Harness Racing As It Relates To The Ages

The Harness Horse may be a Trotter or a Pacer, but its real family name is Standard Breed. Their ancestors are the Arabian and Thoroughbred horses. The first that arrived in America was a big gray named Messenger in 1788. Messenger's great grandson, Hambletonian, was foaled (born) in 1849. Most harness race horses today are descended from Messenger and Hambletonian. According to the United States Trotting Association, harness racing has for over 200 years been admired by the young and been a most enjoyable sport for the adult. Harness Racing is a sport for all ages. It's entertaining for the professional and the amateur, as well as the American family.

Prior to the automobile, one of the primary modes of transportation in local communities was carriages drawn by harness horses. Families went to church on Sunday in them, children were transported to schools and social events in them, and even cross-country trips to grandmother's house were not out of the question. Automobiles, trains, and planes have taken over as the primary means of transportation, but the Trotters and Pacers are still around, racing in Harness Races at tracks today, hopefully near your home.

At age 91, Leo Burns was a noted racer for his age. It was said he rode like a 65-year old! During a career that spanned four decades, he amassed more than 450 victories and nearly $400,000 in winnings. According to the U.S. Trotting Association, Mr. Leo Burns is considered to be the oldest Harness Driver ever in the sport. Three years ago, during the writing of this article, he won a race at Albion, Illinois, riding Winsome Wyoming, a two-year old filly. Mr. Burns is truly an elder statesman in the world of Harness Racing.

There have been many celebrities who admired the sport of Harness Racing, including the late, great basketball star Wilt Chamberlain, Mr. Dave Cowans, Ms. Dolly Parton, and the former boxing Heavy Weight Champion of the World, Mr. George Foreman.

Our Board Member, Bruce McGhee, who is well into his 80's, is our steward in the Harness Racing world. Until March of 2004, Mr. McGhee sponsored the Third Leg of the Aiken Triple Crown (Harness Race). The race was run at McGhees' Mile Track on Banks Mill Road. The Harness Races are the most laid-back of the races of the annual triple crown event. Mayor Fred Cavanaugh called the Triple Crown "a tremendous asset to the city". Unfortunately, the harness racing event has been replaced by a polo tournament, but the event has only temporarily halted in the Aiken community. As long as there are persons like Mr. Bruce McGhee, who owns a prize Trotter, Priority Dancer, and with the legacy of Mr. Clifford Card, "Mr. Harness Racing", a renaissance is forthcoming.


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