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'Trotters at Randwick'

Spirited: Australia's Horse Story

'Trotters at Randwick'

Harness racing in Australia

Harness racing, incorporating both trotting and pacing, started in the Australian colonies around 1810. The sport grew quickly as it attracted both the well-to-do and competitors who could not afford to buy a quality ‘galloper’ or keep a riding hack that they could also race, but who were happy to run the horse who also pulled them around town every day.

'Trotters at Randwick', by Frank P Mahony, 1887
'Trotters at Randwick', ink and wash drawing by Frank P Mahony, 1887. National Museum of Australia.

Frank Mahony began work in an architect’s office at age 10, but he reportedly drew horses instead of plans. He became a well-known artist, lauded for his ability to capture horses in motion. Mahony produced this ink and wash drawing of a trotting race at Randwick racecourse in Sydney in 1887. At the time, harness races were usually run on the same tracks as riding races, often as part of a racing carnival.

Today there are more than 90 purpose-built harness racing tracks in Australia.