2010 HANA Track Ratings – #2 Churchill Downs
By Greg Reinhart
Located in Louisville, Kentucky is Churchill Downs, one of the most iconic and well-known sporting venues in the world, and it took the number two spot on the Horseplayers Association of North America's rankings of the 69 racetracks in North America this year after placing fifth in 2009.
The HANA ratings are a rating system not based on racetrack popularity, or qualitative factors such as food service, but based on measurable factors with regard to horseplayer value: Takeout rates, field size, wager variety, signal distribution and handle size.
Capped by the famous twin spires on top of the grandstands, Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby, the most prestigious race for three-year olds in North America and the first jewel in the Triple Crown, along with other major events like the Kentucky Oaks, the Stephen Foster Handicap, the Humana Distaff, and the Turf Classic Stakes.
Racing at Churchill, which is contested over a one-mile conventional dirt oval and a seven furlong turf course is divided into a spring/summer meet, which runs from April through July, and a fall meet, which is run in October and November. Churchill Downs is also a member of the NTRA's safety and integrity alliance.
Churchill Downs has one of the best takeout grades in North America, posting an A- after receiving a grade of B in the initial survey last year. Churchill has a flat 16 percent takeout on win, place, and show wagers and the exotic wagers offered at Churchill (daily double, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, pick 3, pick 4, and pick 6) have a 19 percent takeout. After being scored by HANA's formula, Churchill's takeout received a mark of 3.625, which was up from 3.11 in 2009
Aside from the low takeouts offered, Churchill also has a multitude of wagering options that set it apart from most venues. They offer a 10-cent superfecta, a 50-cent pick 3, a 50-cent pick 4, and a 50-cent trifecta wager, and they also offer a daily super high 5 wager.
The other big draw at Churchill is its consistently high pool sizes, which scores near the top of all tracks on the continent. In 2009, Churchill conducted 675 races for a total mutuel (win, place, and show) pool of $191,283,515 and an exotic pool total of $358,912,385. This meant that on a per race basis, there was a total of $809,978 combined in all the pools with $283,382 in the mutuel pools and $526,595 in the exotic pools.
When it comes to accessibility via television and advance deposit wagering, Churchill's pool and its signal are under the Tracknet umbrella, which scores low. Churchill is also connected with the advance deposit service Twinspires, which is operated by Churchill Downs, Inc. That makes accessibility to live streaming video very easy for account holders, and they also broadcast all their races on Horse Racing Television (HRTV). Churchill's races are also available through both Youbet and through TVG, which offers live streaming video. North of the border, Churchill is carried on HorsePlayer Interactive, and races are frequently shown on HPITV. Churchill is also one of the few tracks that produces a high-definition feed of its races, which gets high marks from horseplayers.
The other major flaw at Churchill is its average field size, which ranked at the bottom of HANA's top five tracks. In 2008, Churchill averaged 8.28 runners per contest and in 2009 that bumped up only slightly to 8.51. The current fight in Kentucky that we see for alternative gaming, is to in part help address field size issues.
After combining all these factors into HANA's formula, Churchill Downs received an overall score of 2.98, which works out to a grade of B. For comparison's sake, when the track finished fifth in HANA's first rankings in 2009, Churchill received a composite score of 2.5 and a grade of B-.
To wrap things up, when a bettor looks at Churchill Downs, they should immediately be drawn to its very competitive takeout rates, including a strong 16 percent on win, place, and show wagers. Churchill also has a wide variety of wagering options for the potential horseplayer. Other than fighting field size issues, its main drawback is its signal distribution grade, which gets low scores, being under the Tracknet umbrella.
For a summary of the methodology used to calculate the HANA Score, please click here.
If you would like to join us at HANA and be a part of next year's ratings where you can give your opinions on your favorite tracks, you can for free, right here.
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