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In Development
The Production of the Motion Picture
 
"Horses"(Working Title)
Story by John Linde & Rod McBrien
Screenplay by John Linde & Rod McBrien
 Executive Producer, Ross J. Testagrossa
Producers, Ross J Testagrossa, Steven S. Testagrossa

"Horses" Home     Harness Racing Overview       The Story      US Tracks       Horse Movies

     The racing of horses in harness dates back to ancient times, its origins among the prehistoric nomadic tribesmen of Central Asia who first domesticated the horse about 4500 BC. For thousands of years, horse racing flourished as the sport of kings and the nobility. but the sport virtually disappeared with the fall of the Roman Empire and their chariot racings in the Coliseum. 

     Harness racing in America became a popular rural pastime by the end of the 18th century where racing trotting horses over country roads became a popular rural pastime. The first tracks for harness racing were constructed in the first decade of the 19th century, and by 1825 harness racing was an institution at hundreds of country fairs across the nation.
Modern racing, however, exists primarily because it is a major venue for legalized gambling.

     The popularity of harness racing came with the development of the Standardbred, a horse bred specifically for racing under harness. The founding sire of all Standardbreds is an English Thoroughbred named Messenger, who was brought to the United States in 1788. Messenger was bred to both pure

     Thoroughbred and mixed breed mares, and his descendants were rebred until these matings produced a new breed with endurance, temperament, and anatomy uniquely suited to racing under harness. This new breed was called the Standardbred, after the practice of basing all harness-racing speed records on the "standard" distance of one mile.

     Harness racing reached the early zenith of its popularity in the late 1800s, with the establishment of a Grand Circuit of major fairs. The sport sharply declined in popularity after 1900, as the automobile replaced the horse and the United States became more urbanized. In 1940, however, Roosevelt Raceway in New York introduced harness racing under the lights with pari-mutuel betting. This innovation sparked a rebirth of harness racing, and today its number of tracks and number of annual races exceed those of Thoroughbred racing. The sport is also popular in most European countries, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

The Standardbred

     The "standard" referred to a 2:30 minute mark under which a horse had to trot or pace one mile. Thoroughbred, Morgan, and Narragansett Pacer blood were combined to achieve the Standardbred. Messenger, a grey Thoroughbred imported in 1788 from England, was the Standardbred's foundation sire.

Hambletonian
     A great-grandson of Messenger, this horse sired more than 1,300 foals that dominated harness racing after the Civil War.

Dan Patch
     Foaled in 1896, Dan Patch was unbeaten in three racing seasons. The pacer's 1:55 mile record, set in 1906 as a nine year old, lasted for 32 years.

The Difference Between a Trotter and Pacer

     A trotter moves its legs diagonally, right front and left hind, then left front and right hind striking the ground simultaneously. A pacer moves its legs laterally, right front and right hind, then left front and left hind striking the ground simultaneously.

Training

  • Plow Reining
    The young Standardbred is first taught to accept and respond to harness and reins. The trainer walks behind, as if directing a plow.
  • Training Cart
    The first vehicle is a training cart, heavier than the sulky which the Standardbred will ultimately pull.

  • Morning Workout
    Whether at a farm or at a track, horses are regularly exercised to develop and maintain speed and condition.
     
  • Equipment
    A check rein and head pole keep a trotter's head in position, while blinkers focus attention straight ahead. Although most pacer's wear leg hopples to keep them on gait, some race "free-legged."
     
  • Sulkies - Weighing approximately forty pounds, lighter but more stable bicycle-type sulkies replaced ones with higher wheels, reducing wind resistance and increasing speed.

  • Drivers

     Size, weight, and age are not restrictive factors for drivers. Great skill is needed to guide the horse and sulky in the tight quarters of a high speed race. Some drivers are also trainers and some are even owners, a unique "across the board" involvement in all aspects of harness racing competition.

  • The Starting Gate

From the time the mobile starting gate accelerates away to the moment that the winning horse crosses the finish line, a harness race is a mile of speed and strategy. A gate mounted on the back of a car allows all the horses to start at speed and on stride. Once it crosses the starting line, the car accelerates out of the way.

 

Worldwide Harness Racing

  • On Snow
    Standardbred racing on snow in Switzerland is part of the winter sporting scene.
     
  • Under Saddle
    Riders, not drivers, handle the reins in an unusual format of Standardbred racing in France.
     
  • On Turf
    Harness horses race on grass surfaces in many countries of the world.
     
  • On Sand
    Pounding along a beach in Spain, Standardbreds race effectively on a sandy course.

The Hambletonian

     The Hambletonian is the first, and most prestigious event in the United States Trotting Triple Crown races. The Hambletonian is a United States harness racing event held annually for three-year-old trotting standardbreds. The race is named for the famous trotting horse, Hambletonian 10 (1849-1876), from whose four sons, the lineage of virtually all American standardbred race horses can be traced. It is the most coveted North American race for trotters; among races for pacers, only the Little Brown Jug is as prestigious.

     Held at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, this race for three-year-old trotters is one of America's classic harness races.

  • Night Racing

     The introduction of klieg lights in 1940 to harness tracks permitted night racing and popularized the sport in metropolitan areas/


Orlando, Florida
For information contact:
Ross J. Testagrossa(407) 928-5974