In 1879, the National Association of Trotting Horse Breeders agreed upon standards to define horses eligible to the Trotting Register, started in 1867 by John H. Wallace, to record pedigrees of trotting horses. One of the rules stated that a stallion was required to trot a mile in two minutes and thirty seconds or better, or 2:35 if hitched to a wagon.
Win - You collect win money if you bet the horse that finishes first.
Place - You collect place money if you bet the horse that finishes first or second.
Show - You collect show money if you bet the horse that finishes first, second or third.
Daily Double - Select the winners of 2 consecutive races.
Exacta - Select the first two finishers of a race in exact order.
Trifecta - Select the first three finishers of a race in exact order.
Superfecta - Select the first four finishers of a race in exact order.
Odds are an indication of the popularity of a given horse in comparison with others in the race. Odds are figured by dividing the amount wagered on a given horse into the total amount wagered, less the amount deducted by the track and state law.
The most basic information there are the win odds quoted on each horse. Those don't tell you what the horse will pay, but the amount of profit you will get and the amount you have to bet to get it. 6-5 means you will get $6 profit for every $5 wagered. 20-1 means you get $20 profit for every $1 wagered (i.e. bet $2 and get $42 back).
Since most tracks have a $2 minimum bet, the toteboard odds are rounded off, so 2-1 odds on the toteboard may actually be 1.9-1 or 2.2-1. Payoffs use the actual odds and are rounded down to the nearest nickle or dime depending on the rules at that track.
Harness racing horses are 'Standardbreds'. The name "Standardbred" originated because the early horses were required to reach a certain standard for the mile distance in order to be registered as part of the new breed. There are two types of standardbred seen racing - differentiated by their 'gait' or leg movement style:
The vast majority of horses running are pacers. Any horse who "breaks" into a canter or gallop during a race must pulled back to it's correct gait and lose ground to its competitors or be disqualified from the race.
Horses are given names by which they are known for their racing lives. Names vary immensely, many predominant stables or breeders place a prefix on their horses.
Most Standardbreds start racing as 2- or 3-year-olds. Trotters race only trotters and pacers race only pacers. Racing takes place at numerous tracks and fairs across North America, although harness racing is most popular in the Midwest and the East.
Some of North America’s top trotting races are Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-olds, and the World Trotting Derby, Yonkers Trot, Hambletonian, and Kentucky Futurity for 3-year-olds. The latter three races make up trotting Triple Crown.
For pacers, top races include the Woodrow Wilson and Metro Stake for 2-year-olds, and the Little Brown Jug, Meadowlands Pace, North American Cup and the Adios for 3-year-olds. The Pacing Triple Crown is made up on the Little Brown Jug, the Messenger Stake and the Cane Pace.