Contestants in Friday's leg of the World Harness Handicapping Championship, when The Meadows Racetrack & Casino is one of the featured tracks, will need both a sharp pencil and an eye on the sky.
They'll need to be in top handicapping form because Friday's 15-race program at The Meadows offers highly competitive events. Indeed, fields are so evenly matched at The Meadows that in 2012, the average win payoff was $12.78, the equivalent of better than 5-1 on the board.
And they'll need to be watching the weather, as Friday's forecast for southwestern Pennsylvania calls for a chance of snow and temperatures in the teens for the card, which gets underway at 6:55 p.m. While chilly weather hardly is unexpected, a wet track could change the calculations of some handicappers.
Participants new to The Meadows also should be aware that, just as favorites don't always dominate, neither does the rail. In 2012, post position 1 was only the fifth best in producing wins, perhaps because of the effectiveness of the track's slanted starting gate. Post position 5 was tops last year, although post 4 delivered the most winners in January 2013.
Friday's card offers several intriguing wagering possibilities, including one in Race 10, the featured event. In this $15,000 Winners Over Trot for fillies and mares, Itsghostlyoutside , runner-up in her last two starts, adds Lasix for the powerful combination of Dave Palone and trainer Ron Burke. Expect shorter odds than the 5-1 morning line.
You might get a better price on Y-Dat, an accomplished trotter who's dropping in class for trainer Casey Koza and driver Dan Rawlings, a pair of up-and-comers. Y-Dat leaves from, yes, post 5 in the fourth race on a card that features seven trots. (The Meadows)