Pikehall Harness Racing

Fancy a flutter?

A horse’s most basic requirement for good health is fresh air and grass, and as such the Peak District is an ideal stomping ground for our nags. We’ve all seen them idly grazing in farmer’s fields, but what’s less well-known is the Peak District is home to a trio of a racecourses each offering a grand day out and the chance to have a flutter. Let's Stay Peak District takes a look at one of them - Pikehall Harness Racing.

One of only a handful of sports that allows men and women to compete on an equal footing, Harness Racing is a bit of an unknown quantity in this country. Outside the UK, Harness Racing is every bit as popular as standard horse-racing – particularly in mainland Europe, North America and Australasia.

Harness Racing uses standard-bred horses, as opposed to thoroughbreds, which are raced along with a driver. The driver – not a jockey - sits in a two-wheeled buggy, or cart, known as a sulky, and is pulled along by the horse. It’s not too far removed from chariot racing in many ways.

There are two formats within Harness Racing – trotting and pacing, with the former prevalent in the UK. In ‘trotting’, the horses aren’t permitted to break into a canter or a gallop, and must move its legs in diagonal pairs (front left, hind right etc) or face being disqualified.

Pikehall Harness Racing was introduced in 1998 and was initially met with bewilderment and confusion. The sport was all but completely unknown in this country, but its popularity has since soared and quite a crowd gather at biannual Pikehall’s meetings.

The track is in the hamlet of Pikehall - which is roughly equidistant between Ashbourne and Buxton, just eight miles from Matlock - Derbyshire’s county town - and lies a shade under a thousand feet above sea level.

Like any standard race meeting, there are form guides to follow, betting opportunities for punters (bets can be placed with up 20 bookmakers) and other attractions such as a licensed bar and childrens entertainment. It’s a great day out for all the family. Under-14s are free, while entry is just £8 for adults.

There’s no such thing as a certainty in horse racing, but it’s a safe bet that anyone coming to Pikehall for a day’s racing will make the effort to return.

Sean Cummins

August 2010

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015