Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

What you have here is an old guy. In education for 30 years, started teaching elementary, ended as library and media director of community college. I've enjoyed mountain climbing, sports car rallying, was pipe major of a bagpipe band, played guitar and sang during the folk revival, walking and hiking later in life. Now fairly sedentary. Enjoy reading, esp. mysteries and fantasy, but my reading is pretty eclectic. Enjoy movies, giving Netflix a workout.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Hambletonian

On Saturday I sat before the television and enjoyed one of my favorite sporting events. I’ve talked about horse racing before but it was always about thoroughbreds. But this time it was the Hambletonian, one of the three premier races for trotting horses. Or as they are properly called, standardbreds. I suppose my dad first got me interested. He used to talk about seeing Dan Patch, one of the great trotting horses early in the 20th century. You are not likely to see trotting races very often on television, so I taped this program. Then sometime in the doldrums of the winter I can pull it out and watch again as the trotters line up behind the moving starting line, swinging gates attached to a car that moves ahead as the horses come up to their trotting speed, the drivers sitting behind in their sulkies.

Two fine races were shown on the program, the Hambletonian Oaks for fillies and mares and the Hambletonian for the males. $1.5 M in purses for the two races. Passionate Glide won the Oaks in 1.54.3. Glidemaster won the Hambletonian in 1.51.1. Very much fun to watch. My horse, Choclatier, came storming from the outside position (10) but was only able to take second. One question went unanswered by the commentators. I noted that one horse was completely blindfolded during the post parade. I watched carefully and the blindfold was never removed. Not just blinkers, because all of the rest of the horses wore them. But this horse was raced that way, entirely controlled by the driver. I wish they had explained that. They did mention that the trainer was driving this horse because he was difficult to handle. Maybe that was the reason; being able to see would have made him even more difficult.

When I was young there was one season of trotting races at a not very good track near Tacoma. But it was enjoyable. There is always a contingent of horsemen that would like to see a trotting track and season in the area. But it took ten years for Emerald Downs to be built after Longacres, our original thoroughbred track built in the 30s, was sold to Boeing. So the nearest trotting races are up in British Columbia, near Vancouver.

Several years ago we spent a memorable evening at a trotting track in Summerside on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Racing every Wednesday night. Many of the farmers nearby own standardbreds and trailer them in along with their racing sulkies. As you drove about the island you would see training tracks so the drivers could train their horses at home. An almost amateur approach to the sport. But great for the sport, for the islanders’ entertainment, and for the owners and breeders. No admission was charged for the races but there was parimutuel betting. I remember that Anna did quite well that evening. It was wonderful evening, the crowd was all friendly and the racing quite competitive. Lots of fun.

Well, thanks for letting me yammer on about a sport I like very much and see way too little.


Blogger Bill said...

I never saw one of these races. I did read Sherwood Anderson's "I'm a Fool," which mentions Dan Patch.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I've always wondered who Dan Patch was, ever since I heard that line from "Trouble" in THE MUSIC MAN (Like to see some stuck up jockey boy on old Dan Patch? Make your blood boil? Well, I should say!). In that context I thought Dan was a farm horse.
When I lived in NY, and close to a trotting track (Roosevelt Raceway?), I saw a lot of races on TV. And the place where I first learned to ride had a trotter that used to lead the trail rides. It was a kick to watch that animal zoom past, knees unbent, like a bolt of black lightning.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Hi Frank,

You can find much more about Standardbreds and the queer racing at I searched for what you mentioned about blineders and did not come up with anything, except for a dear term of one type of blinder called a Peek-A-Boo.


1:40 PM  

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