First Start of 2018 Thursday


Mr. Ark will take to the track on Thursday for the Club making our first start of 2018.  The race is the 2nd at Oaklawn and will be run approximately at 1:57 PM.  It is a state bred $16,000 claiming race going a mile and an eighth and carries a purse of $32,000.  He drew post position 2 and will have CJ McMahon on board.

This is a pretty big step up from his last race but he won it and looked good doing it and there is less separation between classes in state bred races than with open races so we’re hoping he can step up and get it done.

We’ll have an analysis of the race on Wednesday.

Bonus footage this afternoon: I Never Give Up head on shot!


The white on her legs is left from the poultice that is put on their legs for a few days after a race or work to keep down inflammation and reduce any heat. It’s a precautionary measure similar to a baseball pitcher icing his arm after a start.

The poultice is painted on and held in place by paper towels or newspaper and, as it dries, turns into a fine white power that will come off during a bath.

Horses tend to rub their legs with their heads and, as a result, she got some on her face around her eye.



The Condition Book

The Condition Book is the game plan for the racing operations of the racetrack. Written by the racing secretary the bulk of the condition book outlines the races that are planned to be run through the course of the next few weeks at the meet.

Broadly speaking the book can be divided into three major sections: the informational pages, the stakes schedule and the day by day planned racing menu. We’ll break these down one at a time in a moment.

The goal of the book is to give horsemen an idea of what races to plan towards. He needs to take into consideration the types of horses that will be on the grounds as well as races that will provide full, competitive fields. These races should provide the best wagering opportunities for the public and purse opportunities for the horsemen.

Information Pages

These pages are thick with information for horsemen. Rules governing the backside are here as well as entry rules and schedules, preference dates, naming jockeys, medication rules and much more. Here are the information pages from Canterbury’s condition book:

Book _1 – Pages 1-25

Book _1 – Pages 52-64

Stakes Schedule

This is a breakdown of the stakes scheduled at the racetrack. Having this laid out in advance lets horsemen know what they can expect to be offered for the best horses in their barns. Clicking on the link (Stakes Schedule) will take you to the Thoroughbred Stakes schedule.


This is the “meat” of each condition book. It’s a day by day schedule of the races that the racing secretary thinks will fit his population best. There is an index which is a brief summary of each condition (allowance, various claiming levels, etc.) and the date of when that condition will be run either long or short (under a mile) or dirt and turf. This is followed by the day to day specific outline for each race.  Click on the link above (Races) to see this section.

The first section of races (marked 1-9) are the races that are intended to be used and, by contract between the track and the HBPA need to be run if they are filled. This enables trainers to point to races with some confidence that they will be run. However not all races fill (anywhere from 5 to 7 starters depending upon the racetrack) so there needs to be substitute races to make sure that enough of a variety of races are offered to trainers. These are marked as S1, S2, etc

As an aside, you’ll notice that the condition book lists races in numerical order. This has no bearing on the order that the races will be run on race day. Once the races are drawn, the racing secretary determines the best order of races to maximize bettor interest and, therefore, maximizing handle.

An important item of note in the Races section are the conditions of the race. For example, that the race is for fillies and mares, 3 year old and up who have never won 3 races with a claiming price of $25,000. It also lists the weight the horse has to carry in the race as well as the purse and the distance. If the race is restricted to Minnesota bred horses only the race is indicated by a state of Minnesota logo under the race number. All other races are open to horses bred anywhere as long as they meet the conditions of the race.

Races are drawn 3 – 4 days before the race is to be run with past performances available a few hours after entries are drawn.

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 the race card that was just drawn 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 extra 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 since that section of the book was published so different races need to be written. Assuming races fill, the order of preference are condition book races, substitutes and then extras.

Take some time and read through the condition book if you have a chance. It can be very informative and gives you an idea of what types of races to expect when the season begins.

Welcome to the Club: I Never Give Up

We privately purchased a 3-year old filly today out of the Doug O’Neill barn.  I Never Give Up is a Super Saver filly out of the Saarland mare Saaraband.  She was sold as a yearling for $115,000 and then was picked up in a 2-year old in training sale for $45,000. We purchased her for $9,000 after Nevada went and gave her the once over.

Purchase like this are nice and can work out really well.  Big barns like the O’Neill barn move on to Churchill or Santa Anita and tend to compete at the higher levels of racing.  A horse that can be competitive at $12,500 (or higher here – hopefully) just doesn’t fit their program.  However those of us heading to a “mid-major” track like Canterbury can do really well with a horse like this.  Fingers crossed she’ll be that for us!

She has started 3 times: twice at Delmar the summer of her 2-year old season where she ran greenly before taking a few months off to grow up and debuting here at Oaklawn in a $12,500 maiden claimer.

Her lifetime PPs are here: Inevergiveup Lifetime PPs

We think she can be effective over the dirt and the turf.  She has some learning to do but that’s okay, Nevada and his team will work with her and hopefully she’ll be a nice fit for Canterbury Park!

Now the stable is stocked and we’ll probably look for a race for each of them before heading here to Minnesota when Oaklawn is over April 15.

Racing Conditions

This is a post we did last year that discussed the striations of racing classes.  It bears repeating as we head into the racing portion of our season.  It was a alluded to in the comments section of a post a week or so ago as well (make a note to yourselves: check out the comments section as they fill up after many posts – there is a lot of really good questions that get asked and answered down there!).

Here is an encore:

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!



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:

In a couple of days we will review the condition book as well as how we go ahead and enter races.

What About the Next One?

Mr. Ark is doing well as he comes off his last race and starts to get ready for his first for the Club (look for that in the next couple of weeks).  Reports are that he is a great horse to be around with a good personality and enjoys human attention.  He’s working well as well – which is always a plus!

But what about our next horse? We want to start the season with a pair of runners but we can’t just claim another horse per the rules of claiming at Oaklawn.  Here is a video of Nevada explain the process for us:

Why, you may ask, would a track do implement a rule like this? It ends up being pretty simple: tracks don’t want horsemen to come in and raid the track, claiming horses in order to stock their own stables to run somewhere else.  You get one open claim and then you have to run in order to participate in claiming horses at the meet. Another caveat at many tracks: a claimed horse can’t leave the grounds for 30-days or, perhaps, until the end of the meet.  This, again, keeps horsemen from dipping in and claiming a horse only to have it run somewhere else.

So we continue to look for a private purchase, but we will have another option open to us once Mr. Ark runs back.

Welcome Mr. Ark

Though we may have been outshook yesterday, we waded right back in today in race one with a claim for Mr. Ark.

Mr. Ark won the $6250 claiming race for Arkansas breds going away and seemed to come out of the race no worse for wear.  He’s bedded down for the night and we’ll get a better idea of how he came out of the race in a day or two.  His plan will be to walk the next few days, recuperating from the effort, before he heads back to the track to jog and gallop. There is a possibility that he will be back one more time at Oaklawn before the meet ends in another Arkansas bred event.

Speaking of breeding, Mr. Ark is a 5-year old gelded son of Primary Suspect out of the El Corredor mare Miss Brown Eyes.  Those of you that want to closer inspect his pedigree, you can fin that here:

This was his 21st start and 5th win.  He’s been in the money in half of his starts.  He appears to be better suited going long though he has sprinted effectively as well.  Additionally he has started and won over the grass.  This gives us quite a bit of flexibility coming to Canterbury.

We certainly don’t anticipate him being a stakes winner but he appears to be a honest low level horse that should be able to be useful spotted effectively.

Here are his lifetime past performances, not including today’s race: Mr Ark Lifetime PPs.

Congratulations and good luck going forward!


Outshook In Our First Try

We took a shot in the 2nd race at Oaklawn today on the favored Preacher Time.  Preacher Time is a 4-year old gelding by Oratory who has now won 3 of 15 lifetime starts and hit the board 11 times at tracks like Oaklawn, Remington and even a stint at Canterbury last summer.

He is a solid, consistent type which is what we like to look for in a Club horse.  Ideally we want to find a horse that is sound, is relatively consistent, maybe a horse that can compete at a bit of a higher level here than it does in Arkansas.  In a perfect world that would also be a relatively young horse (3 or 4) with only a few races under his/her belt.  However I’d rather sacrifice some youth for soundness and consistency.

Preacher Time really matched up well with his consistency and being a 4-year old that had only run 14 times prior to today.

However, there were 9 others who felt that Preacher Time would fit their program, so there was a shake (see yesterday’s post for an explanation of a shake) and we did not come out on top.  The horse ended up going to the barn of Kim Puhl for owner Jack Boggs.

We will keep looking and keep firing away!

Buying A Horse

There are several different ways to buy a racehorse: you can buy a yearling or a 2-year old (sometimes even older) in a sale; claim one out of a race; or privately purchase a horse.  We won’t be going to a sale so we will focus on the other two as both are a possibility.


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. Nevada and I sort through Past Performances and check on possible targets. He also has been watching horses in training and on the track with an eye toward the time we’ll be ready to buy. We’ll most likely be looking to claim a horse around $12,500 – maybe a bit higher, maybe a bit lower – and then supplementing that horse with another that we would purchase at the end of the meet.

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 as we learned last season with Jerry’s Two Tickets who bowed a tendon in the race we claimed him from and needed to be immediately retired.

Nevada will take 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 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 two years ago had 16 claim slips dropped on him, for example. Oaklawn, especially, is a real hotbed of claiming activity- though less so this year than in the past.


At a place like Oaklawn there are many large stables that will move on to championship meets at Churchill, Belmont, etc.  They tend to have horses in their stables that aren’t talented enough to compete at the stakes or even allowance levels at this top tier track but may work very nicely for us here at Canterbury.  Nevada is already on the lookout for a horse that won’t make the cut with these stables but would be effective here.

The advantage with private purchases is you actually CAN walk into a barn and say “I want to buy some horses can I take a look at them?”  You’re not dropping a claiming slip blindly and taking an educated bet on a horse and you can check them out more closely.  As relationships are developed trainers know who they can trust to buy a solid horse from and who to avoid (the same can be said for claiming horses from people as well).

The downside is you may not be able to agree on a horse within your budget and the better horses that are relatively inexpensive tend to go very quickly.

However you look at it, the process has begun!  Later this weekend we’ll share some of the qualities we look for when claiming horses.

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!