Jul 17 2013

Starter Races – A Safe Haven For Claiming Horses

Starter races are a unique kind of race, where eligibility is limited to horses that have started at or under a specific Claiming price somewhere in their career (or since a specific date).  To read more about Claiming Races, click here for a previous article.  Starter races can be written as either Handicap or Allowance races.  In handicap races the weights carried by each horse are dictated by the racing secretary based on his estimate of the horse’s ability.  In Allowance races weights are assigned based upon Age and/or number of recent victories.

The key point in Starter races is that a horse qualifies for the race by running in a Claiming race previously, but is not entered for a Claiming tag in the Starter race.  So the owner bears no risk of losing the horse to a claim from another trainer in the Starter race.  This fact alone makes for some interesting maneuvers by Trainers who risk placing horses in Claiming races with the intention of running them in Starter races at some future point (if they don’t get claimed of course).

Below is an example of the race conditions for a Starter Allowance and a Starter Handicap race.

Starter Race Conditions

Notice the required Claiming price is clearly marked.  The main difference between these two races is the required Claiming Price ($12.5k vs. $25k).  Also, the Allowance race clearly states what the weight assignments will be, while the Handicap races indicates the weights will be assigned.

Now let’s look at the Past Performances (PPs) for one of the horses entered in the Starter Allowance race.

Brandys Secret - Starter Alw

Notice the yellow highlight on the May 5, 2012 race. In this race, Brandys Secret ran for a Claiming price of $8,000.  Running at that price made her eligible for Starter Allowance races on September 29 (< $12,500) and October 20 (< $16,000).  We know they are Starter races because of a small ‘s’ that appears to the right of the race amount (e.g. Alw 16000s).

Of some interest is the presence of her in a $5k Starter Allowance on June 12, 2012.  That means she must have run for a Claiming price of only $5,000 prior to May 5.  Obviously her results prove that she has improved considerably since those days.

The next example is a horse entered in the Starter Handicap race listed above:

Starter Hcp Horse

In this example you can see how the Starter Handicap races are presented in the PPs. On February 10, 2012 Screenplay ran in $25k Starter Handicap (Hcp 25000s) and on July 1, 2011 in a $16k Starter Handicap (Hcp 16000s).  You can also see that he ran in Starter Allowance races on Nov. 16, 2012 and June 5, 2011.

In terms of Class, there is no major difference between a Starter Allowance and Starter Handicap races.  The significant information in these races is the required Claiming price that a horse had to compete in previously in order to qualify.  The higher the amount, the more difficult the competition they have faced.

Because of the way horses qualify for these races, sometimes trainers will risk entering a horse in a Claiming race early in their career (before they have shown much ability) in order to put them in a position to run in Starter races later on.  This is especially true if they believe the horse doesn’t possess legitimate Allowance and/or Stakes abilities, but has enough ability to earn a steady paycheck in these Starter races.  Brandys Secret is a great example of this fact.  After running in Claiming races early in her career, she has won $232,000 in mostly Starter races the past two years … without any risk of being claimed.  That’s the work of a good Trainer (Michael Maker).

Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit

2 comments on “Starter Races – A Safe Haven For Claiming Horses

  1. I’ve seen many of your articles about Optional Claiming and Conditional Claiming races with good explanation and examples. However, I’d like to see something about Classified races too. Can you write something about them? Keep the good work!


    Bill Barbier on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *