Breeders Crown harness races come to Indiana

Breeders Crown (WISH Photo)

ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — This weekend Indiana will host the Breeders Crown horse racing competition for the first time.

It’s an event that may be unfamiliar to many Hoosiers.

There are no jockeys, saddles, or thoroughbred horses. Instead, harness racing includes a strong and sturdy standardbred horse, a driver and a sulky.

“Some call it a sulky, but we refer to it as a race bike. It’s what we use to go to fast in. It’s like getting in your sports car,” said driver Trace Tetrick, standing next to his race bike.

Tetrick high-fived other drivers and staff as he walked through the sheds and stables behind Hoosier Park. He gave 24-Hour News 8 a tour and a play-by-play of harness racing.

“It’s an adrenaline rush. When you’re racing, you’re sitting here. A horse’s head will be right on your neck, so you’ll feel hot air going back your neck,” he said. “It’s pretty neat, very exciting.”

Harness racing is very close quarters. John Campbell, a former driver and who is now president and CEO of the Hambletonian Society explained that it takes a good strategy along with a powerful horse.

“Harness racing is very strategic. Decisions the driver makes behind the gate, during the race, is so important. They’re not like a car where you can just step on the gas and step on the brake, and horses all have personalities,” said Campbell. “They’re just like other athletes, where some have great attitudes for racing, others you have to trick into going.”

He explained there are two gaits for the horses who race: a trot and a pace. Trotters move front right and hind left legs together, alternating sides. Pacers move their front and hind right legs together, alternating. All harness races are one mile in length, and Tetrick says the horses manage it in less than two minutes.

“Imagine you’re sitting on a bar stool with feet out in front of you, and you’re four feet off the ground, going 30 miles per hour,” he said, “and you hope everything works out.”

For Tetrick, it has. Hoosier Park officials report he has 4,286 wins in his career and is the all-time leading driver in Hoosier Park history.

“I started driving at the fairs when I was 14 years old. I came to Indiana when I was 19. I won my very first [race] ever here,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of success and luck and have some great trainers and horses along the way.”

He hopes to succeed again in the 34th Edition of the Breeders Crown. The races are run at night, and Hoosiers will be treated to 12 crown races with 10 horses in each. The races are differentiated by gait, horse gender and horse age.

Winning drivers and horses will win their share of a $6 million purse. One crown-winning horse will be named the Horse of the Year. Tetrick says the horses are the real athletes.

“They’re just like people, horses are. They’re compassionate animals, they want to do well, and they want to win,” he said.

For more information on the race schedule, click here. Admission to Hoosier Park for the Breeders Crown is free.