The Horseplayers Association of North America came out with their 2014 list of track ratings today, and there were a few changes from last years list that I took note of. Actually three significant changes. Three Canadian tracks, Hastings, Northlands and Woodbine all made significant jumps in the ratings. Hastings went from 32 to 19, Northlands went from 58 to 24, and Woodbine went from 43 to 9. This is great news: it shows that tracks across Canada are becoming a better bet for North American bettors.
All three tracks have one thing in common: they have all lowered takeout rates. Northlands is offering two industry lows this meet: a 10% takeout Pick 5 and 14.5% WPS. Woodbine's Win is the second lowest in the industry at 14.95%, and they also offer a $.20 Jackpot Hi-5 with only 15% takeout. Hastings' WPS and all multi-race wagers are raked at 15%. Although the two western tracks need to attract more horses for more competitive racing, the low takeouts are an attractive proposition for any gambler.
In Ontario, eight standardbred tracks have recently formed an alliance. For players in Ontario who wager through HPI, they earn a 50% bonus on rewards points and a higher potential take out adjustment (if they wager at least $1,250 a week). This isn't a huge deal, but it's a start. If all of Ontario racing could adapt a universal takeout rate, that would definitely help promote the province's brand. I feel like that is a definite possibility. Handle is up at some Ontario harness tracks such as Western Fair and Grand River, and with proper marketing of the brand, it should go up at every track.
There is still work to be done in Canada. Field sizes out west and at Fort Erie could certainly be larger. Certain tracks need to lower takeout a lot. But things are going in the right direction. So long as things keep heading in the right direction, I will continue to play Canadian racing, because I am proud to be a Canadian Horseplayer.