Those looking for the thrill of watching live horse racing will not have to travel outside the region this summer.
Local county fairs across the state will host six qualifying Racing Under Saddle competitions, concluding with the Series Final Race at Tompkins County Fair on Aug. 19.
The first meet was held in Goshen on July 3. The series will move to the Afton Fair today, and will continue July 14 at the Seneca County Fair in Waterloo, the Otsego County Fair in Morris on July 29, the Chenango County Fair in Norwich on Aug. 5 and Steuben County Fair in Bath on Aug. 12.
Racing Under Saddle, or “RUS,” is not a new sport. Internationally, it is known as Monté racing.
“It’s pretty big in European countries, but not here in the U.S.,” said Michelle Miller, the race coordinator for the fair series and active licensed rider. Miller is the former editor of The Cooperstown Crier and also a long-time horse owner and rider.
RUS is a combination of harness and thoroughbred racing, Miller said.
Standardbreds that usually race pulling a two-wheeled cart called a sulky are instead ridden with a saddle. The horses are started behind a moving gate, just like harness racing, Miller wrote in a media release. Each rider in the races must be licensed by the United States Trotting Association and be active in the standardbred world.
Miller said she always wanted to be a thoroughbred jockey but was told she was too tall, she said.
“I’ve always wanted to ride racehorses — it’s a family tradition,” Miller said.
Miller comes from a family of horse trainers and horse owners, she said. As a child, she used to go to Vernon Downs Racetrack and ride the horses back to the barns after the races, she said.