No. We haven’t claimed anything yet. Admittedly this part of the experience, waiting for the horse, is rather boring. I figured I’d take the opportunity to outline for folks the claiming process and reiterate some of what we are looking for.
Claiming a horse is relatively straightforward, but there are specific rules that govern the process.
First, you pick out the horse you want to buy. Clay and I sort through Past Performances and check on possible targets. For the Club, we’re looking at a horse from about $5000 – $10,000, a horse that has shown some consistency over a moderate (20 or so) number of starts and one that is perhaps coming from a barn that may not be as accomplished as Clay’s. In other words, something that Clay can improve upon with his training regimen. For example, one year we claimed a horse named Ask Eddy who came from a barn where he had lost weight and didn’t receive property nutrition. Clay went ahead and laid him off for a few weeks, changed his feed, de-wormed him and then got him ready to race. He won the first time for us and then won twice more. We’d like something solid that can run every 3 or 4 weeks for us. He may not shoot up the class ladder but would be good for teaching us a bit about racing.
Second, you check the horse out in person. You can’t really walk up to a barn and say, “Hey, I’m going to claim your horse tomorrow, can I have my vet check him out?” but you do want some degree of comfort because, in most jurisdictions, claiming is the epitome of “buyer beware” because once you own the horse, you inherit everything that may be wrong with him.
So Clay takes a close look at the horse as it walks over for it’s race and his behavior in the paddock. If he sees signs of a physical ailment (sore, crooked leg, etc) that could be an indicator of future issues, we pass. If he likes what he sees, we move onto step 3.
Third, you fill out the claim slip EXACTLY and then drop it in the claim box in the racing office or the bookkeeper’s office depending on the racetrack. Any error and the claim is voided. For example, one claim slip was filled out at Keeneland Race Course but on the “track” line, the trainer wrote in “Keenland” rather than “Keeneland”. The missing “e” cost them the horse.
The claim box is locked and the claim slips time stamped. Various tracks have different deadlines to have the claim slip in: 5 minutes to post, post time, etc. When the gates open, the claim box is open and, if you have the only claim in on a horse, it’s yours from that moment forward. Should the horse pick up a check in that race, it goes to the old owners, but should the horse suffer an injury – or worse – in the race, the horse belongs to the new owners. New York and California have rules to protect new owners against catastrophic injury, but very few other jurisdictions. When the horse comes back after the race, a track employee is there with a tag that is snapped onto the bridle and the horse heads off to the new barn.
Should there be more than one claim on a horse, a “shake” is instituted. In a case like this, each claim slip is given a number which corresponds to a number on a small pill/ball. The pills are placed in a bottle, shaken and tipped. The number of the claim slip that corresponds to the first pill out of the bottle wins the horse.
In a rather long nutshell, that is the process of claiming a horse.