Having checked in on the quarterly results of three more land drillers, I'm sticking to my druthers. Helmerich & Payne (NYSE:HP) is the driller to retain.

Both Patterson-UTI (NASDAQ:PTEN) and Grey Wolf (AMEX:GW) did so-so. Patterson's average dayrate contracted sequentially, while daily operating costs rose. Grey Wolf's preferred performance measure, EBITDA per rig day, came in a bit short of both prior-quarter and year-ago levels. Both of these firms know how to make money in this business, and they are poised to outperform as the cycle brightens for North American onshore drilling.

Still, these guys just aren't in the same league as Helmerich & Payne. This technological leader has one of the very best rigs when it comes to directional and horizontal drilling. On its earnings call, the company cited a Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) statistic that, of the incremental additions to the rig count this year, 97% of those are drilling horizontally or directionally or both. No wonder, then, that H&P has secured a searing 50 rig orders this fiscal year (with one quarter yet to go).

All 50 of those are signed on to contracts of three-plus years, and H&P continues to pull down premium dayrates. This quarter, the firm's fleet averaged more than $24,500 per day. At a cost of around $15.5 million each, these rigs appear to pay for themselves within that initial contract period.

Yes, I like Nabors Industries' (NYSE:NBR) leverage to international oil drilling, and I admire Precision Drilling Trust's (NYSE:PDS) performance in an incredibly difficult Canadian market, but if you put a gun to my head, H&P is the land driller for me.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.