Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Yonker's Under Saddle Race
This past Saturday, October 8 I made my first trip to Yonkers Raceway for their first ever Under Saddle race, also known as a Monte race. They use trotters only, since pacers require hobbles, which could be an issue for riding. They also start behind the driven starting gate, just like in a regular harness race. In this particular race, they only went around the track one time, which equals a 1/2 mile. In a typical harness race they go twice around the track, for a full mile.
This type of racing is extremely popular all over Europe and this exhibition race at Yonkers was an attempt to bring it to life in the United States. Supporters of this new racing style hope it will bring more people to the track, and personally I agree with them!
For those of you that have never seen a Standardbred in full trot or pace, you don't know what you are missing. I have been a lifelong Quarter Horse girl and until I became friends with so many people in the Standardbred world, and became a Standardbred fan in the process, the only type of racing I knew was Thoroughbred. Harness Racing is just as exciting as Thoroughbred racing. The speed and action of the trot or pace is unbelievable, as is the many other aspects that make up the sport.
I have ridden some green Standardbreds that still had a big trot or pace, but could never imagine riding a real racing trot or pace. My friend H, who you all know as the owner of the ever talented Standardbred JB, was a participant in this race aboard a trotter named Where's Harry, and from the look on her face and what she told me after, it was the thrill of a lifetime. It definitely looked like it from the sidelines.
As I mentioned earlier, this was my first time at Yonkers and I went solely for the purpose of seeing this race. It was exciting and different. I would love to see this catch on and have some kind of circuit with different brackets and lengths. While this race was all trotters, they were all of different ages and classes, ranging from claimers to stakes winners. The other interesting aspect was that all seven horses were ridden by women, while on the other hand, most drivers are men. This is not to say female drivers do not exist, but they are few and far between. The full list of participants in this race can be seen here.
I believe this sport will bring new fans to harness racing and in turn more people to the tracks. I think other members of the horse industry will be especially interested in this new type of racing. I know I definitely was and from what I heard from the people around me, as well as, others who saw the video of the race (which can be viewed above), I wasn't the only one with this opinion. Also, from what I have heard from Yonker's regulars, the track was much more crowded that night than usual, which was due mostly to the Monte race.
I strongly urge the USTA and harness tracks around the country to put their heads together and look further into this sport. It may just be the ticket to bringing new life to harness racing.
Here are a few photos I took of the race (Copyright Shutter Savvy Images)