With exciting harness racing offered year round, the Meadows Racetrack in Washington, PA is now in their winter schedule of three days a week.
Not only is the racing product exemplary, but the track has seen a significant increase in handle in 2023 over that of the previous two years, and Director of Racing Scott Lishia is extremely happy with the early 2024 numbers.
Photo Credit to Chris Gooden

Overall handle on live races increased more than 20% from 2022 to 2023. On-track handle increased by more than 6%, while money wagered on Meadows races from outside sources jumped by 26%

“In 2023, we showed increases on our on-track as well as on our export,” Scott said enthusiastically. “It was a great year, considering also that a huge part of the racing wagering was down around the country.”
In addition, the impressive numbers have continued from 2023 into this season. For comparable cards in January 2023 vs January 2024, (first Wednesday of January, 2023 vs first Wednesday of January, 2024, etc.), there was a 5.5% increase in average handle per card. In 2023, the average handle per card was approximately $628,000 per card, and in 2024, the average handle per card was $662,000.
Further comparisons showed equally remarkable figures. In 2023, there was a total of four days with a handle over $700,000, and this year there were four days with a handle over $700,000. *
Several factors contributed to the increase. “We worked hard to encourage people to come and race, which kind of freshens your product up a little bit,” he explained. “We were averaging well over eight starters a race last year, and the horsemen participation was phenomenal. We re-tweaked some of our wagering, for example, we took the jackpot off of the Pentafecta. But we took our Pick 5 and our Pick 4’s, and we made them 100% rollover. I call them an ‘instant carryover’. If the first Pick 4 didn’t get hit, we just rolled the whole net pool over to the next one. That combination, all of the things, really helped. It kept people looking at our product and betting it, and they seem to like it!”
Racing in January and February has its advantages, as well, since two other Pennsylvania harness tracks are closed part of those months; Pocono Downs opened February 17th and Harrah’s Philadelphia opens April 12th. “Those are good months for us. The nice part is, we were able to carry that 2023 momentum throughout the year.”
“It’s difficult, though, because aside from Pocono and Harrah’s in the state, you’ve got all the other harness tracks that might be on any given day, and then you’re still competing with all the thoroughbred tracks that are out there, especially on a Friday or Saturday. Our Mutuels Department has done a huge job over the last two years or so just really trying to manage post times; you know, shave a minute here, add a minute there to keep you off those tracks. You’re never completely successful though! They’re doing a great job.”
Scott also has high praise for the drivers and the horsemen at the Meadows. “I think we have a phenomenal driving colony here. When you have the winningest driver in the history of the sport, the winningest driver on an annual basis with Aaron Merriman and Dave Palone. There’s Ronnie Wrenn and Hunter Myers. Across the board we’ve got veterans, we’ve got young guys, they’re all good quality drivers. And we’ve got good horsemen too. I really believe that.”
Photo Credit to Chris Gooden

With regard to new wagers or modifying existing wagers, Scott listens to the bettors and gauges what they think is an attractive and appealing bet. “I’m not afraid to try things, and we do try things, and they may fail. The Cross Breed Pick 4 that we did with Penn National Race Course never really caught on. We were hopeful it might gain a little steam, but it didn’t, and we learned some things from it.”

After doing a survey and requesting some comments back, the bettors made some suggestions about adding particular wager, and with some revisions, a new wager will be launched.
On Wednesday, March 6, the new Lucky7, a pick-7 wager, will make its debut, featuring a 15% takeout and a $1 base. The wager, for races 3-9, will be a 100% carryover of the net pool daily if no one correctly picks all seven winners.
“Our goal here is really to generate some carryovers,” Scott said. “We did a high base of $1, which may be too high, we won’t know until we try it. But sometimes our Pick 7 may actually be like a Pick 5 or a Pick 4, because we might have some legitimate singles in there. Now, they can get beat. Okay, so the goal is, you’re not going to have every combination played. You may play some money into it. Hopefully we get some bettors around the country that have asked for this, some people that I’ve talked to, and then maybe we generate some carryover, generate some interest in that. Not everybody is going to play it, but the good thing is, if it doesn’t do really well, we can come back and tweak it.”
The Meadows also enjoys success with their Friday night racing, set periodically throughout the season. “It has a different dynamic. We try to go early enough that it fills a void in that late afternoon early evening. We do see when the Meadowlands and Yonkers kicks in, we do struggle, and do have to stay off of them. But I think the biggest thing is, it’s really made it popular for people to come out to the track. They like that Friday evening, and we see nice crowds on the apron. Food and Beverage has done well, and our on-track handle is sometimes even double what an average day would be, or more. We’re not talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the people seem to like it, especially in the summer.”
With a new video board in the infield coming in April, and the racing schedule moving to four days a week starting that month, as well as more fun summer evening events planned, the Meadows is ready to carry the success of 2023 through the 2024 season and beyond.
And they hope the bettors will get ‘Lucky’ with the new ‘Lucky7’. Spreading the word about the new wager, Scott and his team at the Meadows are enthusiastic about and anxious for everyone to take a shot at it. “We just hope that we can entice people around the country to try that wager.”
 Sources:
*Compiled by Jeff Zidek, Meadows Track Announcer
Cover Photo Credit to Chris Gooden

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