Racing WA

Racing WA Harness History


James Brennan marked the start of organised harness racing in Western Australia when he called a public meeting that led to the formation of the Western Australian Trotting Association (WATA) in September 1910. Prior to this, the only regular harness racing was conducted at the annual Perth Royal Show.

Meetings of the WATA began at Belmont Park and Claremont Showground in 1911. In 1913, the meetings were conducted at the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) ground with night meetings commencing in 1914 – the world’s first meetings under electric lights.


Harness racing continued at the WACA until 1929 when a new course was opened under the name of Brennan Park. The name was changed in 1935 to Gloucester Park. Harness racing also commenced at Richmond Raceway in East Fremantle in 1928.


Because the pacing gait is generally easier to maintain and easier to teach, the majority of harness races are for pacers. If you have ever seen a pacer in action, you would have noticed a collection of straps connecting its front and rear legs on the same side. These straps are called hopples, which help the pacer balance its stride and maintain a pacing gait. In comparison, trotters do not wear hopples because of their diagonal movement – perhaps this is why they tend to ‘break’ more often than pacers. 

If a trotter or a pacer gallops or otherwise breaks stride during a race, the driver must pull up the horse and coax it back into the approved gait to avoid making an offence. This rule vitally important for the race to remain fair for the other runners.

It is also an offence for a horse not to be raced on its merits. Failure to do so may result in penalties from the stewards, who supervise the running of licensed race meetings.