The simplicity, fun and excitement of horse racing has long been adapted to living room entertainment by toy and game manufacturers, for sale across the globe, to be enjoyed by adults and children alike. Formerly through mechanical means and later with electronics the possibility of sitting back and watching the race unfold has been a source of entertainment for decades and perhaps even centuries.
These games are great for both family fun, often played with pretend money or tokens and also for adult party revelry with the opportunity for real wagering or even drinking games. Either the winner takes a shot or is reprieved while beaten rivals do!
Battery-operated, electric or electronic horse racing games have been around for many years. Earlier examples include Electric Derby, produced by Kays of London (pictured) and other similar games. These were typically games of pure chance, the spinning wheel determining a random winner from the circling horses. Such games were essentially electronic versions of earlier mechanical games like the French, “Jeu De Course”.
There are, of course, a great many electronic horse racing games that have been produced at one time or another, especially when you take into consideration handheld products. The ones we’re going to take a look at here though are those multi-player games which make great amusement at parties. Modern options are unfortunately quite limited and some of the most popular choices can often fetch premium prices in the secondary markets.
Without further ado, here are our choices for the top electronic horse racing tabletop games:
1. Peers Hardy Horse Racing Derby
Unquestionably, the one that comes top of the list is the Peers Hardy Horse Racing Derby. The Peers Hardy Group are primarily a manufacturer of gifts, including games. Unfortunately no longer in production, the Peers Hardy Horse Racing Derby was commonly sold in the UK via Next retail outlets.
This classic game was produced in both 4 lane and the rarer 5 lane version. The horses would race around the track twice to the sounds of music and cheering. The winner would be different each time and the finishing order shown on the electronic digital display. Restart the race at the touch of a button and the horses return to the start line. Betting slips and play money were included.
Although no longer available to buy new, the Peers Hardy Horse Racing Derby game remains extremely popular. We see these sell regularly secondhand for often ridiculous prices. They are not as rare as some sellers would have you believe but they are most certainly highly sought after.
Complete and in full working order, expect to pay £100 – £150 for the 4 lane and £150 – £200 or even higher for the less common 5 lane version of the game. It is also worth pointing out that the game is a heavy item and this can add considerably to the cost of obtaining one of these, especially when shipping overseas.
2. Silverlit Horse Racing – 2,4 and 6 lanes versions
More readily available is Silverlit horse racing. A version was also branded as Next and sold through their retail outlets. Most commonly seen as a 4 lane game, it has also been available in 2 lane and even 6 lane versions. Each horse is battery operated with moving legs that enable it to run around the track. Jockeys, which have differing weights, and lanes would be drawn prior to the start of the race. Press down on the horse’s tail to start it running and then push the button to release the gate and begin the race.
The Silverlit game is also no longer in production but there are still plenty to be found in the secondhand markets. While not cheap, they do not tend to achieve quite the same sales prices as the Peers Hardy game. This is also a much lighter weight alternative and may appeal to those who are unable to collect in person.
Complete and in good condition, expect to pay around £30 for a 2 lane version, £50 for a 4 lane and around £80 for the sought after 6 lane edition.
3. Horse Race Challenge
A third option is Horse Race Challenge. The game usually came equipped with two horses (additional horses were available to buy separately) and two infra-red remote controls. These horses, larger than in the other games, are also battery operated. The big advantage that this game has is that the player is directly involved and an element of skill and judgement can affect the outcome.
Some users have reported quality concerns with this game and the track is made of card. Production appears to have now ceased on this game too and it may be that poor quality may lead to fewer examples of this game being available for sale previously owned. That said, at the time of writing, availability remained quite good. Pricing is similar to that of the Silverlit game, expect to pay in the region of £40 to £50 for one of these in near new condition. Again, it is a lighter weight option more suitable for shipping.
4. Kentucky Derby Horse Racing
American games manufacturer, Tudor Games has specialised in sporting games for more than 70 years, including electronic horse racing games. You can still find some of their early examples available for sale from time to time. However, in 2019, Tudor Games released an updated version of their tabletop horse racing game, this time with a Kentucky Derby theme.
Line up the four horses at the start line and press the remote button to start. Watch the horses as they change lanes and mount their challenge throughout the final stretch. Each horse is fitted with “invisibase” horseshoes which can be adjusted to improve performance.
The game is very new to the market and some early reviews we have seen are not particularly encouraging. However, Tudor have been making games similar to this for decades and we would be hopeful that any initial glitches are quickly ironed out.
As far as we are aware, the game is currently only available in the US and costs in the region of £40. However, it is easy to purchase and import one of these to the UK from Amazon.