My First Taste of Harness Racing
Before arriving in New Jersey yesterday, I knew almost nothing about the sport and history of harness racing. Until I was invited to cover The Hambletonian I knew very little.
Turns out that it is a pretty big deal in many parts of the globe. Both Sweden and France love it. There are even equestrian tours that go around the globe to visit farms, tracks and races.
The first thing I noticed when I got to The Meadowlands Racetrack is the old school vibe of the place. You know that it has been here for years and has seen tens of thousands of people enter over the years to take in the races on Friday and Saturday nights.
They are currently doing a massive remodel to modernize the whole complex. The drawings I saw of what is coming makes me definitely want to come back in the future.
We headed over to the paddock where horses are kept during races. If their stable on the farm is their home, this could be considered their office.
They had brought in a beautiful and dignified lady of the track with the name of Nadia B Fella.
The plan was for me to get a better understanding of what it felt like to be a driver in a sulky behind the horse.
The sulky is the brightly colored harness that the horse pulls behind them in the races and instead of having a jockey, in harness racing they are known as drivers.
Sam "The Voice of the Meadowlands" McKee brought me out on the track with him. As we talked about our kids, racing and how much faster it would be when the actual races began at The Hambletonian this weekend I took in the beauty all around me. Seeing the New York skyline as we rounded the second turn gave me a big smile.
Sadly, my GoPro died just as we were getting going, but you can get at least a little feel for what it is like by watching this video.
A few minutes later Sam handed me the lines and said "now it your turn" and away we went.
He had failed to tell me to keep them taught or else Nadia would just open it up and trot at full speed. She enjoyed the freedom and I loved the rush of being in control as we zoomed around the track.
Trying to imagine what is it going to be like on Saturday when ten drivers and their horses take to the racetrack is hard to imagine.
Looking down the long lines of empty seats I know that this weekend they will be filled with cheering fans from all walks of life as the races get underway. I'm excited to be part of it all.
If you are in the area, you should consider coming down and watching the race in person. If you DO come let me know as I'll be there and perhaps we can connect.
I've also been told that I should encourage you to tweet, Facebook or share about The Hambletonian. Any relevant social share that includes the #Hambo13 hashtag is going to be put in a random drawing for $500!
Can't be there in person? You can watch it live on CBS Sports Network.
Stay tuned for more updates from the track and to find out if I win when I put a little money behind a horse for the first time.