Home >> Encyclopedia-britannica-volume-11-part-2-gunnery-hydroxylamine >> Shadworth Holloway Hodgson to William Morris Hughes >> Trotting Horse Racing

Trotting Horse-Racing

Loading


TROTTING HORSE-RACING It is in America that the racing of horses in harness has reached its highest development. The standard-bred trotter enjoys the distinction of being the only variety of modern domestic animal which is an American product and occupies a position of recog nized supremacy the world over. It is in demand in all quarters of the globe, for breeding and racing purposes, where speed in harness is valued, as much as $6o,000 having been paid for a single stallion (Allen Winter) for export to Europe. Yet the standard-bred is by far the youngest of any sub-species of the equine race, its foundations having been laid little over 1 oo years ago, while the standard itself, under whose aegis it has reached so high a state of development, was not originated until 1879. It was then spon sored and placed in operation by the late John H. Wallace, the originator and long the compiler and publisher of the American Trotting Register, in 1934 in its 28th volume. The number of stallions registered standard in this work is over 70,000, with more than double that number of mares. The index of standard speed is 2:25 for i m. for trotters and 2:20 for pacers, and there were in 1934, of official record, about 45,000 standard-record trotters and well on toward 40,000 pacers—the trot and the pace being to-day recognized as but two different forms of one funda mental habit of action.

The American harness race horse was built up from the most heterogeneous elements, including all those which showed aptitude for speed at the trot in harness. But to the imported English thor oughbred stallion Messenger, son of Mambrino, of the Darley Arabian line, belongs the credit of being the one horse whose blood brought order out of chaos and initiated the establishment of a genuine trotting family, destined to become universally dominant. Messenger, foaled 178o, was imported to America in 1788, made his first season that year at Philadelphia and died in 1808 on Long Island, his 20 years of service in America having been spent exclusively in and about Philadelphia and New York, then the two great urban centres of population in the United States. While his progeny highly distinguished themselves on the turf and at the stud, as thoroughbreds, it was as a progenitor of game, fast and enduring trotters that he founded a family and remains for ever famous. Both his sons and daughters handed on the gift of speed in harness, and as the generations multiplied, this speed increased rapidly in rate. His blood began to submerge all other strains in which the trotting faculty was distinctive, the tribes of Just in Morgan and Henry Clay being the foremost.

The line from Messenger proved most potent through his son Mambrino, in turn the sire of Abdallah, he the sire of Hamble tonian (Rysdyk's) . The latter horse (foaled 1849, died 1876) is the great outstanding figure in the upbuilding of the breed, his influence having been so wide and deep that not even that of Eclipse on the English thoroughbred has equalled it. About 5,000 different harness race horses perform publicly every year in the United States and Canada, of which it would be safe to say that at least 90% trace directly to Hambletonian in the male line, while the vast majority of them have many collateral crosses to him.

Up to 1869, when the National Trotting Association, the first governing body known to the sport, was formed, harness racing was, while a popular pastime in the republic, especially its northern and eastern portions, unorganized, desultory and lacking in social status. Thereafter it progressed rapidly, attracted prominent men in all walks of life and began to divide with the sport of thorough bred racing the interest of those devoted to turf sports. The contrast between the two forms of racing remains, however, radical and inevitable. Thoroughbred race meetings are compara tively few in number, are held almost exclusively in or near the largest cities and are of lengthy duration. On the other hand, har ness race meetings are diffused over the entire country, are of a few days only and many at which stakes and purses of large value are given are held in small towns, this being due to the fact that what may be termed the "amateur spirit" still largely prevails in the conduct of the sport.

Records.—From time immemorial harness racehorses have been handicapped according to their records (i.e., their best official time) at a mile, though of late a new method of classifying them according to their money-winnings has been steadily gaining favour. The class of a trotter or pacer is largely established by his record and probably always will be. The first authentic instance of fast trotting in America was when Yankee, a gelding of unknown antecedents, trotted a mile in 2 :59 at Harlem, N.Y., in 1806. It was not until 1845 that 2 :3o was reached by Lady Suffolk with 2 : 29.i. Progress thereaf ter was steady as the breed became estab lished and training methods improved. Flora Temple scored 2 in 1859. The first 2:15 trotter was Goldsmith Maid (2:14 in 1874), which mare was long the largest money-winning animal ever on the turf of any sex, gait or breed, in any country. She was foaled in 1857, first appeared in public at the age of eight and trotted her last race at 20, her total winnings having been $364,2oo. She was by Alexander's Abdallah, son of Rysdyk's Hambletonian. Sun Beau, the American thoroughbred leader, has won The 2 o trotting list was begun by Jay-Eye-See, in 5884, when he trotted in just 2:10. The first 2:05 trotter was Nancy Hanks, which scored 2:04 in 1892, the year pneumatic-tired racing ve hicles ("sulkies") were introduced, vastly accelerating speed. Two minutes was at last reached in 1903 by Lou Dillon, she trotting in I :581 that season. In 1928 the record-holding trotter was Peter Manning, which in 1922 placed the figures at 1:564. By a somewhat peculiar coincidence, the premier records that year at both the harness racing gaits were identical, the pacing mark being also I:564, by Directum I. in 1915. In 1905 Dan Patch paced a mile in I :55i, but with artificial assistance which was subsequently barred from official performances.

The introduction of the automobile exercised a momentous effect upon the status of the American harness race horse. Prev iously the breed was taxed to its utmost to supply the demand for not only racing material, but the higher types of roadsters and private driving horses. As this demand no longer exists, the trotter and pacer of to-day approach the thorough-bred in that they are fast being relegated almost exclusively to the race track, for either professional or amateur use. Owing to this turn of evolution, racing methods have likewise been altered. Heat racing, as always, still prevails, but the length of the standard contest has been much curtailed, few races at the better meetings extending beyond the third heat. The emphasis is more upon ex treme speed than staying power, and whereas in former years colt racing was indulged in to but a slight extent, the aged performer being supreme, to-day the two and three-year-old occupy the centre of the stage.

Thus far the most valuable trotting event given in America (or the world) has been the Hambletonian stake (named in honour of the great progenitor) of 1926, won by Guy McKinney, which fell but a trifle short of being worth $75,000. It is for three-year olds. No event exceeding $25,000 has as yet been given for pacers, and in recent years no event for aged trotters has been of larger value. There are numerous futurity events for both two and three-year-olds and the leading money-winner of the season comes almost invariably from the futurity division. Early speed has become extreme. The two-year-old trotting record is now 2:02, held jointly by Hanover's Bertha and Lawrence Hanover, own brother and sister, while another own brother and sister Protector and The Marchioness, tie for three-year-old honors at s :59+• Breeding.—The Blue Grass region of Kentucky is the favoured region for the breeding of trotters, although their production goes on in all parts of the country, and many notable pacers are Canadian-bred. The principal speed nurseries and the premier sires are situated there. Trotting breeding to-day consists prin cipally of the inter-breeding of the blood of four progenitors not long since disappeared from the stage—Axworthy, Bingen, Mc Kinney and Peter the Great, all male-line descendants of Hamble tonian. Of these the Axworthy line leads in the production of extreme speed, its chief representative being Guy Axworthy (2:o84), which has sired four different two minute trotters. Peter Vols however, has recently surpassed him with five, which is now the record in that department.

His

sire, Peter the Great has been the most prolific sire of harness speed ever known and is credited with no less than 661 standard-record performers, almost double the number by any other stallion. His son Azoff (2:144) is the sire of the trot ting champion Peter Manning (1:56-1). The family of Bingen in numbers is decidedly smaller than that of either Axworthy or Peter the Great, but his son Uhlan (1 :58), the trotting champion from 1912 to 1921, is considered the most finished, elegant and versatile harness performer yet produced. McKin ney's fame is due to a great racing daughter, Sweet Marie (2:02), and to a son Belwin (2:o64), and a grandson, San Francisco (2 :o7-1), that are among the most successful sires of race horses of the present day.

A total of about ',coo different harness race meetings are held in the United States and Canada each season at the present time. The great majority of these are held in conjunction with State, County or other agricultural fairs and expositions, at which the thorough-bred has never been able to gain a foothold, owing to the fact that betting is prohibited. In the United States harness racing reigns as their paramount entertainment feature. It has never been and never will be "the sport of Kings," but as a demo cratic open-air diversion enjoys a popularity with the masses of the people that is secure. (J. L. HE.)

harness, racing, speed, race, peter, trotters and trotter