A Guide to Trotting
What You Need to Know
- Trotting is a special form of carriage racing, in which horses have to run in a special style.
- Races are regularly held in the UK as well as in North America and large parts of Europe, including Scandinavia.
- As the name suggests, horses have to trot; if they break into a gallop, the driver needs to slow them down and if this is not possible, they will be disqualified from a race.
- Race take place on special mile-long oval tracks and are usually just one lap long.
- Some of the biggest events in the trotting calendar take place in Sweden and France and attract large crowds. These are also great for sports betting.
- As well as race winner bets, bookies will also match up two or more horses for a Head to Head race or you can improve your odds by betting on a horse to be Placed.
- The British Harness Racing Club (BHRC) is the best place to go if you want to find out more about the sport.
What is Trotting?
Trotting is one of the two varieties of harness racing, alongside Pacing. In the sport, the horse does not carry a jockey. Rather, it pulls a 'driver' in a special two-wheeled cart also known as a 'sulky'.
As the name suggests, the hoses racing have to be trotting. That is, they need to move with a special gait, with the legs moving forward in diagonal pairs (for example, the right front leg moved in tandem with the back left leg). In pacing, the horse pulls a driver while moving with a lateral gait (that is, the right front leg and right rear leg will be moved in tandem).
Trotting dates back more than 10 years and is popular not just in North America, but in Australia, New Zealand and large parts of Europe, above all in Scandinavia and Finland. The horses raced tend to be smaller than flat racing thoroughbreds, with shorter legs. A;; horses need to be able to trot a full mile in 2 minutes 30 seconds, though many will achieve much faster times in competitive races.
Races take place at special trotting tracks with banked turns, usually attracting crowds of several thousand people.
In European trotting, races are almost always run over a single mile, around an oval track, though occasionally the distance could be 1,000 metres or even 1,650 metres. This means races tend to be quick and over in just a couple of minutes, with the horses often reaching speeds of up to 30mph.
Races can either be started with the horses and drivers lined up behind an automatic starting gate. Alternatively, some races begin with moving starts, though this is more common in North American trotting.
Rules of Racing
Trotting is a very simple sport. All you need to know as a beginner is that the first horse across the finish line is declared the winner. In the event of a tightly-contested race, a photo-finish may be used to determine the winner.
The only real rule you need to understand is that relating to the gait the horses are required to maintain. Horses need to trot right the way through a race. Should a horse start galloping, then the driver is required to slow it down, usually by manoeuvring to the outside of the track and waiting until a trot has been resumed.
Accelerating into a gallop is known as 'jumping'. Should a horse disturb other horses through jumping, then it is automatically disqualified. Similarly, if the horse gains a position in the race as a result of jumping, it is disqualified, as it is if it gallops across the finishing line.
Trotting takes place throughout much of the year across Northern Europe, especially in Sweden, where meetings take place most weeks. Outside of the standard season, there are a few major events on the European trotting calendar, with these attracting the best horses and drivers and offering the best betting opportunities. Some of the highlights of the European trotting season include:
- The Elitloppet: A one-mile race held at the famous Solvalla Track just outside of Stockholm
- Gran Premio Lotteria di Agnano: Italy's biggest trotting competition, taking place each year in Naples
- Prix d'Amerique: The biggest event of the season, held in Paris
Plenty of races take place across the UK, making it easy to see the action live. A good source of information is the British Harness Racing Club (BHRC). On its website (http://www.bhrc.org.uk/racing/) you can find up-to-date news about races, meets and other events. Here you can also find out more about getting involved in racing yourself.
Betting on Trotting
Trotting is fast, furious and perfect for betting. Most online bookmakers will offer odds on big race meets, with the easiest bet to make simply putting money on a horse and driver to win a single race.
Alternatively, if you can get to a meet in person, trackside bookies will also offer a good selection of betting markets, complete with last-minute odds.
- To find out more about trotting in the UK and the rest of Europe, visit the British Harness Racing Club (BHRC) website.