a lightweight cart or chariot and raced for entertainment and sport.

Harness racing as we know it today began to take shape in Europe during the medieval period. It gained popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in France, England, and later in other European countries. The development of specialized trotting breeds, such as the Standardbred, helped to establish the foundation for the sport. Harness racing as a formal sport began to develop in Europe during the medieval period. It gained popularity as a way to test the speed and endurance of horses. Trotting races, where horses move with a diagonal gait, and pacing races, where horses move with a lateral gait, were organized in various European countries.

Harness racing was brought to North America by European settlers. The sport gained popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, with organized races taking place in various regions. In the United States, the Standardbred breed played a significant role in shaping the sport, and the formation of the National Association of Trotting Horse Breeders (now the United States Trotting Association) in 1894 helped standardize and regulate the industry. The first official harness race in the United States was held in 1788.

Dedicated harness racing tracks and institutions began to emerge across Europe and North America. Notable establishments, such as the Red Mile in Kentucky, USA (founded in 1875), and the Vincennes Hippodrome in Paris, France (opened in 1863), became renowned venues for harness racing events.

Today, the major harness races in the US are:

The Hambletonian, harness racings’ version of the Kentucky Derby, is widely regarded as the most prestigious event in harness racing. It is a race exclusively for three-year-old trotters and takes place annually at The Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Hambletonian, first held in 1926, is part of the Trotting Triple Crown, along with the Yonkers Trot and the Kentucky Futurity.

The Breeders Crown, like the Breeders’ Cup, is a series of championship races held for various divisions of standardbred horses, including pacers and trotters. The races bring together the best horses in their respective categories to compete for substantial prize money. The venue for the Breeders Crown rotates each year among different racetracks in the United States.


The Little Brown Jug, harness racings’ version of the Travers Stakes, is a prestigious pacing event for three-year-old colts. It takes place at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Delaware, Ohio. The race is known for its unique single-heat format, where all competing horses compete in one race, unlike the usual multi-heat format in harness racing.

The Meadowlands Pace is an annual race for three-year-old pacers held at The Meadowlands Racetrack.

The North America Cup is a premier race for three-year-old pacers and is held at Woodbine Mohawk Park in Ontario, Canada. Although it takes place in Canada, the race draws top American horses and drivers, making it an important event in the North American harness racing calendar.

The Cane Pace is a classic harness race for three-year-old pacers and is part of the Pacing Triple Crown. It is held at the Meadowlands Racetrack and serves as the first leg of the Triple Crown series, followed by the Little Brown Jug and the Messenger Stakes.

The Messenger Stakes is a race for three-year-old pacers and is the final leg of the Pacing Triple Crown. It takes place at Yonkers Raceway in New York.

The Adios Pace is a prestigious race for three-year-old pacers held at The Meadows Racetrack in Pennsylvania. It attracts some of the best pacers in the sport, and its rich history makes it a highly anticipated event. *StableDuel will host a big game for this day! 

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