Trotters Harness Racing Paris Style

Standardbred Racing with a Twist.

The evening I spend watching the trotters race at the Vincennes Hippodrome in Paris was great. I mention some of the highlights of the track in the post VINCENNES HIPPODROME OF PARIS. The racing experience was different as well. Yes they were racing standardbreds, but there were many differences in how they raced. Here are some of my observations.

trotting trotters

Standardbred Racing Paris


In the United States there are more pacers than trotters. In Canada there seems to be more trotters but there is still a good number of pacers. In Europe, they have trotters. When I was living in Germany, I only saw trotters racing. In fact the name of the sport translates to trotting horses. The French counter part of the United States Trotting Association is LeTrot. The night I went to the races there were eight races. All of them trotters. Another difference was that two of the eight races were under saddle. While there are some races under saddle in the United States they are primarily demonstration races. The coloring is more varied in the European trotters.

Breaking Rules.

In the US, when a horse goes off stride (changing gaits) the rules require the driver to pull the horse to the outside and bring them back on gait. The horse must also not gain a distance advantage. If these actions happen, then the horse can rejoin the race. A prime example here is the November 25th race that my 1% horse Nower Power was in. Approaching the finish line in a clear second place, he broke stride. The driver tried to bring him back on stride and took him outside. He cross the finish line still off gait. However, as he did not gain a distance advantage, he was declared to finish second.

In Europe, if a horse changes gaits, they are disqualified. There seem to be more horses going off stride but part of that is likely how they race. More later.

Drivers and Jockeys

In the US, we use drivers behind the horses and riders if mounted. In Europe, they are jockeys. Also in the US, drivers register their own colors to wear while racing. In Europe, the jockeys wear the colors of the owners.


Here is a surprising one for me. When we race in the US almost all of the races are at 1 mile, that is 1,600 meters. Some fair racing might be longer, but races where you bet are all 1 mile. Thoroughbreds race at different distances but not Standardbreds. My evening at the races in Paris saw the shortest race at 2,100 meters or about 1.3 miles. The longest race of the evening was 2,850 meters or about 1.75 miles.

The Course.

a look at the track

An Aerial View of Vincennes Hippodrome. Image by Vincennes Hippodrome. paris standardbred horse racing

An Aerial View of Vincennes Hippodrome. Image by Vincennes Hippodrome.

In the US we have bank oval tracks. Generally you will find a race track has a track that is ½ mile, 5/8 mile or a mile long. Having each race at one mile the horse always start at the same position on a track. Vincennes Hippodrome is different. Not only do you have different starting points, you can have different tracks. If you look at the aerial photograph and the diagram you can see how the track is laid out. The day I attended they only used the smaller track PP. These videos will help understand the course.

By historicair - Created by historicair., CC BY-SA 3.0,

The different track arrangements.

Take a look from ground level.

Here is the 2100 meter Grand course


The Start

In the US and Canada, we have a starting car that the horses start behind. Europe sometimes uses a starting car. Of the 8 races I watched, 1 used a starting car. The rest are too hard to explain, you have to see to believe. Here is a start under saddle, later is a full race video with a sulky.

The Entries

Horseman often complain getting stuck in the 8th or 9th post position. The night I was visiting a couple of races at 10 horses, two had 12 horses, but 15 and 16 horses were the most common.


The Prix d’Amérique is the final of a series of races at the Vincennes Hippodrome.

Created in 1920 as a tribute to the United States’ commitment to World War 1, the Grand Prix d’Amérique is the planet’s biggest trotting race. The star harness event brings together the World’s best performers over the classic distance of 2,700 meters. (about 1.7 miles)

This series and the final race is the most prestigious in Europe. It is also considered the world championship. The Prix d’Amérique is raced in January each year with over 40,000 in attendance. It is broadcast live to 35 nations. The betting handle for the race is over 40 million euro and over 9 million betting slips are printed. The purse is a cool Million Euro (1.2 Million USD).

I was at the race in 1996, and watched David Wade from Rosecroft race SJ Photo.

Putting it All Together

Take a look at this video of the Prix d’Amérique 2017 to see how races are done Paris style.

Vincennes Hippodrome Paris Racetrack


The Vincennes Hippodrome located near the Vincennes Palace in Paris is one of the most famous racetracks in the world. It is here you will find the World Trotting Championships as well as Harness Racing World Triple Crown. The track dates back to 1863 and is one of the largest in the world. It has a seating capacity of over 60,000 in the clubhouse and grandstands. It also has an infield area for parking and other spectators. The restaurants will seat 1,800 people.

Of the three days I was in Paris at the end of October, I was lucky because one evening of those days they had racing at Vincennes Hippodrome. On the way to the race track, one of my transfers was closed. An attendant directed me to another subway line going to where I was headed. My maps gave me another stop to get off and a transfer by bus to within a 10 minute walk. It was interesting because the walk took me by way of a hiking trail. Still it did bring me to the “race track”. Actually it brought me to the back side of the track and the parking lot there was closed. The entrance was a mile away. For the record, if my internet had been working, I would of found that there was a shuttle from the bust stop to the racetrack, I was just early.

An Aerial View of Vincennes Hippodrome. Image by Vincennes Hippodrome. paris standardbred horse racing

An Aerial View of Vincennes Hippodrome. Image by Vincennes Hippodrome.

My walk around the outside of the track took me pass the paddocks. The paddocks are on the front side of the track away from the barns, next to the clubhouse. For those not familiar with horse racing, the paddock at a racetrack is the staging area for the races. Horse must be inside the paddock a prescribed time before the start of the race. It is here that the horses are prepared for the races. They looked outstanding, much better than any I have ever seen elsewhere.

Hippodrome de Vincennes standardbred racing

Hippodrome de Vincennes Paddock Area

First Impressions

owners entrance standardbred racing sir charles stables

Owners Entrance

I arrived about 15 minutes before the gates open. The gates seem to be from the original track built in the 1800s.

The first thing I did notice is that the owners have their own entrance, in fact, it seems

they have their own club house. Looking in from the outside it was very upscale. However, even the portion for the general public was outstanding.

As I mentioned, I was there early. I would have been the first one inside, however, the girl at the ticket counter had no change. The entrance fee is 3 , the smallest I had was a 10. so I had to wait until she sold some tickets. When I stepped inside I was impressed by the size. I had been there once before years ago, but that was a day of a major race and there were over 50,000 people there that day so did not really get to look around much. Now, there were only a hand full of people at this time.

As you entered the building, you were in a hall with four levels of grandstands in front of you.

Hippodrome de Vincennes entrance sir charles stables

Hippodrome de Vincennes entrance

Food and Drinks

While some of the food outlets were closed, there were at least 5 that were open. From simple sandwiches to 5 course dinners.

Hippodrome de Vincennes

Hippodrome de Vincennes On the ground floor, restaurants on the upper levels.


La Prestige fine dining Restaurant Photograph by charles Davis

La Prestige Fine Dining Restaurant Photograph by Charles Davis

After watching a few races outside ( more on the races in another article) I went looking for a place to eat. Was not up to the fine dining. On the ground level were a couple of places with sandwiches and hot dogs, but I went up to a pub.

standardbred racing france paris

After Work Hippodrome Pub Photograph by Charles Davis

I decided to grab a soft drink and get a hot dog as I watched a few races from inside the Pub

Hippodrome Pub photograph by Charles Davis

View from the Hippodrome Pub By Charles Davis

View from the Hippodrome Pub By Charles Davis

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Track Side

I will write an seperate article about the track and the racing, but here is a preview of the track area itself.

Grandstands from track side. Photograph by Charles Davis

Grandstands from track side. Photograph by Charles Davis

winner circle

Winner Circle and Paddock Entrance. Photography by Charles Davis


Winners Circle Photograph by Charles Davis

Winners Circle Photograph by Charles Davis