This is a post we did a couple of years ago that discussed the striations of racing classes. It bears repeating as we head into the racing portion of our season. There was some confusion on how we lost Dos Cuernos in the last race. The answer is that it was a claiming race and that he was for sale (as was everyone else in the race). It seems like a good a time as any to re-run this post and lay out the major conditions that make up the various race types.
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!
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/