by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am

2010 HANA Track Ratings – #5 Oaklawn Park
By Greg Reinhart

Rank: 5

HANAScore: 2.47

Tucked away in Hot Springs, Arkansas, is Oaklawn Park, which took the fifth spot in the Horseplayer Association of North America's annual rankings of racetracks in North America this year after coming in eighth 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.

Oaklawn hosts both the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby, which have become major prep races for the Kentucky Derby, and the Apple Blossom Handicap, which has been won by great mares like Zenyatta, Azeri, Paseana, and Bayakoa. Oaklawn Park is home to a one-mile dirt oval but no turf course, and its meet traditional runs from mid-January until the middle part of April.

Oaklawn Park's betting menu consists of the traditional win, place, and show wagering with a 17 percent takeout and exotic wagers such as exacta, trifecta, superfecta, daily double, pick-three, pick-four, and pick-six with a 21 percent takeout. For players who like to construct larger tickets at a reduced rate, Oaklawn also offers a 50-cent trifecta and a 10-cent superfecta alternative.

When all these takeout factors were combined, it led to a score of 2.625 and a takeout grade of B- for Oaklawn, which made it one of just 13 tracks rated by HANA to receive a grade higher than C. However, the B- grade also meant that Oaklawn finished tied at the bottom of the top five tracks in terms of takeout. In last year's rankings Oaklawn's takeout was rated at a C+.

Another feature of Oaklawn Park that should make it attractive to any horseplayer is its consistently high field size. In 2008, Oaklawn average 9.04 runners per race and in 2009, that average bumped up to 9.27 runners per race.

In terms of its handle and pool size, Oaklawn scored towards the bottom of the top five, but the numbers are still strong. Oaklawn ran 532 races in its 2009 meet for a total of $77,307,226 in its win, place, and show pools and $116,999,398 in the exotic pools. That meant Oaklawn had an average handle of $364,126 per race with $145,314 of that coming in the win, place, and show pools and $218,882 in the exotic pools.

When it comes to accessibility via television and advance deposit wagering, Oaklawn's pool and its signal are under the Tracknet umbrella, which scores low. Oaklawn is covered extensively on television by HRTV, who covers the track live and also airs their replay show, and Oaklawn is a staple on Xpressbet, Magna's ADW service. Oaklawn is also a wagering option with popular ADW services such as Youbet and Twinspires, and TVG. In Canada, wagering on Oaklawn is available through HorsePlayer Interactive, and the track's races often appear on HPITV's rotating channel of tracks.

After looking at all these items, the Horseplayers Association of North America's formula triggered a composite score of 2.47, which was good enough to move the track from eighth to fifth in the rankings this year. To compare, last year Oaklawn received a composite score of 2.36.

To conclude, Oaklawn Park is an attractive wagering option for any horseplayer. The track has a robust offering of wagers at a takeout rate that is better than average compared to other venues. The track also features a strong average field size, and its pools are large enough to support any type of wager. Its main negative is in terms of signal distribution, pricing and restrictions that can hinder Internet wagering, and inconvenience horseplayers.

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.

  • bob Hope

    We appreciate the efforts of HANA and the opportunity to comment on its rating formulae. It is also interesting to note its qualifying statement allowing for future growth and development of the group relative to the sport/industry of horse racing.” In the future the HANA player resource area will be broadened to include track ratings with more qualitative factors, possibly including member feedback.”
    We hope that they understand the importance of growth and achievement on behalf of racetracks and not continue to remain on the single sided position of wagering gratification. We hope that they include “quality” in their list of formulae. Quality is and has been responsible for the success of all sports that entertain us and on which we wager. It is the main quotient that allows horseracing to achieve national and international attention with the vast array of sports attractions. It is the foundation of our pedigree and cultivation of champions. HANA’s statements under the title of Field Size attempts to speak to quality recognition in a back handed way. They are starting up the right track though as to reasons behind carding races. We suggest that this category have a larger spread of assessment. There are a great number of people introduced into horseracing by quality and the attractiveness of the horse and the other athletes and managers involved in this complex game. GOOD LUCK WITH IT ! We need it!

  • Bob, the quality aspect was addressed this year with the addition of handle size. Tracks with the largest handle (which is a reflection on quality in many cases), were given additional credit.

    The changes made, were based on player feedback we received since the initial ratings came out.

    Again, this is player resource based on what is best for the horseplayer. What is best for the horseplayer is generally what is best for the industry since it is the horseplayer who pays for the track’s operations and the purses (of course, slot players where applicable also pay for this as well).

    One thing that many horsemen may not be aware of is that around 80% of the HANA board either owns horses (in small partnerships) or has owned horses, so we are very focused on INDUSTRY GROWTH.

  • Joey Buttafuco

    I could care less what HANA thinks or what their “ratings” are.To me,they are as meaningless as the “accreditation” program by NTRA.If I want to bet a race at a track,I do it because I want to,not because HANA says it’s a good track.

  • Memchuck

    How Oaklawn or any tracknet track gets into the top 5 is mind blowing. High host track fees and not allowing every ADW out there to have your product, even if you are under tracknet is crazy and in NO WAY can it be good for racing or the player! This would apply to tracknet, keeneland and NYRA who all restrict their signals and charge crazy host track fees.

  • bob Hope

    Thank you Maury E. You make some very good points of clarification here. Your point of “largest handle being a reflection on quality in many cases” is an excellent and accurate one. Roll overs and gimmicks (although great for the game) have tended to
    distort or blur the quality component and have been misunderstood by track operators and racing secretaries. The understanding that we must have patience with some short field allowance races, is in all of our best interest to fuel the stakes ranks.
    i appreciate your response and expressing the scope and the understanding of HANA!

  • PT

    If I may share my feelings on OP:

    I like the high field size and they do seem to card competitive racing.
    For players whom like dirt, OP is dirt of course, and somewhat speed favoring, so it gives a good alternative to some of the larger field size synth tracks.
    The setting is tremendous, and I know more than one player who makes the trek to the place, even from quite far away.
    They have set takeouts at a reasonable level as compared to many tracks
    The ownership puts money back into the sport and seems to care about its future from a sports/entertainment perspective

    On the critical side, I agree with memchuck and others, however, who are worried about the growth of tracks and the sport with high host fees. They make it hard for at-home players to play their venue, and in some cases get attractive pricing. it is the elephant in the room, and something racing must contend with, and come up with solutions to before it moves forward. Right now we are seemingly making the same mistakes the music business did in the late 1990’s, by not confronting the problems and hoping they go away, by constricting signals, and holding them to unreasonable fee levels. In the next five years, I would hope OP and others like them come up with a plan to make sure that everyone in North America who wants to play a race at a good fee, can do so, in only one adw account, without jumping through hoops.


  • Ryan S

    I want to give a grade to Turfway Park.


    I went through 10-15k in action yesterday. Another 10-15 on lanes end day. Tipped the tellers over a thousand dollars on both days combined. Yet I still paid for my dinner on sunday, and did not get to watch the last leg of a P-4 at Sunland on Sunland Derby Day.

    Not only that but when they decide to close the lounge they shut off all the auto totes and remove tellers. A friend and I were left in there unable to bet unless we wanted to wakl outside the clubhouse and into the bullpen while waiting behind 10 guys betting 10 cent superfectas.

    Turfway also failed to have a 50-100 dollar window on the 5th floor where they had all the owners for the Lanes End. How in gods name do you not have a 50 dollar window at any track, nonetheless where the owners are on the biggest day of your meet.

    Its no wonder this game is in pathetic shape. From the racing, to the management of the race tracks, its a complete joke.

    Here are my top 2 tracks, sadly I have been to most and they are unmentionable. However Turfway Park this last weekend takes the cake.

    1) Thistledown – I have never failed to get a bet in there out of a large sample, their highroller room is exceptional, the service and tellers are top notch

    2) Gulfstream Park – Same as thistle, they went out of their way to help guys who are really gambling.

    Otherwise they all stink

    I don’t care what some dumb survey says about what players want. I want to get my bets in first and foremost. Secondly I don’t want to bet papermache tracks. Third I want to eat a sandwich for free when I go through 30k in action (id still leave a good tip for the help they do not care about) Forth as an owner I don’t want to pay for a program, EVER. Nor do I want to have to go break a hundred dollar bill to buy a 50 cent pen.

    get your act together you buffoons. No wonder people don’t bet horses anymore.

  • Ryan S

    One other thing…..the food spread… Whadda joke. Bad potatos, fatty meat, brown salad. I felt like I was at a Ponderosa after a night of getting drunk back in college.

  • Joey Buttafuco

    Ryan S:
    That’s what I’m talking about.

  • Don Reed


    Then bet $29K and spend $1,000 on the sandwich.

  • Bob C

    Just got back from a visit to Oaklawn. This is a top-notch facility. The place is clean, they have a good variety of tasty food and plenty of betting windows on all levels. My only beef with Oaklawn is the same as with many other racetracks. I think horse racing is the only sports / entertainment venue that charges admission and then charges you again to sit down. A reserved seat should be included in the admission charge. If reserved seats are sold out, then charge for SRO like MLB does. Otherwise, I completely enjoyed my visit to Oaklawn.

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