FAQs

Whether you're visiting the races for the first time or just need to check some of the ins and outs of the sport, these FAQs will be of some help.

Attending and Supporting the Races

Do I have to book tickets in advance or become a member to attend the races?
No, everyone can purchase tickets at the gate on the day of the races. However, you can save money at the Tregaron races by purchasing a three day pass for the Tregaron August Festival in advance or by becoming a Tregaron Trotting Club Guest member. Guest members receive tickets for the four days of racing at Tregaron and admission to the Members and Horseman’s Pavillion for the duration of the August Festival.

Is harness racing suitable for children and families?
Absolutely. A day out at the races is a wonderful opportunity to spend time outdoors, surrounded by breathtaking countryside and enjoy plenty of entertainment on and off the track. What’s more, admission for children under 16 is FREE. 

Harness racing in the UK is a very family orientated sport. Many of those participating in the sport encourage the involvement of their whole family and some race meetings stage junior races.

All our racing tracks are a half mile circuit which guarantees you an excellent view of the horses and all the action. In addition to this there is often some additional children’s entertainment available such as bouncy castles, slides, pony rides, face painting and competitions.

How much does it cost for children to attend?
Admission to all children under 16, accompanied by an adult, is FREE.

Are there facilities for people with disabilities?
Disabled parking spaces are provided and disabled toilets are also available.

Can I bring a coach party?
Coach parties are always welcome. Ceredrotian race meetings are the ideal venues for a day out whether as a club, association or other large group. Groups of 20 people will receive one free admission ticket; two free admission tickets for a group of 30 people; three free admission tickets for a group of 40 people.  Please contact the relevant club for details.

Do you have to pay for parking?
No parking is FREE, and in very close proximity to the racetrack.  Early birds can certainly take advantage of trackside parking.

What time do the gates open on the day of the races?
Gates open around two hours before the first race. You can take advantage of the time before the racing starts to pick a good vantage point, study the racecard (or programme) and even catch a glimpse of some of the horses warming up on the track. You can also familiarise yourself with the drivers as they always wear the same colours (identified on your racecard) and also pick some favourite horses as they will also be identifiable by a number cloth.

Is there a dress code?
No, there is no dress code. However, you are advised to come suitably dressed for the day’s weather as this is an outdoor event.

Are picnics allowed?
Whilst every racetrack will have mobile catering outlets and a bar, you are more than welcome to bring your own picnic.

Are dogs allowed at race meetings?
Dogs are allowed at race meetings, but they MUST be kept on a lead at all times. Your dog is your responsibility.

Are there places to sit?
Seating is available and may include trackside seating or picnic benches. You are welcome to bring along your own foldaway seats and find an ideal spot trackside for the best seat in the house.

Where can I obtain more information on racedays?
The race programme (or racecard) is an useful tool to guide you through your day at the races. It includes details about each race and other helpful information. Programmes are usually available at the admission gate or from the secretary’s office. All racetrack commentators will keep you up-to-date with race day information and will also provide you with plenty of information during the pre-race parade.

Can I bet at the races?
Yes, providing you are over 18 years of age you can place a bet with any of the bookmakers (bookies) that have a stand at the races. Having a little flutter of the horses is fun and doesn’t have to be complicated.

I’ve never placed a bet before, how should I go about it?
Placing a bet can be very straightforward and you don’t have to be a harness racing expert to have a flutter. Click to read about betting with the bookmakers, the types of bets available and how to place your bet.

How can I learn to read the racecard?

Please click here for a diagram which will help you understand the racecard and get the most out of your visit.

How many races am I likely to see?

Most of the Ceredrotian race meetings will include arund 12-16 races per day. The first race usually takes place at 2pm and races are run at 20 – 25 minute intervals. Please check the individual club pages to confirm start times.

I don’t like to drink or bet, is this event for me?
Harness racing is a thrilling experience and you certainly don’t have to go near the bar or the bookies to have an incredibly enjoyable day out. Watching these wonderful equine athletes compete is a spectacle in itself. The speed of the horses and the skill of the drivers is truly amazing. All the Ceredrotian racetracks are set in the most beautiful locations - you may see red kites flying overhead, ancient monuments dotted around, and Cardigan Bay and the beautiful Teifi Valley as backdrops, providing excellent photo opportunities. So if you want a fun day out, a relaxing day out, a family day out, an equine day out or just a day out…come racing, come harness racing.

Where can we stay?
There is a huge variety of accommodation available in the Ceredigion area, from seafront B&Bs and boutique guesthouses to secluded self catering cottages and 'glamping' camp sites. A list of accommodation can be found on the Ceredigion Tourism website.

How do I sponsor the races?
All the Ceredrotian race meetings have a number of sponsors and sponsor packages can vary depending on the amount of sponsorship money given. The benefits vary from receiving free admission tickets for the more lucrative major race sponsor, and if sponsoring the feature race of the day it will include your name, admission tickets, hospitality tickets and advertising. Becoming a sponsor is an ideal way of advertising your company, acknowledging support received through the sport or simply supporting a local event.  

How do I become part of a syndicate?
Becoming part of a syndicate  is one way to get involved in the sport. You can choose to join an existing syndicate or set up your own with friends, colleagues or like minded people. Being part of a syndicate will help share the expense of being a racehorse owner and allow you to share potential successes with others.

 

The Sport 

What is Harness Racing?
Harness racing is a form of horse racing that is popular all over the world. Harness racing differs from Thoroughbred racing in the fact that the horses are driven rather than ridden.

What type of horses are used for harness racing?
All the horses that compete in harness racing are known as Standardbreds. The Standardbred was established in North America and has descended from the thoroughbred and crossed with other breeds. Today, all the horses that pace or trot naturally are pure Standardbreds that pace. Here in the UK, every Standardbred racehorse has to be registered with The Standardbred and Trotting Horse Association of Great Britain and Ireland (STAGBI).

Can any horse compete?
No, every horse that competes has to be a registered Standardbred. Every Standardbred has to take part in a Qualifying Race and become Qualified before it is permitted to enter an official race.

What is a qualifying race?
A qualifying race is a race that is organised for horses that have not yet started to compete in official races. In order to qualify, the horse must complete a mile within a specified time and under race conditions. The time will vary according to the track on which the qualifying race is held. The stewards must also be satisfied that the horse is ready to progress to official racing, and this is determined according to the way in which it has behaved on the track, started behind the start car and maintained its gait throughout the qualifying time.

Only when the Stewards are satisfied and the horse has met the required standard will the horse be allowed to qualify and then be eligible to enter official races. Qualifying races can be held prior to the start of the official races, after the conclusion of official races or on a designated qualifying day.

What is the difference between a pacer and a trotter?
The pace is a two beat lateral gait, with the right front leg and right hind leg moving forward together and then the left front leg and left hind leg together. Pacing is a faster gait than trotting and it is generally considered that a pacer, over a distance of one mile, is about three seconds faster than a trotter. 

Conversely a trot is a two beat diagonal gait. A trotter will move the left front and right hind leg forward together and then the right front leg and left hind leg together. Exactly the same as any other horse would trot, but it has the ability to do this at racing speed. There are a small number of trotters racing in the UK, and these will predominantly have been bred in mainland Europe.

What happens if a trotter or pacer breaks (goes into a canter or gallop) during a race?
If a horse breaks during the race, the driver must immediately try and correct the horse and bring it back to pace or trot. The driver is also expected to try and steer his horse towards the outside of the track without hampering or interfering with other horses. If the horse is able to regain its gait, and is deemed not to have gained any advantage by breaking then it may continue in the race. The stewards will monitor the horse’s progress and may on the other hand be of the opinion that the horse must be disqualified.

Why do pacers were straps around their legs?
The straps are called hopples. The hopples are used to help maintain the gait not to enforce the gait. The pace is a totally natural gait and young foals can be observed pacing freely alongside their mothers in the field.

How fast can standardbreds go?
The speed that Standardbreds achieve obviously depends on ability and the surface on which they are racing. On the hard (permanent/all weather) tracks, horses will regularly achieve a time of under two minutes over a mile. On grass tracks, some of the best horses have broached two minutes, but generally the times would be five to six seconds slower than on hard tracks and will vary considerably depending on the weather.

Standardbreds will pace at speeds of 30-35mph. The current British record is held by Doonbeg, who paced the mile at Amman Valley in 1 min 53.7 seconds (which also happens to be a World Record, for the fastest mile on less than a half mile track). The all time World Record was set in a time trial in 1993 by Cambest, with a time of 1 minute 46 3/5 seconds.

Can anybody drive in a race?
All the drivers that compete have to hold a BHRC drivers license. When they first apply for a driving licence they are issued with a provisional licence, which will permit them to compete in qualifying races only. Each driver is required to pass a driving test (practical and oral) and convince the stewards that he/she is competent. There are three classes of driving licence, the first official licence issued is a C Class, as the driver becomes more experienced and has a number of wins, he/she will progress to B Class and finally to A Class. Some races may be restricted to C Class, whilst some of the classic races are restricted to A Class. Harness racing is a sport where men and women compete equally.

How are welfare and integrity issues managed?
The horses that race are bred and trained to race and the safety and welfare of the horses is paramount. At each race meeting, veterinary surgeons and horse ambulances are available to attend to any horse as and when necessary. The rules of racing exist in order to ensure the welfare of the horse and race stewards are present to ensure that the rules are not violated.

Blood, urine and hair samples can be obtained before or after racing and the samples are tested and analysed for any prohibited substances that may have been used to enhance the horse’s performance. The number of positive tests found is extremely low, nevertheless the integrity of the sport must be maintained and horses must be tested. 

What is a grade or handicap mark?
The racecard will be made up of horses of different abilities. The horse’s handicap mark is a reflection of the horse's ability, and is calculated in line with the amount of prize money it has won. The more money the horse wins, the greater its handicap mark. The purpose of this mark is to ensure that horses of the same ability race against each other and that all horses in a race have an equal chance of winning. At least that’s the theory! 

The governing body (BHRC) is responsible for calculating a horse’s handicap mark. Once the handicap is known it will then fall into a designated grade. Horses start their racing careers as a maiden, after winning one race they can move to the novice grade, win one race in this grade then on to grade 1, where their winnings will determine how quickly they move through the grades to the highest grade, grade 12 (G12). Sometimes a race may included horses from different grades, in this instance each Grade will give the preceding grade 10 yards start. For example G1 horses would start on the gate with G2 horses trailing the gate by 10yds and G3 horses trailing the gate by 20yds.

Why do the horses start behind a starting gate?
The starting gate is used to ensure that all horses have a fair and equal start. Each horse will have been allocated a specified gate position and it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that they are in the correct starting position.

How do they decide what order they line-up when behind the starting gate?
Depending on the type of race, the most common procedure in Ceredrotian meetings is for horses of the same grade, or in some races the same age (e.g. all 3 year olds) to ballot for their gate positions. Alternatively, if the race is described as a ‘preferred’ open handicap, this means that regardless of their Grade, the horse with the lowest handicap mark will be drawn 1, the next one will be drawn 2, and so on with the highest handicapped horse given the highest draw.

Why are some horses disqualified?
There are a number of reasons why the race stewards may view that there has been a breach of the rules in racing and as a result, the horse is disqualified. Some of the most common reasons for disqualification are i) the horse is in the incorrect position at the start, or not on his correct trail ii) breaking stride and gaining ground iii) causing interference to another horse in the race.

Why do some drivers get called to the stewards’ room?
At each race meeting there are a number of race stewards that watch every race and it is their responsibility to ensure that the rules of racing are adhered to. Should the stewards consider that any horse or driver has not abided by the rules, they will request that the driver attends the stewards' room and the alleged offence is investigated. The stewards may be satisfied by the driver’s explanation and no further action will be necessary. However, should they decide that the driver has broken a rule of racing then he may warned, fined and or suspended. There are many rules and drivers may be called for a number of reason including issues relating to i) misuse of the whip ii) driving offences iii) not driving a horse to its full potential etc.

How do I get involved in the sport?
Harness racing is a sport for everybody - the young and old, male and female, professional and amateur.  There really is something for everyone. It is an affordable way of horseracing as many competitors own, train and drive their own horses. You can choose to do one or all of these. If you think you would like to get involved in the sport, then talk to those already involved. Join Clwb Cardigan Bay and get to know those involved in the sport in this area. Spend some time talking to existing owners, trainers and drivers and ask if you can visit their yard or stables and if you can have a go! You can find a list of trainers and drivers in Ceredigion, contact any of the clubs in Ceredigion or contact the BHRC to find out more about the sport in your area. 

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