About 80% or so of the races in North America are claiming races: races where the horses are for sale. We touched on claiming earlier in the season as we were looking for a horse but here I will try and give you the levels of races, in ascending order, and try and explain how races are designed and entered. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section and we’ll do the best we can to answer them!
LEVELS OF RACES
Maiden Special Weight: the highest level of all maiden – or horses that have never won a race – races. These horses are not for sale and appear to have promising futures.
Maiden Claiming – These are maiden races where the horses are for sale. These are further striated by price to even out the races. One of the biggest class drops you can find in racing is a horse going from Maiden Special Weigh to maiden claiming.
As mentioned, these make up the bulk of races in the country. They can start as low as $2500 at some tracks and go as high as $100,000 at others. Within each claiming level the races are further delineated to equal out the competition. There are races for non-winners of a race other than their maiden, 2 races other than their maiden, 3 and, sometimes, 4 races other than their maiden. As a horse wins races they move up this ladder or “clear their conditions”. You can spot these in the past performances by the notation “Clm 16,000nw2”, etc.
Finally they get to the point where there are races that are just a claiming price with no conditions or an “open claiming” race.
Additionally, usually at the bottom of the class ladder, there are races for horses that haven’t won a race or two over a period of time, usually a year. (Clm $5000n1Y etc.)
Allowance races are races where the horses are not for sale, generally run for more money than claimers and are possibly stepping stones to stakes races. These are also striated similarly to claiming races: non winners of 1 other than maiden, claiming or starter, etc.
A “starter” allowance is an allowance race that is specifically for horses that have run in a particular claiming level. For example, a $7500 Starter Allowance is for horses that have started for a claiming price of $7500 or less for a period of time (generally a year, but can be more or less).
Allowance/optional claiming races are exactly what they sound like – a hybrid. The condition could read ‘For horses that have not won two races other than maiden, claiming, starter OR claiming price of $20,000″. In that race some horses would be for sale for $20K while others, that meet the allowance condition of never having won two races unless they were maiden, claiming or starter allowances, will not be.
These are the highest levels of races usually for the best horses on the grounds – or from around the country.
Stakes races also have their own levels. Most tracks have their own stakes programs that are open to all types of horses and others for just for horses bred in their state. Some tracks’ stakes races have become so popular and prestigious that they are “graded” on a scale of 3 to 1 with 1 being the highest. The Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races are Grade 1 races, as are others, while many prestigious races are Grade 2 or 3s. These are decided by the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association: https://toba.org/graded-stakes/
THE RACES WE RUN
Each season a condition book is written for the season. There are several over the course of the season and they generally cover about a month at a time. It lists each racing day and the races planned for each day including a few substitute races. The order of the races on any particular day are NOT necessarily the order of the races for that day. The order is chosen AFTER the races are drawn to create the best wagering menu for that racing day.
You can click on this link to open up Canterbury’s condition book 1: http://www.canterburypark.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Condition-Book-1-May-5-June-4.pdf
Each morning trainers enter their horses for racing. They enter via a computer in the racing office that is in a cubicle so no one can see which horse is being entered. There is video board on the wall that tracks the number of entries in each race, NOT the name, just a running count of the number of entries.
Races that are in the published condition book are used first so, in theory, if condition book races all fill, none of the extras are used – not a common occurrence. Generally each race day is comprised of races from the condition book as well as the extras.
Once the races are decided upon, the racing office puts out an “overnights and extras” sheet listing that day’s race card as well as the “extra” races being offered for the next racing day. They are called “extras” because they are extra to the condition book. They may be there by virtue of almost being filled but not quite so maybe a couple of days will draw enough entries, because a trainer requested a specific type of race or the possibility that the complexion of the horses on the backside has changed a bit so different races need to be written.
This link will take you to the latest “overnights and extras”: http://www.equibase.com/premium/eqbHorsemenAreaDownloadAction.cfm?sn=ONSC-CBY-20170519D
Because Brilliant Belle still has one, maybe two, of her claiming conditions left, we’d like to run in a non-winners of 3 at a claiming level above where we bought her at Oaklawn. So far we haven’t had any luck but she also had her cold that we dealt with so it hasn’t been the end of the world. Now, though, we are ready to enter and run and we’ll have to find a race. Here’s hoping one of the extras over Memorial Day weekend will have a race we can run in!