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.
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:
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.