Now that we are close to having everything collected and in place, it is time to go shopping.

The first step will be to get the Club licensed in the two jurisdictions where we want to get a horse: Arkansas and Illinois. The only individual that will need to get licensed is myself but the group will need to be licensed and we will need to appoint our trainers as “authorized agents”.  This means that they can claim on our behalf.  The group license runs $50 in each jurisdiction and the authorized agent appointments are $8 in Arkansas and $25 in Illinois.  Once that is set and the money transferred we are ready to claim.

It looks as if we will have about 150 members this year or $37,500 to shop with.  The cost of a pair of horses in training is about $5000 a month.  I like to have at least 3 months worth of bills safely in the bank (preferably 4) which leaves us about $17,000 to spend on horses or about $8000 per horse (AR has a 9% sales tax on claims so that has to be figured in as well).

With licensing and parameters set, we move on.

About 80% of the races held in North America are claiming races or races in which the horses are up for sale. This process was instituted to keep each race as even as possible. You certainly weren’t going to risk your prize stallion if you knew he could be had for just a few thousand dollars! Claiming helps stratify racing and keeps a few good horses from beating up on those less talented.

Claiming levels vary greatly around the country. At some country fair and rural tracks the prices can be as low as $1000 while at the larger venues there can be $100,000 claiming races. The bottom line is the same: each horse is for sale for price laid out in the conditions of the race.

There is a very specific process you need to go through to claim a horse. It varies a bit from track to track but I’ll outline the generic process below.

First, you pick out the horse you want to buy. The trainers and I sort through Past Performances and check on possible targets. They also watch horses in training and on the track where a horse may catch their eye.  We’ll be looking for a pair of horses about $8,000 or less for the Club given our budget. Our criteria will be 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 our trainers’. In other words, something that our teams can improve upon with their training regimen.

Second, you check the horse out in person. You can’t 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 the trainers will take a close look at the horse as it walks over for it’s race and his behavior in the paddock. If they sees signs of a physical ailment (sore, crooked leg, etc) that could be an indicator of future issues, we pass. If they like what they see, 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 opened 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. Minnesota, New York, California and Arkansas 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. A horse we were looking at for the Alumni group last year had 16 claim slips dropped on him, for example. Oaklawn, especially, is a real hotbed of claiming activity.

Over the next few weeks, this is the process we will follow to try and get at least one – and hopefully two – horses for the Club. We may be successful, we may not and will claim here at Canterbury when the meet starts, but either way the process has begun!

If you have any questions, please fire away in the comments section. Remember, the Club is designed to be a learning experience and we presuppose no level of knowledge so there is no such thing as a bad or stupid question!


8 thoughts on “Claiming

  1. There are a lot of good solid $8,000 claimers running around the tracks every race day. Let’s get a couple of them for the Racing Club and have a great year. Just a few years ago, Maryjean and Ask Eddy proved that. Look forward to this year’s excitment!

  2. Hey everyone,
    Only been a racing club member for two years… help me out…a couple of questions…
    Buying $7500 +/-.. Seems to be way too close to the bottom rung of CBY racing.
    Not too many rungs to fall from there before we are trying to sell/have our horse
    claimed from us at a loss,
    With that amount of money to spend, let’s get One higher class horse.

    • This has always been a bit of a dilemma. Keeping in mind the goals and parameters of the Club – an entertaining, not-for-profit, learning experience that can only exist for a single year – we decided it was better to have a pair of horses, even if they were lower class horses, than just one. It gives us the opportunity to run more often and expose folks to more scenarios. During the seasons where we have only had one horse running or where it has taken us a while to get a horse my mail runs EXTREMELY heavily into the “we want to race” column. Folks want to get into the paddock and want to watch their horses run. With two horses we can provide that experience more often while still trying to win and have fun. Ideally we would not claim at the very bottom and, in theory anyway, a $7500 claimer that is competitive at Oaklawn should translate into a slightly higher ($10,000?) horse here at Canterbury. Additionally, more money doesn’t equate necessarily to more wins.

      Several years ago we claimed “Ask Eddy” our of a bottom tier race at Hawthorne. He went on to win four times for us. That same season we picked up an experienced and successful turfer in “Mundy” for $16,000 and we couldn’t get her to win a race.

      Another consideration is that this is not a group where any additional money is forthcoming. If we put all our eggs into one basket and the horse is a dud or, as in the case of Ms Owell last season, goes south and needs to retire, there is no money to replace it and the Club is done. We spread the risk a bit in order to provide more opportunity for racing. It is a balancing act to be sure: provide the best opportunity for everyone to enjoy racing, learn about what goes into it, hopefully win some races and come as close to making money as we can!

  3. For the purposes of this group, I realize the gender (mare vs colt vs gelding) and to a degree the age doesn’t matter when looking at a prospect for claiming because this group has to be horse-less by the end of the year, but in general, if we were a group like the alumni group looking more long term…how much (if any) does the gender and/or age of the horse play a factor in a prospect you and the trainers consider for a claim? Is there any difference training or medication wise for the different genders?

    • Great question!

      Taking away the Club parameters and looking at it from the perspective of the first alumni group, age factors in much more prominently than sex does. We would like a relatively lightly raced horse younger than 5 so we can take advantage of conditions (non-winners of 2 lifetime, 3 lifetime, etc.) and have the horse for its peak years. Mares that are well bred can be retired to someone’s broodmare band but a nice, well put together gelding is always in demand in the pleasure pursuits (trail riding, dressage, hunter/jumpers).

      As far as training goes, the trainers train the horses as individuals. I wouldn’t want to say that there are hard and fast rules regarding training because there are strong, sturdy mares that thrive on rugged training while there are males that are slight and need to be handled more gingerly. It is said that older mares can be tough because their minds and hormones wander as they reach maturity around 5 or 6 and lose interest in racing and want to become mothers but that is also subject to the individual horse. One of the most successful horses we ever had for the club was a mare named Maryjean. She thrived on work and won 4 of 9 for us before going on to win at least that many more after getting claimed away from us until she was 6 or 7.

      As far as medications go, many trainers do use medicine to interrupt a mare’s reproductive cycle while they are in training and racing so they do not go into heat, but that is generally the only difference as both sexes get vitamins, Lasix and bute, if necessary.

  4. From someone who has belonged to the Racing Club for about 6 racing seasons, it doesn’t seem to be necessary to have a higher priced claimer to have a successful year. The three most successful horses have been Maryjean ($8000), Ask Eddy ($5000) and Tens Wild $(10000) while in my opinion the 3 least successful runners (other than injured and retired) were Mundy ($16000) Citron Kid ($16000) and Terice ($12500). We all hope that we can find the right horses at the right claiming price and have a successful season with a few times in the Winner’s Circle. One of the best parts of being in the Club.

  5. Thanks so much. Great reply to my question.
    Great day today in Hot Springs.
    The REBEL was crazy…with a long odds placer.


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