Harness racing is an equine sport whereby a horse pulls a small carriage, known as a sulky, around a dirt oval track. The sport is not as popular in New Zealand as thoroughbred racing, although it still attracts a number of punters each year. Knowing what to look for when betting on harness racing is as important as knowing what to look for when wagering in thoroughbred racing.
Knowing the Sport
Firstly, a punter must get to know how harness racing works. The horses do not gallop but pace or trot instead. Should they break out of the correct gait and not be corrected they can be penalized. Younger horses are more prone to this than older more experienced horses, so take note of that when placing a wager.
Sulky drivers can be a lot older and a lot heavier than jockeys, they also cannot communicate with the horse in the same way that a jockey does as they are not actually riding. This results in many different driving styles. Not all horses gel with all drivers, so keep a look out for how each driver performs individually and how they tackle the sport.
Because harness racing is on an oval track, post position plays a huge part in how the horse and driver team may end up. Coming into the first turn, the horse closest to the inside rail will reach the turn before the others. This will give them a huge advantage when reaching the next straight as the amount of ground covered will be less. Horses often bump and jostle to get into the inside line on the turn, so keep an eye on the most aggressive team.
Class and Performance
Harness racing is similar to thoroughbred racing in that the horse’s all fall into a particular class. This can be influenced by previous performance as well as the type of race in which they have competed. Like any other sport, the horses have to perform consistently in order to move up to a new class. When looking for a horse to bet on, have a look at whether it has been competing in its particular class for a short or a long time. New horses to the class are up against horses which have more experience and are therefore less likely to beat them
A horse’s past performance is available to peruse on the Internet. Take the time to research the horse and how it has performed over the last few months. Standardbreds, which is the breed used in harness racing, are hardier than thoroughbreds and need less time off. A horse which has had long break in its racing career has usually been off due to injury or illness. A recovering horse will very seldom be as good as a horse which is in top form.
Harness racing is almost always run over a mile. Due to this one can compare a horse’s performance more easily than in a thoroughbred race or while making the Crown Oaks Day bets, as they have a number of distances. Take into consideration the poll position though, as a horse which draws the outside rail will have further to run. Comparing times will give you an idea of how the horse does related to its co-runners.