APBA American Saddle Racing Game – some history and breaking down the different “versions”

First, some history of the APBA American Saddle Racing Game:

APBA Game Co. debuted the APBA American Saddle Racing Game in 1971.  The Horse Racing seasons were always behind 2 years.  So when the game made its appearance in 1971, it came with the 1969 Horse Racing season.  J. Richard Seitz timing for debuting an APBA Saddle Racing game probably could not have been any better.


2 years after his release of the game, the sport of Horse Racing saw its first Triple Crown winner in the last 25 years (winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same season) in 1973, Secretariat.  Secretariat is still thought of today, in many circles, as the best race horse of all time.  While I am not sure what sales were for Seitz’s Saddle Racing game in those early years, I am certain that sales jumped in 1973, after Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner since Citation won the Triple Crown in 1948.  And while the APBA Saddle Racing fans would not see the Triple Crown racing card for Secretariat until the release of the 1973 Horse Racing season 2 years later in 1975 (note, the first Secretariat card was actually in the 1972 season set, as a 2-yr old), sales of APBA Saddle Racing must have jumped soon after Secretariat took the Triple Crown in 1973 because of renewed interest in the sport.  Of the 2 APBA Saddle Racing games I own, one was still inside of the cardboard shipping container used by APBA Game Co. to ship the game in.  The postage date on the outside of the shipping box is stamped, July 17, 1973, meaning the original owner from Huntington Beach, California, purchased the game about a month after Secretariat completed the Triple Crown with his June 9th, 1973 win at the Belmont Stakes.



I first purchased APBA Saddle Racing in 1980, as a curious 14 yr old.  The world had now seen 3 new Triple Crown winners in the decade of the 1970’s:  Secretariat in ’73, Seattle Slew in ’77 and Affirmed in ’78.  I had been playing APBA Baseball since 1978, and having the brochure for APBA Saddle Racing, along with the network TV sports exposure of Spectacular Bid in ’79 and Genuine Risk in ’80 made me want to give the Saddle Racing game a try.  When I ordered the game, I made sure I ordered both the 1973 Racing Season (which was still available from APBA Game Co.) and the current racing season which came with the game, the 1978 season featuring Affirmed’s Triple Crown worthy card.  The game is not a difficult game to learn, even for a 14 yr old.  And while I enjoyed the game, I rolled maybe 10 races max, before I put the game away and never got back to playing it.  My interest in APBA Baseball and APBA Football, along with the other APBA sports games consumed my game playing time.  I eventually placed an ad in the APBA Journal in 1981, selling my Saddle Racing game containing the 1973 and 1978 racing seasons.

Fast forward to 2015.  Having found my way back to APBA Baseball, and actually rolling the dice again in 2000, it was probably only a matter of time (or years in this case) before I needed to rediscover each of the old APBA games I used to play.  It took me awhile to get back to Saddle Racing.  I recalled the game being fun to play.  I had some new interest in Horse Racing.  It was May of this year, and American Pharoah had already won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.  He was the odds on favorite to win the Belmont Stakes and become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.  I called upon an APBA Collection for sale, listed in a Craigslist ad, the seller being located in central Wisconsin, my neighboring state to the east.  I called the seller and found out that not only did the collection include many old APBA Baseball sets, but also included the Saddle Racing game.  He was not sure what was included in the game, other than it contained the 1984 Horse Racing season.  I was sold and about a week later, made a 2 hour drive from my office in Bloomington, MN to Stanley, WI, to meet the gentleman at his home.  He brought out boxes of APBA product, mostly APBA Baseball.  Another few boxes were brought out, and there was the familiar orange box, the APBA American Saddle Racing game.  Other than one corner of the game box top being split, the game was in great shape, and even contained a full allotment of the APBA Saddle Racing score sheets.  With the game containing the 1984 Horse Racing season set, it was apparent this game was purchased in the 1980’s.  As I describe in the following paragraphs, it became apparent this was a “later” edition of the game.  The APBA Saddle Racing game’s last set of cards ever issued were for the 1987 racing season, issued by APBA Game Co. in 1989.

The APBA seasons for Saddle Racing comprised of seasons 1969-1987.  There were also 2 sets of All-Time Great Horses released.  Each set contained 28 horses, which are listed on the envelope with the horses.  Horses #1 thru #24 are the same for both sets.  What version of All-Time Great Horses you have depends on what horses are listed for #25 thru #28.  The earlier version of All-Time Greats included Gallant Fox, Seabiscuit, Whirlaway and Buckpasser.  This first edition was issued in 1973, as part of the 1973 “edition” mailing for the Saddle Racing game.  The 2nd edition of All-Time Greats was released in the early 1980’s.  This later edition for horses #25 thru #28 included Secretariat cards from 1972 and 1973, and Forego from 1974 and 1976.  Below is a picture of the 2 sets:



Identifying differences in original game and later version of game:


(At the starting gate of my 1974 Belmont Stakes)

As I have taken the time to re-learn playing the game, and posting some race results on the Delphi APBA Between the Lines Forum (http://forums.delphiforums.com/apbabtl/messages/?msg=46906.1), it became apparent that there are different “versions” of the APBA Saddle Racing game out there.  The changes are in 4 main areas:

– #1, The Base Furlong “times” had changed for several of the furlongs.  These individual base furlong times are important in that they are used to calculate your finish race times for each horse.

– #2, The Sideways Move Points definition changed, both on the Race Track Board and in the Rule Book.

– #3, The Timer Table had changed. (main impact on races 14 furlongs or longer)

– #4, Some of the Move Point Results changed on the Race Action Board, for certain Play Result Numbers.



ORIGINAL RACE ACTION BOARD (note timings for each furlong):


LATER VERSION RACE ACTION BOARD (note timings for each furlong):


Using the 10 furlong mark as an example, if you are using the original RAB, you will see that the base time for 10 furlongs is 2:07.  This means that if your horse finishes the race after its 10th furlong dice roll even with the finish line, and with no remaining move points, the time for the horse would be 2:07.  If the horse had a fraction of move points remaining, you would subtract from 2:07 to calculate his final race time.  If the horse finished in spaces beyond the finish line, you would calculate the timing of each of the spaces he was beyond the finishing line, and subtract from 2:07.  If the horse finished spaces leading up to the finish line, you would calculate the timing of each of the spaces leading up to the finish line and add to 2:07.  Either way, 2:07 was the “original” base time for 10 furlongs.

Using the “later version” RAB, you will notice the base time for 10 furlongs is now 2:05.  In simple terms, this is 2 seconds FASTER than the original RAB.  So on average, with just this one base timing change to the RAB, every 10 furlong race you run, every horse is going to finish 2 seconds FASTER than they would have using the original version RAB.  “Giving” a horse 2 seconds is HUGE when you are talking about track records, etc.


(Jockeying for position thru the 5th furlong, Belmont ’74)



There are different versions of the Sideways Move Points definitions issued, defined not only on the Race Track Board but also within different issues of the Rules Booklet.

Sideways Move Points defined in original Rules Booklet and original Race Track (click on picture to see larger view):

sideways_moves_1_rule_book      sideways_moves_1_track

(From Original Rule Book)          (From Original Race Track)


Sideways Move Points defined in a later version Rules Booklet and later version Race Track (click on picture to see larger view):

sideways_moves_2_rule_book      sideways_moves_2_track

(From later version Rule Book)   (From later version Race Track)

It is worth noting that the Sideways Move Points definition changed as early as 1976.  Pictured below is the inside cover of the “Original” rules booklet, from approx 1972, and came with the game that was shipped to its original owner in July of 1973.


The “revised” Sideways Move Points rule found in a later edition of the rules booklet was seen at least as early as 1976.  The rules booklet below, most likely from 1976, was included in the Racing Game which was most likely purchased in 1986 containing the 1984 Racing Season.  (Note, there might be other editions of the Rules Booklet, however, these are the only 2 I own)


Also, the Rules Booklet shown above, with the “updated” Sideways Move Points matches the Rules Booklet shown here:  (https://www.facebook.com/APBA-Saddle-Racing-Club-250294165049574/)

Sideways Move Points are a very important “feature” of APBA Saddle Racing.  Lanes 1 thru 3, on the race track, are 1 to 1 value for move points.  In other words, if the horse is in lanes 1 thru 3, the horse should remain in whichever lane it is in, 1 thru 3, because you will never need to use Sideways Move Points to change a lane (or at least until the end of the race when a horse is not allowed to finish in the space directly behind another horse, ie the horse must now use Sideways Move Points to finish in a space which is not directly behind another horse).  Now, looking at when Sideways Move Points are necessary to use.  Let’s say a horse starts in lane #4.  On a straight-away, this is not a problem, because the value of move points are 1 to 1.  Heading into a turn, you now want the horse that is in lane #4 to move into at least lane #3, because lane #3 is always 1 to 1 move points throughout the turns.   If the horse remains in lanes #4 or 5, it will cost 1.5 move points per space through out the turns.  Meaning, you must use more of a horse’s move points to make a turn using lane #4, than if you were in lanes #1-3, which use 1 move point per space.  Lanes #6 and 7, require 2 move points per space throughout the turns.  Lane #8 requires 2.5 move points per space throughout the turns, and lanes #9 and 10 require 3 move points per space, throughout the turns.  Bottom line is, when running a race, make sure each horse occupies lanes 1 thru 3 heading into turns, because if a horse is left in a lane outside of lane #3, it will require too many move points for that horse to be competitive.


This is where the Sideways Move Points come into play.  So in moving the horse that is heading into a turn from lane #4 to lane #3, it will cost the horse .4 move points to move from lane #4 to lane #3, using the original Track board rule (and Rule Book rule).  In the later version of the game, this same Sideways Move would cost only .2 move points to move from lane #4 to lane #3.  Again, the net outcome is that the horse running a race using the original Sideways Move Point calculation, is going to be slightly slower than the same horse running a race using the later version Sideways Move Point calculation and resulting in a faster race time for the horse running a race using the later version.  Combined with the base furlong timing changes, the horse has an even greater chance of setting a track record for that same 10 furlong race, assuming the horse had to use sideways move points.  If a horse never had to use Sideways Move Points, because it started and finished in the same lane, this would be one way the horse was not affected by the change in Sideways Move Points.  The cost is greater depending upon which lane the horse began his sideways move from, as well as the number of lanes the horse must traverse from.  The bottom line difference between the original Sideways Move Points and the later version Sideways Move Points, is that the original Sideways Move Points cost the horse twice as much as the later version Sideways Move Points.

As for “why” the Sideways Move Points definition changed, we can only guess as to why.  One guess is it may have been to “encourage” more sideways moves.  The change reduced the “cost” of Sideways Moves in half.

Changing lanes to an outer lane also changed from original version RAB and later version RAB.  The “outer lane” moves in the original version cost a horse .2 move points.  In the later version RAB, “outer lane” moves cost .15 move points.


(Entering the final turn, Belmont ’74)



The Timer Table is used to calculate the time per space for each furlong, to be used when the horse either went beyond the finish line (where you would then subtract the additional spaces time from the Base Furlong Time for the distance of race being run, or if the horse finished short of the finish line after the final furlong roll, you would then add the additional spaces time to the Base Furlong Time for the distance of race being run).

While this change is less drastic, it may still affect a horses final race time calculation, depending on what distance the race was, and if the horse finished in spaces either beyond the finish line or preceding the finish line.  The main impact is for races longer than 14 furlongs.



(Click on picture for close up view)



(Click on picture for close up view)

Note that the main impact of the timer table can be seen for longer races, 14 furlongs or longer, when comparing the 2 different Timer Tables.




This is the one “change” where the horse’s Play Result Numbers come into play.  Because the changes are minor in some cases, and more significant in other cases, I will use the 10th Furlong to show changes in “Move Point Values” for each Play Result Number.

The Play Result Numbers are as if the Horse was rated for Dice Roll Column I on the RACE ACTION BOARD.

PRN     10th Furlong — 2:07 (Original Board)/2:05 (Later Version Board)

1- 8.4/8.4 (same)

2- 8.3/8.3 (same)

3- 8.2/8.2 (same)


22- 5.4/7.5 (for PRN #22, the Later Version RAB gives the horse 2.1 more move points than the Original Version RAB)

…. (this 2.1 point increase continues until you get to PRN# 29 for Dice Roll Column I)

29- 4.7/4.7 (for all remaining PRN, the move point values are the same)

The result of these RAB move point value changes is that the horse using the Later Version RAB is going to “gain” move points, for this range of Play Result Numbers.  I believe in theory, APBA was treating some horses as having the bigger late race push, and might have been assigned this range of Play Result Numbers.  The differences vary from Furlong to Furlong, meanwhile, for most of the Play Result Numbers, the value does remain the same.  In several of the early Furlongs, the Original RAB gains tenths for some Play Result Numbers, but loses tenths for other Play Result Numbers.  To show these differences in full, I would need to chart them using Excel, to come up with a quantitative analysis.  Someday, I will get these numbers entered to do the comprehensive comparison.


(2 of the All-Time Great’s, issued by APBA)

I hesitate to refer to these as “version” changes because APBA Game Co, never communicated when they were issuing a new “version” of the game.  And really, these are not version changes, as we think of version changes today.  They were changes made without changing the cards, or the ratings of the horses, or how you play the game itself, etc.  After several email exchanges with APBA Saddle Racing guru, Doug Reese, it had already been determined that the changes made with the base furlong times were to better time out longer races, and by longer I mean anything longer than 12 furlongs.  Races greater than 12 furlongs are not as common.  The fact is, most APBA Saddle Racing fans are probably not going to run too many races above 12 furlongs.  The fall-out from these changes remain easy to see and demonstrate, because the changes wound up causing track records to fall way to easily for the shorter distance races (races 12 furlongs and shorter).  For most of us sports table gaming simulation fans, this is a game ender.  We do not want to play a game which makes it way to ease to achieve “records” for the sport we are simulating.  To demonstrate this, and for a future blog post, I will run a race, using 6 horses, over a distance of 10 furlongs.  I will play out the race using both versions of the RAB and Sideways Move Points definition, meaning, when I roll the dice for horse A (then horse B, horse C, etc), for furlong 1 (then furlong 2, furlong 3, etc), I will play it out on both versions I own, for the same dice roll.  I will be able to show how the changes in the RAB and sideways move points, change the timing of the race.

If you are going to take anything away from this blog post, concerning the differences between the original Race Action Board, and the later version Race Action Board, please consider these comments from Doug Reese in one of our email exchanges, regarding Play Result Number 22, and the difference between ‘Sprinters’ and ‘Tweeners/Distance Horses’:

If I recall correctly, those numbers were reserved for sprinters.  Sprinters usually die out right at 6 furlongs.  But, as you pointed out, APBA increased the charts to make a sprinter run faster in longer races.  This should never happen  Sprinters would NEVER do that.  You would ruin your horse.  So, those sprinter PRNs never needed to be changed simply because they shouldn’t be used.  The reason that they did that is that there are a handful of ‘tweeners’ that can run sprints and longer races.  These were usually 8-10 furlong range horses.  They really shouldn’t be longer than that.  But, people complained, and APBA tried to accommodate, so they lengthened their PRNs from the RAB.  I don’t think it was necessary because it’s not realistic.  I love to watch a 10-furlong race with a straight sprinter in it because it shows off APBA’s brilliance.  Most often the sprinter will jump to the lead; expand the lead; and might possibly even be ahead of the second place horse by three or four spaces in the middle of the back stretch.  Then, as the horse hits its 6th or 7th furlong, he loses steam.  By the time that he hits the 8th he is in the last turn, and probably is in the middle of the pack because other horses can’t pass yet.  By the 9th furlong, he has been passed by everyone, and by the 10th he is likely in last place.  First to last.  APBA did it perfectly.  They didn’t need to change it; it worked.

Those ‘tweener horses were never going to win a distance race, anyway.  They had a few sprinter numbers added into their distance card just to give them some early speed.  If they didn’t hit those numbers, then they weren’t going to be In-The-Money anyway.  But, to make adjustments to the RAB for something that really wasn’t going to be used was kind of dumb. 

The horse racing game never should have been changed.  As I said before, I’m not certain that the last changes were as “thought out” as the original game was.  The original times were great.  I sincerely believe that the changes occurred because someone complained about the times being too long.  The game wasn’t making any money, and APBA didn’t want to put any more time, effort or money into the project, so they just started adjusted a few numbers here and there to make horses faster.  But, they did it without really testing it.  They never would have done it if they knew that all of these records were going to be set.


(Down the stretch they come!, Belmont ’74)

My goal in publishing these differences is mainly just to identify them, and allow any APBA Saddle Racing fan, to realize these changes existed, and how they affected the outcome of the race times.  I am not attempting to suggest that anyone not enjoy playing their later version APBA Saddle Racing game, if that is all they own.  Until I owned the original version, I was still playing and enjoying my later version game.

There is a simple way to make a few adjustments, if you want to use your later version game, but have the timings come out more accurate, than they otherwise would have.  These quick “adjustments” include utilizing what I have detailed in #1 and #2 above (using the Original RAB Furlong Timings and Sideways Move Points), while not needing to implement #3 and #4, you should see more accurate race time results (IE, you will no longer see an over-abundance of track records):

#1, Use the Base Timings for furlongs from the Original Race Action Board

Furlong     Original RAB Timing      Later Version RAB Timing

1                      13 sec                                  13 sec

2                     13 sec                                  13 sec

3                     13 sec                                  12 sec

4                     13 sec                                  12 sec

5                     13 sec                                  12 sec

6                     13 sec                                  12 sec

7                     12 sec                                  12 sec

8                     12 sec                                  13 sec

9                     12 sec                                  13 sec

10                   13 sec                                  13 sec

TOTAL        (127 sec/2:07)                   (125 sec/2:05)

#2, Use the Sideways Move Point values from the Original Race Track (and original Rules Booklet)

From Lanes     Original Move Points     Later Version Move Points

2 & 3                     .5                                          .25

4 & 5                     .4                                          .2

6 & 7                     .3                                           .15

8, 9 & 10               .2                                          .1

Note:  I failed to mention when I originally published this post, that the moves to “inner” lanes is described by #2.  Moves to “outer” lanes changed from .2 move points per lane in the original version boards to .15 move points in the later version boards.


My 1974 Belmont Stakes finish:

1 – LITTLE CURRENT (brown) — WIN     2:32-3/5 (Actual – 1st – 2:29-1/5)

2 – JOLLY JOHU (orange) — PLACE   2:33     (Actual – 2nd)

3 – SHADY CHARACTER (turqoise) — SHOW    2:33-4/5 (Actual – 6th)

4 – RUBE THE GREAT (magenta) —   2:34-2/5 (Actual – 4th)

5 – CANNONADE (gray) —   2:37-1/5 (Actual – 3rd)

6 – SEA SONGSTER (yellow) —   2:38-4/5 (Actual – 8th)

7 – HUDSON COUNTY (olive) —   2:43-2/5 (Actual – 7th)

8 – KIN RUN (white) —   2:45-3/5 (Actual – 5th)


The Winner’s Circle

While I am an APBA Baseball guy first, the APBA Saddle Racing Game is by far my 2nd favorite board game of all time.  I did not name my blog site “Barn” for nothing.  I intend to give a fair amount of “publicity” to APBA Saddle Racing.  The ultimate would be to see APBA Game Co., bring back this very fun to play, somewhat addicting, nostalgic sports board game.

I would also like to thank Doug Reese, an APBA Saddle Racing guru, for opening my eyes a bit on the “changes” over the years with the APBA Saddle Racing game.  Doug also took the time to review this blog post, to make sure I knew what I was talking about 😉


(From the March, 1974 issue of the APBA Journal, page 17, four APBA Fanatics playing the APBA American Saddle Racing Game)


8 thoughts on “APBA American Saddle Racing Game – some history and breaking down the different “versions”

  1. Very interesting writeup. Always fascinated by changes — particularly unadvertised ones — designers put in their games and why. And when it’s APBA and Dick Seitz, it’s all the moreso.


  2. I’ve come across another RAB, with the higher times across the top but with a with significant different Timer Table, and a drop in 5 points in the 7th at number 6 from 8.4 to 7.9. I have played APBA since 1968 and I have studied and recalculated many of their numbers since then. One of the first things I did was make my own card set of Baseball Greats years before APBA did. However, my cards are calculated on life time averages. I love your site, thanks for all the great info!


    1. Hi Tony,

      Thanks for the feedback! Interesting to note there is possibly a 3rd version out there of the RAB. Love this time of year when the Triple Crown races are just ahead! – Jim


  3. Interesting info. I bought the saddle racing game at the urging of my wife, who grew up on a farm and consequently liked horses. Then when I opened it up,the horses were those little pegs on platforms, which didn’t bother me but did her, as she expected miniature horses with jockeys. I play it when I tire of APBA baseball. I love it. Wish they still made it, but they won’t. I feel for those poor people paying those exhorbitant prices on e-bay. I’m almost ashamed to admit I got mine for $9 at an APBA convention in the 90s.


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