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Fan Guide

America's Original Pastime

Currier and Ives Standardbred Racing Print Standardbred racing is a rich part of American history. In America’s formative years, nearly every household had a horse. Inevitably, people began to race their horses against one another to see whose horse was faster.

These races initially took place on country roads and village streets, but as these casual contests grew more popular, racetracks were built to accommodate the horsemen and fans.

The first harness racing tracks were opened in the mid 1800s, but harness racing events could be found as early as 1825 at county fairs all around the country. By the late 19th century, harness racing was the most popular sport in America.

In the United States, every Standardbred horse can trace its heritage to Hambletonian, born May 5, 1849, in the tiny hamlet of Sugar Loaf, N.Y. The name “Standardbred” originated because the early trotters (pacers would not come into the picture until later) were required to reach a certain standard of time for the mile distance in order to be registered as part of the new breed. The mile is still the standard distance covered in nearly every harness race.

Today, harness racing can still be found in the hundreds of county fairs that host the sport each year, and the numerous pari-mutuel tracks across North America. The sport is also popular worldwide in countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Italy, and France.

The Cradle of the Trotter
Goshen Harness Racing Museum
Goshen, N.Y., not far from where the great Hambletonian laid the foundation for the Standardbred breed, is home to the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. Over the Fourth of July weekend each year, racing dignitaries gather to induct the newest Hall of Fame members.

During that week, Goshen is also the home of exciting racing at Historic Track, which has been hosting harness racing since 1838, making it the world’s oldest active harness track. Because of this rich history, Goshen has been called “The Cradle of the Trotter.” Visit their Web site at www.harnessmuseum.com.