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In for the Long Run – Harness Racing
Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park, known as the “Winter Capital of harness racing”, is getting ready to kick off another season of racing that runs roughly from October through May. How much do you know about the sport?
Standardbred vs. Thoroughbred
Standardbred horses are the standard for harness racing. They have calmer dispositions, shorter legs, and longer bodies than Thoroughbred horses. Horses must be at least two years old to compete and no steroids, stimulants, or sedatives may be used. A harness racing horse must be registered with the USTA within the first four years of life.
A harness race is typically one mile long. The horses are harnessed to a light weight, two-wheeled cart, known as a bike or sulky, on which the driver rides. In some areas the driver may use a whip, which is used to make noise and indicate direction. Each horse must stay in their prescribed gait for the entire race. Trotters must maintain a trot, and pacers must maintain a pace. If a horse breaks into a gallop, it must be taken to the outside track until it returns to the correct gait. The races often end with a photo finish, as they are usually very close
A Trot vs. A Pace
In a trot the hooves strike the ground in diagonal pairs. In a pace the hooves strike the ground in lateral pairs-left front and left rear at the same time. Pacers are more likely to stay in the correct stride than trotters.
Stepping off the track is a disqualifying offense in many competitions. Drivers are not allowed to interfere with other drivers, swerve to cut off another horse, shout during the race, or strike the wheels of another sulky.
Trainers and Drivers
Trainers must be at least 18 years old, be active members with the USTA, and have a license to train harness racers. Drivers must also be registered and have a license. The licenses vary from qualifying fair licenses for amateurs to full licenses for drivers who have competed in at least 25 races in a 12 month period.
All drivers, owners, and trainers must be approved and members of Florida Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association (FSBOA) before they may race. If you would like to stable your horse at Pompano Park, there is a $200 per month fee for yearlings and a $125 per month fee for other stalls.
How Can I Get Involved?
Anyone is welcome to come watch the race and cheer on their favorite horse and driver. Harness racing is an exciting sport that requires skill, training and control. There are unique strategies and methods that you will begin to understand the more you see this fascinating sport.
The park will be open from noon to midnight each day, simulcasting several other types of races, including greyhound and thoroughbred, will be held in the same area. Check us out online or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for even more racing facts and updates.