Harness racing is considered to be a variant of horse racing. In harness racing, horses race against one another as they pull a sulky. A sulky is a two-wheeled cart occupied by one driver. This vehicle is more informally referred to as a “bike.”
Originally, sulkies had a straight iron axle with wheels measured to be five feet in diameter. At the time, they would weigh close to one hundred pounds, but innovation and development in the 1800s improved many aspects.
Harness racing’s history is traced back to some ancient sources, such as the Assyrian kings of 1500 BC. They maintained stables and hired professional trainers for their horses. Then came the chariots.
While originally made and drawn upon for wartime purposes, chariots found their use later as the ancient world used them for hunting and, later, for sports. The 7th BC Olympic Games found demand for four-horse chariot races, marked as one of the most thrilling and exciting races in the Olympics.
It was considered one of the most popular and prestigious events during the games. Along with that popularity, it was inevitable that the people would find their way to gamble into these chariot races. As a matter of fact, bets in horse racing itself can be traced back to Great Britain in the 1600s.
In the modern betting pool, there are three primary markets listed on various platforms. The most common one that you can find almost anywhere is “Win.” Here, you are simply predicting if the horse you’ve bet on will take first place.
If you’re an avid fan, you can also opt for “Top 2,” where you predict which horses do you think will take the first and second place in no particular order. You can also try “Place.” This type of bet takes good analytical skill on horses’ typical performance as you need to predict your favorite horse will end up: first, second, or third place.
The 20th century saw a decline in the harness racing interest and attendance. While it continued to persist in county fairs and the like, people welcomed the growing numbers of automobiles. Some attributed it to the shifting moral values as people grew disdainful of the betting.
Yet, harness racing continued to persist, and it was well rewarded for doing so. In the 1940s, interest in it grew back, and attendance tripled. Purse values would reach upwards of $2,000,000. In fact, the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey in 1980 rewarded its top winner with over half of the said purse value.
More and more people were interested in harness races, and as it regained its popularity, it began to expand beyond the American audience, reaching as far as Australia and New Zealand.
The boom of online betting brings a fresh stream of revenue as well for the sport. Standardbred owner Richard Young said that casinos’ funding makes purses lucrative. However, Young also pointed out that expenses are steadily increasing, making it challenging to sustain ordinary overnight horse racing.
However, Young remains optimistic, saying, “Despite its numerous travails, this is still a great game. The thrill of winning a big race, or even a small one, is unmatched in my experience.”
Young is not the only one to remain optimistic. On Meadowlands Pace night this year, all-source wagering reached $5,672,535, the highest in 17 years, with only two previous instances of breaking the $5 million mark since 2009. This represents a 20% increase from the previous year’s handle of $4.7 million.
Observers said that this is attributed to strong support from Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey state legislature for the horse racing industry in the state. Their continued backing has led to a surge in handle at the Meadowlands.
However, the ease of online betting might also be a contributing factor to this rise. Although there’s nothing tops going to the actual field, people can watch at home using their TV or gadgets while still placing bets on their favorite horses through online platforms.
For instance, they can just search for options for betting on harness on Sportsbet.io. Then, they can simply place their wager with cryptocurrencies or any other payment method with just a few clicks.