FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — For nearly as long as the 157-years of the Great Frederick Fair, horse racing has been a staple event. On Wednesday, the harness races began.
“If you want to try what we do, get on the hood of your car and have somebody drive you around. That’s the same experience,” explained harness racing driver, Gary Botsch.
Shortly before noon at the standardbred horse stables, Botsch is getting ready to hit the track with horse, A Dandy Strike. He slips on a pair of gloves and sets out.
But he won’t be riding horseback. Drivers here ride on the sulky.
“We sit on the seat with the wheels, and we go roughly thirty miles per hour. It’s competitive. It’s all racing,” Botsch said.
Wednesday marked the first day of harness racing. Groups of four to five horses competed on the track in two heats.
They travel around the track twice to complete a one-mile run.
“I love watching them go and trying to figure out who’s going to win. I usually go for the underdog or the ones who aren’t in front right away. Watching them all come around and make it through, it’s just very, very exciting,” said spectator at the race, Alice Rader.
In the first heat, Botsch and A Dandy Strike came out with the win.
The second heat was followed by a celebrity harness race which included Maryland Secretary of Commerce, Kelly Schultz, president of Hood College, Andrea Chapdelaine, and Delaplaine Foundation, Inc. President, Marlene Young.
Spectators who fill the crowds can cheer and guess who will come out a winner, but there are no bets taken at the track. The is a purse that goes to the winning horses.
“Typically, a horse like today, the horse raced twice in two races. They would have raced for like $800 in each race. That’s broken down by percentage into the top five finishers,” said Colby Hubble, member of the Great Frederick Fair Board of Directors.
Horse racing has been a part of the fairgrounds for decades and officials say they’ll keep it for years to come.