Harness Handicapping: Follow The Sun

Eb Netr

May 22nd, 2013

Most people are happiest when the weather forecast calls for a sunny day. I like nice weather as much as the next person, but I perk up when rain is predicted in some areas. If it rains for long enough, there are a few tracks where post position bias becomes a real handicapping aid.

Bangor Raceway, in Maine, is one of those tracks. When it rains, the 4, 5 and 2 boxes - in that order - are golden. That's why I was delighted when heavy rain was predicted yesterday. I grabbed a program and sat down to find some mudders, horses that had shown that they could handle an off track and still run in the money.

There was no shortage, but there were also some favorites who didn't like getting their hooves dirty or having mud flung up at them. That's one of the things I focus on when the track is off. Big favorites that have never shown anything on a muddy or sloppy track. They'll still be the favorite, most of the time, but they won't come in. The smart handicapper can make money on these races.

Unfortunately, because of other commitments, I barely had time to do my research and come up with the horses that were off track stars in each race. I did look over the races, briefly, but not as thoroughly as I usually do. Like I said, I was focused on finding mudders, not on using my usual handicapping method.

That was a big mistake and cost me some money. The rain was spotty and didn't last past noontime. By the time the races went off at 5 that evening, the track was fast and the inside was very good. As a matter of fact, inside horses won the first three races and it was early speed all night.

Post position didn't really seem to matter. As a matter of fact, in one pace, the three outside horses - the 6, 7 and 8 - were a trifecta that paid over $1,700. The exacta was almost $500! If it had been a trot, I wouldn't have been surprised, but a pace?

On the other hand, one of the best drivers at that track, Gary Mosher, was driving the 7 and it had good early speed and he took advantage of it. He gunned it to the front and by the time they rounded the first turn, he had the lead and kept it. Its name, appropriately enough, is Native Bombshell. It paid $110.80 to win.

I learned a very painful financial lesson last night. Don't handicap for the weather until you've handicapped for a fast track. Even if it's raining buckets outside your window as you go over your program and your neighbor, Noah, is working on a big boat, handicap for sunny skies and a fast track. Then, and only then, handicap for a muddy, sloppy or good track.

Of course, this works in reverse. Even if it's sunny and there's a ban on watering your lawn, don't assume that it won't rain. Well, unless your track is in the desert, but even the desert has popup thunderstorms once in a while. Handicap using your usual methods and then take some time with the program and look for mudders.

If the horse you're looking at has no races on an off track, it can mean a couple of things. One, it may be too young to have run enough to encounter an off track. Or, two, it could be that the trainer knows that it's not likely to race well on an off track. When I run across this, I look at its sire and dam mud stats, because I use an extended program that lists that.

However, even if those stats are high, if the horse has run several races on an off track and hasn't done anything, I don't consider it a mudder. The sire and dam mud stats are only a guide until the horse has had enough off track races to show what IT will do on on mud or in slop.

Learn from my mistakes and make sure that you don't assume that the weather forecast will be right. Forecasting the weather is as tricky as handicapping a harness race. Always take your umbrella, even when it's not supposed to rain, because it might. And always handicap the races for a fast track first, and then handicap for an off track, just in case.