WALES & BORDER COUNTIES HARNESS RACING
Wales & Border Counties Racing Association is the original independent harness racing organization in Great Britain. Its area covers the southern half of Wales and the bordering counties of England, extending from the West coast of Wales as far as the English county of Herefordshire, and from Caersws in Mid Wales to Ammanford in South Wales.
Harness Racing has been established in Mid- and South Wales since before the end of the nineteenth century, racing the native breed of horses, the Welsh Cobs. In the latter part of the twentieth century, these indigenous trotters have been replaced by Standardbred Horses imported from America. British Harness racing today is dominated by pacing horses with very few trotters currently competing.
The season traditionally begins on Easter Monday with the oldest meeting in the calendar at Llangadog in Carmarthenshire, South Wales. Race meetings are held every weekend until the end of September, while mid-week evening meetings are held regularly during July and August. The last race meeting of the season is a charity meeting with the venue changing yearly where the horse-owners hold a low prize-money meeting to raise money for local charities. The presentation of the annual awards to horses and drivers takes place at this meeting and adds to the great friendly party atmosphere.
This very popular rural sport is still run predominately on grass. As the racing moves from one venue to another each week, so a natural handicap system is introduced reflected in the well-known saying horses for courses. Each venue creates its own ambience and every club jealously guards its individual identity, whether it be the typical Cardi meeting at Synod Inn, in West Wales or the so called Wembley of Wales at Penybont in Powys. It literally is a case of taking the racing to the people, rather than centralising affairs at one track.
Wales & Border Counties harness racing, also known locally as trotting, is a truly amateur sport. Most of the competitors own, train and drive their own horses. It is one of the easiest equine sports to take up, with members providing lots of help and support to newcomers as well as staging junior races for the younger members of the families who cannot wait to grow up to get involved. There are a few professional trainers but these are all part-time and although the competition is intense, this sport constantly maintains its special family atmosphere of neighbourly association.
A new horse begins its racing career by running in the Nursery races; these non-betting races introduce the horse to the sport. Racing horses are divided into four grades, depending on their experience. The first grade is the Baby Novice class where after three wins they progress to the Novice class. After another three wins they may enter into open racing or Grade B class. The cream of the horses may go on to qualify for the Grade A class. Horses are handicapped on distance in their grade races. These handicaps are "off the gate", ten yards or twenty yards from the gate as for the Baby Novice, Novice and Grade B races whereas a Grade A horse can be handicapped to a distance of sixty yards behind the starting gate.
The tracks are usually oval with the majority being about half a mile in length. Most of the races are usually 1 mile long although a number of meetings stage 11/4 mile races and the occasional 11/2 mile race. Saddle races are very popular, as are six furlong races and races for drivers over fifty, as well as the exciting junior races. Despite being centuries old this most entertaining sport is still run on amateur lines today, with the emphasis being on fun and enjoyment for all participants alike.
Harness racing has long been a very popular rural pursuit. In Wales today, harness racing remains a big leisure time activity that attracts fans from all walks of life and professions.
To learn more please visit http://www.welsh-trotting.co.uk