Kentucky Downs can’t guarantee those betting its races will pick winners at the upcoming meet, but the all-grass track does help horseplayers make more money when they do cash tickets.
The RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs begins Labor Day Monday and continues Sept. 9, 10, 12, 13 and 16.
With the number of starters per race averaging about an America-leading 11 horses combined with low takeout rates, Kentucky Downs offers one of the best betting products in the country. Takeout is the amount taken off the top of each dollar bet that goes toward horsemen’s purses, the track, state taxes and sometimes other state or racing programs or funds. Essentially takeout is the cost of betting.
Though Kentucky Downs qualifies for a higher takeout rate under state regulations, which set a cap that is based on average daily on-track wagering on live racing, the track chooses to stay at a significantly lower rate for all its betting pools.
Kentucky Downs’ takeout on win, place and show wagering is 16 percent, among the lowest in the country, with its exacta takeout 18.25 percent and the Pick 4 and Pick 5 pools at 14 percent. The remaining types of wagers (double, trifecta, superfecta, Super High-5) have a 19-percent takeout. Kentucky Downs’ overall “blended” takeout is the industry leader.
Under state law, Kentucky Downs could set the takeout as high as 17.5 percent on win, place and show wagers and 22 percent on multiple-horse wagers. As an example, an exacta that would have a $100 payoff at 22 percent takeout would be $103 at 19 percent.
“Any kind of relief like that is welcome for a horseplayer,” said Marty McGee, the long-time Kentucky-based racing writer and handicapper for Daily Racing Form. “It kind of goes unnoticed by every-day horseplayers, but people in the know really appreciate it. It’s one of the reasons that horseplayer groups have voted Kentucky Downs their No. 1 track.
“Whether the casual fan is aware of a track’s takeout rate or not, they probably feel it intuitively. Think of it as going to a bar. You might not know what they charge for a beer, but you know if that $20 bill you slapped on the bar disappears quickly or if you find yourself leaving with money in your pocket. It’s the same thing with takeout. When you win, you win more and have more funds to reinvest.
“And it’s not just the takeout. Because Kentucky Downs has so many large fields, even when favorites fill out the exacta you usually get a square payout.”
Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager, said that Kentucky Downs takes a lot of pride in being known as the horseplayers’ racetrack, with the Horseplayers Association of North America ranking the track No. 1 when the organization did annual ratings.
“Kentucky Downs’ racing has become a highlight of the year for horseplayers,” Nicholson said. “We believe that the more money you return to horseplayers, the longer they keep playing and more people leave as winners. Our betting numbers the past several years have skyrocketed, and that’s a trajectory we want to continue.”
Wagering on Kentucky Downs’ live racing has increased 244 percent the past four years, from $16,887134 in 2015 to $41,239,699 last year.
Kentucky Downs horsemen also run for some of the biggest race purses in the world, with the track scheduled to pay out an average of $2 million a day for the six-day run.