Harness Racing - Breeds

Breeds

In North America harness races are restricted to Standardbred horses, although European racehorses often have French or Russian lineages (such as the Orlov trotter). Light cold-blooded horses (such as Dole Gudbrandsdal horses, North Swedish Horses and Finnhorses) race separately in Scandinavia.

Standardbreds are so named because in the early years of the Standardbred stud book, only horses who could trot or pace a mile in a standard time (or whose progeny could do so) were admitted to the book. They have proportionally shorter legs than Thoroughbreds, and longer bodies. Standardbreds generally have a more placid disposition (suitable for a horse whose races involve more strategy and re-acceleration than do Thoroughbred races), due to the admixture of non-Thoroughbred blood in the breed.

The founding sire of today's Standardbred horse was Messenger, a gray Thoroughbred brought to America in 1788 and purchased by Henry Astor, brother of John Jacob Astor. From Messenger came a great-grandson, Hambletonian 10 (1849–1876), who gained a wide following for his racing prowess. However, it is his breed line for which he is most remembered. The lineage of virtually all North American Standardbred race horses can be traced from Hambletonian 10's four sons.

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