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