Sep 6 2013

Ins and Outs of Jail Time in Claiming Races

Horse in Jail

In a prior article we introduced the topic of Claiming Races and some basic information about how they work.  Click here for a review of that article.  Next we’ll discuss the topic of “Jail Time” and what in means in the context of Claiming Races.

After a horse is claimed out of a race, most states require that the new owner enter the horse at a 25% higher claiming price, if that horse runs within a month following the claim.  It is during that period of time the horse is considered to be “in jail.”  If the horse does not run during the month after the claim, he is considered to be “out of jail” and can then be entered for any level of claiming price.  Here are some examples.

Take Down Two (Jail Example)

The above horse is a good example, because it shows both an in-jail and out-of-jail situation.  After being claimed on June 7 for $25,000 the new owners waited until August 2 to run Take Down Two again.  Since this was more than one month after the claim, they were able to enter the horse in for a Tag at exactly the same level as they claimed him for $25,000.

He ran a good race, finishing 2nd.  However, once again the horse was claimed for $25,000 by trainer Gary Contessa.  Following that good effort, and a couple of promising workouts, the horse was entered in the 4th race on August 29 at Saratoga.  Since August 29 is less than one month since the last claim, the horse must be moved up in class by at least 25%.  And he was, as you can see at the top of the PPs, his claiming price for the 8/29 race is $35,000.

Something to keep in mind with the “in jail” restrictions.  After a horse moves up in class to meet the 25% requirements, if he is not claimed, the owner can run him at any claiming price level in his subsequent start.  He is officially “out of jail” at that point.

In the next example, the horse Top Tier Lass was entered in the 2nd race on September 2 at Saratoga for a Claiming Price of $20,000.

Top Tier Lass (Jail Example)

On June 23 Top Tier Lass was claimed for $25,000.  The new owners did not run her again until July 28.  Since that was over one month, they were no longer “in jail” and were able to enter her for a lower price of $20,000.  She was claimed again, this time by Jason Servis.  Now, the interesting thing, and not necessarily a good sign, is that Servis has waited over another month (July 28 to September 2) to start her again, and has entered her for the same claiming price she was purchased for back in July.  This makes two consecutive owners/trainers who, after claiming Top Tier Lass, have decided not to run her back at a higher class, and waited until they could drop her down or enter her at the same value.

In general, it is a good sign when a new owner/trainer moves a horse up into a higher class after a claim and promising race like the effort shown on July 28.  With that said, there are owners (generally with deep pockets) who are willing to drop a horse down to a lower class after a claim in order to notch a victory.

On a related topic to horses being claimed, is the use of the term “X-way shake.”  If more than one owner is attempting to claim the same horse out of a race, the claims clerk will put numbered balls into a container.  Each ball represents a different buyer.  The owner whose number is pulled out of the container “wins” the claim.  So, at the conclusion of a race, if you here the track announcer say a horse was claimed out of the prior race in a “3-way shake,” it means that three owners wanted to buy the horse.  I have heard as many as a “12-way shake” announced.  That’s a very good sign (and a horse to remember) when a dozen owners want to claim the same horse.

Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit



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