About The Sport
The world of horse racing in Denmark is concentrated around harness racing (trotting) governed by the Danish Central Federation of Trotting (Dansk Travsports Centralforbund, DTC) and flat racing placed under the authority of Danish Gallop (Dansk Galop). Each year over 2000 harness races are organized on the 8 racetracks at different locations in Denmark while approximately 300 flat races are organized in Klampenborg, Odense, Aarhus, and Aalborg.
Denmark counts 3000 racing horses within both trotting and galloping. Several prestigious races such as the Danish Derby highlight the disciplines throughout the year. The harness Derby is open for the 4-year-old horses and is held at Charlottenlund Travbane every last weekend of August whereas the Derby in flat racing is open for the 3-year-old horses and held every last Sunday of June at Klampenborg Galopbane.
Charlottenlund Travbane hosts furthermore the international race Copenhagen Cup every year the second Sunday in June. Klampenborg Galopbane hosts the international race Scandinavian Open Championship (Gr.3). The race is open for older horses and is held on the first Sunday in August.
History of harness racing
Racing with standard bred horses boomed in the 20th century, but the fact is that the sport has a long history. Racing with standard breeds is also called trotting due to the gate in which the horses race. Harness racing is another name of the sport, as the horses often run in front of a small cart – a so called sulky – but standard bred racing is also performed under saddle as by the thoroughbreds.
Quite amazing is the fact that harness racing developed parallel in a number of countries not depending on each other: North America, Russia, France, The Netherlands, Italy and Norway. Common is that the sport developed from working and driving horses of local breeds.
The earliest indication of trotting gait racing is found in the Netherlands, where 'draverijen' was competed in 1554. The winner received a silver whip. The Dutch developed their own breed the 'Harddraver'.
The mother of harness racing
Nevertheless North America is considered the mother of harness racing. It is known, that members of the religious Quaker-community raced against each other back and forth to the church on Sunday mornings using light four-wheeled carts. A big step towards the modern standard bred race was taken in 1789 when the British thoroughbred Messenger (born 1780) was imported to America. As the stallion arrived at the harbour of Boston, he broke lose by killing his strapper and trotted away in the most beautiful gate over the harbour area. Messenger came from the Darley Arabian line, and he became the grand sire of Hambletonian (born 1849), 'the father of all trotters'. Hambletonian’s influence was very big, and in the second half of the 19th century there was an enormous development in speed amongst North American trotters.
In Europe historical information indicates, that Norwegians raced their cold blood work horses on the ice as early as around 1820.In Denmark the history of harness racing began when the King Frederik VI arranged trotting races in the period 1831-1833. However it didn’t catch an audience at that time. In Italy harness racing trotters is known as early as 1843, and in Russia the sport was quite developed, and in the 1850s many tracks in the country operated raced for the (mostly white or grey) Orloff-trotters.
The first European countries to build up a harness racing industry were Germany and Austria. It was in the cities Berlin and Vienna the first races shaped as we know them today were arranged in the beginning of the 1870s. On oval hard tracks with a circumcise of 1000-1200 meter trotters bred from American, Orloff, Hungarian and Harddraver blood performed at a higher speed than ever seen before in Europe.
The oldest track in northern Europe
Soon Denmark joined this type of standardbred racing. In 1881 the first known Danish trotter, Gambrinus, was born. The first track was built in 1885 just outside the northern gates of Copenhagen. In 1891 Charlottenlund Racetrack – the oldest of its kind in northern Europe was built. The first Danish trotters were a mixture of American, Russian, Norwegian coldbloods and Danish Frederiksborg working horses. The 'real' trotters often raced off enormous handicaps, up to 300 meter on a 2000 meter distance. With time the Danish trotting breed got more and more focused on speed and in the 1920s all trotters where pure bred. However, you can still trace some of the oldest Frederiksborg-mares in 21st century trotters.
The industry developed rapidly, but unfortunately two world wars prevented Denmark to defend its role as the leading harness racing country. After World War II Sweden has been the clear leader. A country where the sport still flourish and develops, mainly thanks to vast wagering dividends providing large purses and a generally good economy.
Danish harness racing has become dependent of the Swedish industry; however Danish breeders and professional trainers are very competitive in spite of the dire straits. A total of eight race tracks offer harness racing in Denmark. Standard breeds race all year around on seven of the tracks. The wee and extremely ambient track on the small island of Bornholm only races at summertime.
The biggest event within Danish harness racing is the Derby, which always runs on the last Sunday in August. As many as 15.000 attendants cheering the horses from the first post parade to the last winning ceremony. The Danish Trotting Derby is a cultural highlight of a vivid and engaging sport.
Where to see the races?
Billund Trav, Nordmarksvej 1, 7190 Billund, www.billundtrav.dk
Bornholms Brand Park, Segenvej 41, 3720 Aakirkeby, www.bornholmsbrandpark.dk
Charlottenlund Travbane, Traverbanevej 10, 2920 Charlottenlund, www.travbanen.dk
Car-Center Racetrack, Gedser Landevej 22, 4800 Nykøbing F, www.nykftrav.dk
Skive Trav, Flyvej 2, 7800 Skive, www.skive-trav.dk
Harness and flat racing:
Jydsk Væddeløbsbane, Observatorievejen 2, 8000 Århus C, www.jvb-aarhus.dk
NKI Racing Arena, Aalborg Flyvej 2, 7800 Skive, www.aav.dk
Fyens Væddeløbsbane, Prins Haralds Alle 51 B, 5250 Odense SV, www.fvb-odense.dk
Klampenborg Galopbane, Klampenborgvej 52-56, 2930 Klampenborg, www.galopbane.dk
Go to calendar to see the dates.