by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am

2010 HANA Track Ratings – #3 Tampa Bay Downs
By Greg Reinhart

Rank: 3

HANAScore: 2.83

Located in Tampa, Florida, is Tampa Bay Downs, which took the third position on the Horseplayers Association of North America's rankings of the 69 racetracks in North America this year after placing 12th in HANA's initial survey 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.

Founded in 1929, Tampa Bay Downs has undergone many changes throughout its history, but now it stands as a growing venue in thoroughbred racing. The track is home to two major Kentucky Derby prep races in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and the Tampa Bay Derby. Racing at Tampa Bay Downs, which is contested over a one-mile conventional dirt oval and a seven furlong turf course, runs from December through early May.

Tampa Bay Downs has been focusing on lowering their takeout in recent years, and it is a major reason why the track surged up the HANA rankings this year. From HANA's initial rankings last year to this year, Tampa dropped takeout on exacta wagers (from 21.5 percent to 20.5 percent), pick-6 wagers (25 percent to 19 percent), pick 3's and pick 4's (from 20 percent to 19 percent), and daily double wagers (from 20 percent to 18 percent) Tampa Bay Downs also reduced takeout on win, place, and show wagers from 18 percent to 17.5 percent. So while Tampa's takeout on trifectas and superfectas remain at a high 25.9 percent, the remainder of the low takeouts helped Tampa to a takeout score of 2.875 and a grade of B from HANA. Last year, Tampa scored just a 1.89 takeout grade for a C.

Tampa Bay Downs also has an extensive wager selection available for players who like to construct large tickets at lower prices. Aside from the standard exotic wagers, bettors can play a 50-cent trifecta, a 50-cent pick 4, a 10-cent superfecta, or a super-high five wager, which has a carryover provision.

Tampa Bay Downs scored strongly in the field size component of HANA's rankings. In 2008, Tampa Bay Downs averaged 9.43 competitors per race, and even though that average dipped slightly in 2009 to 9.28, that still placed Tampa Bay above a large part of the competition. These numbers were quite good, and might have been better because turf racing at Tampa is limited to 10 starters per race.

When it comes to accessibility via television and advance deposit wagering, Tampa Bay Downs races are shown on both HRTV and TVG, with wagering available through Xpressbet and through TVG's own wagering system. They have generally been more receptive than many other controlled tracks with their signals, which helps horseplayers, and they are one of the few tracks who stream their races on their website for free. Tampa Bay Downs' races are also available through both Youbet and Twinspires, and are popular on many smaller ADW's. North of the border, Tampa is carried on HorsePlayer Interactive, and races are frequently shown on HPITV.

One area that Tampa Bay Downs did score lower than the previously released tracks was in pool size, however the track is still very playable from a pool size perspective. During its last meet, Tampa conducted 987 races for a total mutuel (win, place, and show) pool of $120,609,251 and a total exotic pool of $255,342,338. That meant that on average per race there was $380,276 in all the pools with $122,197 of that coming in the mutuel pools and $258,078 in the exotic pools. This is the first “medium sized” handle track reported so far in the top 5.

When all of these factors were computed by the Horseplayers Association of North America's formula, Tampa Bay Downs received an overall score of 2.83, which works out to a grade of B-. This was a vast improvement for Tampa Bay Downs over the initial HANA rankings when the track scored just a 2.16.

Of special note, early in the 2000's Tampa's takeouts were among the worst in racing, with 20% take in WPS and 28% take in all exotics. This would have placed them below 40th in the present day HANA rankings, instead of third. The concerted effort to lower the price of wagers almost each year since 2003, distribute their signal, and enact other horseplayer friendly measures has seemed to have borne fruit. In 2002, at high takeouts, Tampa Bay realized just short of $2 million in handle per race card. Fast forward to today, Tampa should realize over $4 million in handle per day for their current meet – which works out to over a 100% increase. What makes this more impressive is that during this time overall annual North American thoroughbred handles has fallen from $16B to about $12.4B. We believe this is an excellent illustration that churn and a competitive signal distribution takes time. It also helps explain why takeout is such a large component in HANA's rating system.

In conclusion, Tampa Bay Downs is an attractive track to wager on because they seem to genuinely care about the horseplayer, and they have demonstrated this by significantly reducing the takeout on most of their popular wagers. In addition, they have offered free parking and weekday free admission for on-track racegoers. Tampa also has a strong list of wagers and lower-priced alternatives, and they can be accessed through both cable horse racing channels and through many ADW's at industry competitive rates.

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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