Harness racing, also known as trotting, is a form of horse racing which has great importance in the Australian sports betting scene with huge amounts of money wagered annually. The sport is hugely popular with spectators and bettors all around the world.
Harness racing differs from traditional horse racing as drivers are pulled on carts rather than ride atop the horses, who race at a trot or pace and are not allowed to run at a full gallop. Pacing races are much more common than trotting races in Australia, and constitute about 85 per cent of all events.
Specialised trotting horses may enter pacing events, however pacers may not enter trotting events. If a horse breaks its stride during a race, it must move aside until the driver has full control over the horse's gait.
Australian harness races include standardbred horses, a breed which is specially reared for its ability to race in a harness at a certain stride. These horses have a more powerful build than the thoroughbreds used in horseracing, and are better suited to trotting and pacing rather than galloping.
Instead of jockeys, riders contest harness races. They are on a lightweight, two-wheeled cart known as a sulky or bike which are pulled by the horses. Drivers carry whips to signal horses and help them keep control of pace.
Australian harness races are generally held between 1,600 and 2,650 metres. The weight of the driver and cart do not impact the horse as much as those running at full gallop in a classic horserace. Therefore handicaps based on weight do not exist in harness races. Instead, the handicap system of a harness race is based on distance.
A handicapped horse will have a starting line which is further back than the other horses. This relates to standing-start races only where horses must stand still before tapes across the track are released and horses step into stride.
Harness race betting is very popular amongst punters in Australia with the sport offering a different type of excitement that regular horseracing cannot provide. There are a huge number of options available when betting on harness racing with at least five meetings a day to choose from when placing your bets.
Some of the major events each year include the Inter Dominion Championship, Miracle Mile, Victoria Cup, New Zealand Trotting Cup and Breeders Crown series.