Jun 4 2013

Claiming Races – Where (Almost) Every Horse Is For Sale

(Update to this article appears at the end.)

In a prior article introducing the topic of Class, the subject of Claiming Races was mentioned.  Now we delve into the topic a bit more.  The unique thing about Claiming Races is that every horse in the race is “for sale.”  The term “Claiming” comes from the process of initiating the purchase.  Prior to the race, any Trainer who wishes to purchase a horse (on behalf of an owner) running in the race, fills out a Claiming form and submits it to the racing secretary’s office.

At the conclusion of the race, for any horses that were Claimed,  a track official “Tags” the horse by placing a “Claim” Tag on their halter.  At that point the new owner and trainer take possession of the horse and they bring the horse back to their barn.  If the horse finished well enough to receive any purse money from the just concluded race, that money is paid to the owner who was in possession of the horse at the beginning of the race.

Until recently the risk of claiming a horse has rested entirely with the persons purchasing the horse.  If the horse is injured during the race, or was in some way unsound prior to the race, the new owner had no recourse.  However, recently there has been movement to provide some protection (and fairness) under certain conditions.  This is truly a developing story, and is not being treated uniformly in the industry yet.  Click here for a link to a story about measures being implemented in California presently.

Every Claiming race has a specific Claiming Price (or range) for that race.  This amount can vary from a few thousand dollars up to more than $100,000.  Below is an example of the race conditions for a $20,000 Claiming race at Saratoga on July 20, 2012 with the Past Performances (PPs) included for one of the horses entered in the race.

Best Actor - Claiming PPs Example

You can see that the Claiming Price for this race is clearly stated in the Race Conditions at the top, exactly $20,000 for this race. Sometimes a Claiming Race will have a range of prices allowed, and it’s up to the owner to decide what selling price to enter. For example, in the most recent race (June 9, 2012) for Best Actor, he was entered for a price of $25,000. To the right of that amount, in parenthesis is (25-20). That means the race allowed for horses to be entered for prices within that range.

We highlighted the various Claiming prices that Best Actor was entered in his last six races.  Of particular interest is the race on Jan. 27, 2012.  Notice the ‘c’ prefix before the Claiming price “c-12500“.  This designates the horse was claimed (purchased) out of that race for $12,500.  Below that line I’ve highlighted additional information provided about the claim, showing the owner (NYKY Thoroughbred Stable) and trainer (Kirian McLaughlin) of Best Actor prior to the Jan. 27 race.

Since that race, the new trainer (Jason Servis) has moved Best Actor “up” in class, entering him for as high as $30,000 in the Apr. 22 race.  Generally speaking, the higher the Claiming price the higher the purse money provided for the top finishers in the race.  We will be discussing Purses in a future post.

Beyond age and sex, claiming races can have additional restrictions (e.g. a limit on the number of prior wins) included in the conditions for the race.  For the example above, the only restriction is that horses entered must be 3-years old or more.

Also, there are a separate class of races that allow for the combination of horses entered for a Claiming price and horses that are under Allowance race restrictions.  Click here to learn more about these races, referred to as Optional Claiming Races.

At this point you might be wondering about the point of Claiming races; why even have them?  Well, not all horses are born to be Stakes quality horses.  And, after (or even before) a horse has run through their Allowance conditions (N1X, N2X, etc.) they need somewhere to go if they cannot compete at the highest levels.  Claiming races inherently provide a system of checks and balances to insure fair competition.  Without them owners would enter their horses against inferior competition in quest of the purse money.  Claiming prices force an owner to place a horse in races where the competition is relatively equal to his/her ability, or risk losing them for less money than they might be worth.

As was mentioned in a prior article, some horses never enter into the Claiming game.  Their earnings potential in both racing and breeding might be too high for the owner to risk losing them.  Other horses start out with high owner aspirations, and might even be successful for awhile in Allowance and/or Stakes races, but eventually due to a decline in ability or an injury end up in Claiming races.


Update, November 11, 2014: New Claiming Rules Implemented in New York

We added “Almost” to the title of this article, because it is no longer true that EVERY horse entered in a claiming race is for sale.  Beginning on October 29, NYRA has implemented a new rule for claiming races that is similar to the “Waiver Claiming” rule that has been in place in California for several years.  One of our readers, Deron, brought this up in the comment section at the bottom of the article, and he included a link to an article that explains the California rules.

The rule change in New York allows owners to protect horses from being claimed in a claiming race if their horse is returning from a layoff.  Specifically, an owner may choose to declare a horse “ineligible to be claimed” in a claiming race, if they meet the following conditions:

  1. The horse has not raced for at least 180 days.
  2. The horse must be entered at a claiming price equal to or greater than his last start.
  3. Declaration of being “ineligible to be claimed” must be made at the time of entry.

There are a couple additional points to consider.  The owner has the “option” to make this declaration.  So the horse can be entered for a Tag if the owner wishes.  Also, the option to declare the horse ineligible to be claimed exists ONLY for the first race back after the 180+ day layoff, regardless of whether or not the owner declares the horse “ineligible to be claimed” in their return race.

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By Neal Benoit

6 comments on “Claiming Races – Where (Almost) Every Horse Is For Sale

    • Thanks for the question. I must admit you’ve stumped me. I’m not familiar with the term “Waiver Claiming.” Do you have an example? Include the racetrack, date, and race number please.

      • I looked at several current condition books, but could not find any examples. I did, however, find the following article, which explains it pretty well. In short, if a horse is coming off a layoff of at least 180 days, the owner has the option of protecting him from being claimed, so as to have some protection for the money that was invested into getting the horse ready for the race during the layoff, by not having the horse claimed right off the bench. As you’ll see from the link, this rule looks to have originated in California. In another link I found, a waiver claiming race was referenced from this past May at Pimlico. Here’s the link with the rule explanation:


        • Hey Deron, good bit of research there. Very interesting, we’ll see if this catches on in other locations. I’m going to mention it to some of my trainer connections and get their opinion. Thanks for the information!

  1. Great Website…..Question on Claiming: If a horse is claimed by multiple claimers, who determines and how is it determined where that horse goes?

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