Throughout North America, pacers dominate harness racing making up eighty to ninety percent of the races, but in Europe, the opposite is true, and trotters outnumber pacers. An American breed, Standardbreds, whether trotters or pacers, all descend from Hambletonian 10. Trotters move their legs diagonally whereas pacers move them laterally, and the ability to pace has a genetic basis determined by a mutation in gene DMRT3 which controls movement. Pacers are faster, accelerate quicker, and are less likely than trotters to break stride because most wear hobbles. The hobbles connect the front and rear legs on the same side of a horse to help balance and stabilize the horse on turns and maintain their gait.

Pacers move their right front and hind legs in tandem and their left front and left hind legs in tandem.

In horse racing, many factors contribute to a winning performance. Bloodlines are a constant, but variables including the trainer, driver, weather conditions, track condition, and luck can change daily, and all influence a horse’s performance. Unfortunately, a great race horse does not always equal a great sire.

In the early 1900’s, a celebrity pacer named Dan Patch created many fans of pacing and popularized the sport of harness racing making it one of the most favorite sports in the country. Dan Patch, beloved from coast to coast, set numerous world records and drew thousands of people to his exhibitions around the country. However, he was not a very successful sire and never produced a superstar like himself.

Horse breeders study bloodlines and analyze breeding theories attempting to influence destiny and produce superior and faster horses. Some favor inbreeding which mates horses that are related within 5 generations, others believe in out-crossing which breeds horses unrelated within 5 generations, and other breeders prefer line breeding which mates horses that are related, but more distantly than inbreeding. After all the careful planning, a winner is never guaranteed.

Over the years, Pennsylvania has been home to many outstanding and influential Standardbred stallions including Adios. Adios, a world champion pacer in the 1940’s and dominant sire of both colts and fillies, stood at stud at Meadow Lands Farm in southwestern Pennsylvania. In 1967, a yearly race was established in his honor called the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids held at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in western Pennsylvania and is one of the season’s most important races. He had an illustrious racing career and was a world champion pacer setting numerous track records, but he had an even more tremendous and prolific career at stud. Owned in part by Hanover Shoe Farms, he sired racing champions Bret Hanover and Adios Butler and sired 8 Little Brown Jug winners and is considered one of the world’s greatest Standardbred stallions.

Fortunately for Standardbred breeders in Pennsylvania, the state is home to several prominent breedingEntrance to barn at Hanover Shoe Farms
farms including Hanover Shoe Farms which stand proven, world champions as well as young, up and coming stallions. Hanover Shoe Farms, one of the most famous and successful Standardbred nurseries in the world, has been a leading, dominant breeder for over 100 years and has been home to several legendary stallions that have influenced the breed for generations. In 1951, Hanover’s Lawrence Sheppard purchased the champion pacer Tar Heel for a record $125,000, and the horse became a leading sire and one of the world’s top broodmare sires. Tar Heel had a long and productive career and died at the old age of 34.

Albatross, another prolific champion stallion stood at Hanover Shoe Farms during the 1970’s. He had a brilliant racing career winning back to back Harness Horse of the Year awards for 1971 and 1972 and retired with earnings over $1,000,000. He was an outstanding sire and great broodmare sire, and his influence on the breed is still relevant today.

In more recent times, Hanover was home to another superstar pacer named Somebeachsomewhere. He was a world champion and Horse of the Year in 2008 and held eight world records. A winner of 20 out of 21 starts, the horse earned more than $3.3 million. Unfortunately, he died of cancer in 2018 at the young age of thirteen, but his legacy lives on at the track and at Hanover through several of his sons. Two young horses by Somebeachsomewhere named Papi Rob Hanover and Stay Hungry joined the stallion roster at Hanover along with his proven son, Captaintreacherous. The well-bred winner Papi Rob Hanover begins his stallion career in 2021 with high hopes and excitement for his future progeny, and Stay Hungry, a winner of over $1.3 million stands his third season in 2021 and has sired a promising first crop of yearlings. Captaintreacherous, the two-time Pacer of the Year and winner of over $3.1 million and one of the leading pacing stallions in the country, sired millionaire winner and stallion Captain Crunch in his first crop. He continues to sire champion winners, and his offspring command top prices at
the sales.

The other two pacing stallions standing at Hanover are both by another prolific stallion named Bettor’s Delight. Betting Line, a promising young stallion with a brilliant racing career winning almost $1.9 million ranked fourth among 2 year old pacing money winning sires, and the other accomplished pacer, 2020 Horse of the Year Tall Dark Stranger enters stud in 2021. He won over $2 million, and breeders eagerly await his first crop. According to Dr. Bridgette Jablosky at Hanover, “Somebeachsomewhere was a great and influential sire, and Bettor’s Delight a prolific sire.”

Somebeachsomewhere and Bettor’s Delight pedigrees currently dominate the industry with Captaintreacherous being one of the hottest stallions on the market. Another prominent breeding farm in Pennsylvania, Diamond Creek Farm in Wellsville, PA stands several young stallions including the best and fastest son of Captaintreacherous named Captain Crunch, which is his first son to enter stud. He was a 2 year old champion and earned over $1.5 million. Also standing at Diamond Creek is the impressive stallion Bettor’s Wish by Bettor’s Delight. He was the leading money winning Standardbred in 2019 and enters stud in 2021. Always B Miki, a stallion that offers breeders a different line of breeding also stands
at Diamond Creek. He is by Always A Virgin by Western Ideal and was 2016 horse of the year and a world record holder. Another stallion with winnings over $3.4 million, Sweet Lou by Yankee Cruiser is another option at Diamond Creek for breeders in Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania has a good stakes program and one of the country’s leading breeding programs. The incentives and breeder’s awards make it very beneficial to breed in Pennsylvania. You have to breed to a Pennsylvania stallion and keep your mare in the state for 180 days,” explained Dr. Jablosky. For harness racing fans and handicappers, the top stallions, world champion bloodlines, world class farms, strong breeding program, and competitive stakes program make for excellent year round live racing in Pennsylvania.

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