Condition Book and Entering Races

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:


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:

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”:

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!


Meet Trainer Clay Brinson

Jeff and I went back to talk to Clay about the horse, his plans and what race he believes is best for Great Bam. If you did not read the previous post, it may be helpful to go back and take a look. The explanations of types of races will help you when going through this post.

As you heard in the video, Clay has picked out two races that are possibilities, one on May 25 and another on May 28. The plan for right now is to enter the one on May 25, and if it doesn’t draw enough horses, go in the race on May 28 which we hope will have enough horses. Obviously, we won’t know what happens until entries are taken for those days.

Entries for Friday, May 25 will be taken a week from today and entries for May 28 will be taken a week from Friday. The races are nearly identical in that they are both sprints for horses that have not won two races lifetime; however, the race on Friday, May 25 carries a $10,000 claiming price while the race on May 28 carries a $5,000 claiming price.

Yesterday’s blog discussed the condition book. You can find the condition book by clicking here. The May 25 race looks like this in the condition book:

You’ll notice that the purse is $9,000 (to be split amongst all runners in the race), the race is for horses three years old and up, the claiming price is $10,000 and the race will be run at a distance of six furlongs on the main track.

The race on May 28, looks like this:

You’ll notice that the purse is $7,000 (to be split amongst all runners in the race), the race is for horses three years old and up, the claiming price is $5,000 and the race will be run at a distance of five and one half furlongs on the main track.

It’s likely that both races will not go, so we’ll have to play it by ear. Clay will be on top of the situation and will keep us abreast if anything changes.

Please post comments or questions that you may have about the condition book, these specific races or anything else that interests you. We hope that all of you are enjoying a wonderful Mothers’ Day.

Great Bam Works Out

Great Bam worked out Friday morning going four furlongs (half a mile) in about 48 seconds. Unfortunately, due to a mix up in the racing office, his official time was not posted among the other workouts for the day. Check out the video below to see him coming down the stretch during his workout.

Clay seemed to be happy with the workout and the plan now is to try to find a race. There were a few comments on the last post about condition books, how to know what race a horse should be in, etc. Therefore, I thought it would be best to walk the group through the process of determining how to find the right race for your horse.

When owning a racehorse, it is important to work with the trainer to pick the right race for your horse. Depending on the relationship between owner and trainer, picking the right race can fall on either party, or in the best case scenario, all parties agree to the right race for their runner.

Just like humans, not all horses are created equal. Therefore, a wide variety of races are offered at all tracks in an attempt to match up competitive groups of horses. A track employee, known as a racing secretary, puts together a book filled with different types of races. This is called the aforementioned Condition Book and traditionally, a new one comes out every two or three weeks. Trainers and owners use these books in an attempt to find a race where their horse will be the most competitive.

Understanding Different Race Conditions

Traditionally, horses are grouped into one of four different categories:

Maiden – Horses that have never won a race. Once a horse has “broken its maiden” by winning a race, it must progress into one of the ranks listed below.

Claiming – The most common type of race, any horse in this type of race can be purchased for a stipulated price. Claiming prices vary from low to high and, theoretically, the higher the price, the better the horse. The thought process is that this class level keeps people from running too good of a horse in too easy of a race because someone will purchase that horse.

Allowance – One step above most claiming ranks, allowance horses are not for sale. These types of races are typically contested amongst better horses that are preparing to compete in stakes races.

Stake – These races are made up of the most talented horses on the grounds and are typically run for the largest purses. Traditionally, it costs additional money to start your horse in a stake race.

Within each of these classes, there are subclasses that allow for horses to find even more competitive race. Furthermore, races are typically divided such that fillies (females) run against one another and colts (males) run against one another.

Picking the Correct Race for Great Bam

When you look at Great Bam’s past performances found in the image below, you’ll notice that he’s been running in races called $5000N2L and $10,000N2L.

The $5,000 and the $10,000 stands for the claiming price Great Bam was running for and the N2L (or NW2) means that the race was for horses that had not won two races during their lifetime. Typically, claiming races are conditioned like this in that the horse is given a condition by the number of wins it has lifetime (or during the calendar year) and the claiming price that makes the horse run competitively.

There are all sorts of claiming races and claiming prices. At Canterbury, our most frequent claiming races are run for claiming prices of $3,500, $5,000 and $10,000. Additionally, we offer races for horses that have never won two races lifetime, never won three races lifetime, haven’t won a race during the year, haven’t won two races during the year and a few other less popular conditions.

Due to the fact that Great Bam has been fairly competitive at the level he is running at, it makes the most sense to look for races that closely resemble the competition level that he has been running against. This is where using the condition book comes in handy.

There are two important pieces to a condition book, the first is called the index. The index contains a shorthand list of all the different types of races and the dates that they will be run. You can find the first index here. The second is the actual book and this is where you find full details about each race. For those that have not found it, you can check out the first condition book on our website by clicking here.

In looking through the index, we’ll be searching for $5,000NW2 and $10,000NW2 races to try to find a good fit for Great Bam. If you take a closer look, you’ll notice that three options immediately fit these categories:

First, there’s a $5,000NW2 going long on May 18.

Second, there’s a $5,000NW2 going short on May 28.

Third, there’s a $10,000NW2 going short on May 25.

If you look each of these races up in the full condition book, you can get more information about each race, including: exact distance, the purse, age restrictions and the amount of weight the horse will be required to carry.

We’ll let Clay decide which option is best for the horse. When he makes a decision as to what he believes is the best spot, we’ll post more about the full condition book and other information that is contained within it.

This isn’t easy information to absorb as it is full of racing lingo. Please post a comment or shoot Jeff or myself an e-mail if you have any questions.