Dear Harness Racing fan.
The Hambletonian RUS/Monte series you just watched was the second annual race that we hope will become a tradition here at the Meadowlands. Monte racing, or Racing Under Saddle(RUS) as it is called in the US, is a sport where trotters are being ridden by a rider instead of pulling a sulky with a driver. The 2012 inaugural race winner was Master Pine, a 10 year old gelding with over $700,000 made in harness races, won setting a new track record in 1:57.1 on a mile track in North America. It was a nose to nose duel all the way down the stretch with him and Take My Picture, a trotter that represented the US in the prestigious Elitlopp this year. That race helped spark the interest of harness racing trainers, owners, racetracks and fans. It was the kick off to a summer of RUS/Monte throughout the East Coast & Midwest last year. Approximately 10 races total were conducted in 2012.
The sport dates back to the 1800’s. The earliest races under saddle were conducted over Thoroughbred tracks. In 1810 the first course dedicated to trot races was built in Philadelphia, PA. There is a painting by R.S. Hillman produced in 1831, that is titled “The First Painting of a Trotting Race.” It captures a race under saddle at the Philadelphia track. Until in harness races became popular, races under saddle were the primary way to race trotters. Below are pictures of the famous standardbred Greyhound. He was ridden by Frances Dodge Johnson five years after he won the Hambletonian. Their record stood for fifty four years.
In the 1990’s the US had several RUS/ Monte races that matched trotters against pacers. The series was called Boots & Saddles. Ray Schnittker, who rode today, competed in this series. In France it is a hugely successful and draws large fields that have pari-mutuel betting. Also popular in other European countries; Sweden and Norway have Monte programs that have been wagered on since 2004. The newest development in Monte racing is that Australia was just approved to have gambling on their races. Last year Australia conducted an invitational Monte race and Jenny Melander was invited to represent the US. Slowly the popularity is gaining momentum throughout the world.
It is the goal for American RUS/ Monte to obtain pari-mutuel wagering. All the races we hold now are for exhibition only. The purse money has been donated by generous supporters of American RUS/ Monte. At this time various US State laws prohibit wagering on a Standardbred being ridden, and not pulling a sulky in a race. We are working hard on trying to change these laws.
The difference between RUS/Monte and Thoroughbred racing is that RUS/Monte is not as limiting. Women and men from all different equestrian disciplines have the opportunity to participate. It is not limited to those growing up in harness racing. Although there is a licensing process, there are not as many restricts as there are when becoming a thoroughbred jockey. RUS/Monte America feels this could help attract some fresh fans to the sport of Harness Racing. It could help broaden awareness of the Standardbred across other disciplines. We believe this will also help give Standardbreds a step in the right direction towards a second career. By being broke to saddle, it may be easier to place them in pleasure horse homes when they are finished their careers.
Thank you for taking the time to gain some knowledge about RUS/Monte America. Please visit our website or Facebook page and tell your friends and family about us. www.Monteamerica.com or https://www.facebook.com/RusAmericaRacingUnderSaddle?ref=hl