What are claiming races? Here are the basics

June 8th, 2022

In North America, claiming races are among the most common types of Thoroughbred horse races conducted at racetracks across the continent. It’s common for claiming races to comprise the majority of races taking place on any given day.

But what are claiming races? Let’s explain and explore the details.

What is a claiming race?

In its purest form, a claiming race is a race in which all of the entrants are available to be purchased (“claimed”) for a predetermined amount. Interested buyers put in a claim prior to the race; if only one person submits a claim for a particular horse, ownership of that horse is transferred following the race. If multiple people submit claims for one horse, a random drawing determines which person receives ownership.

One of the goals of claiming races is to produce competitive betting events. A racehorse worth $20,000 might easily win a $5,000 claimer, but he would likely be claimed since he’s entered at a level far below his true value. Thus, horses tend to race at claiming levels where they’re competitive but not necessarily dominant, producing evenly matched fields.

How much does it cost to claim a horse?

The cost to claim a horse varies widely from one claiming race to another. At lower-level tracks, the claiming price might be less than $5,000. At major tracks, you might see claiming races where the price is $100,000, or even $150,000.

What varieties of claiming races are contested?

Claiming races come in many forms. You might see a $10,000 claimer in which horses are allowed to carry less weight if they compete for a $7,500 claiming tag. Or you might see a $7,500 claimer in which horses bred in a particular state can enter for $12,500.

There are also waiver claiming and optional claiming races. Waiver claimers are races in which, due to the nuances of racing rules, at least one entrant is ineligible to be claimed. Optional claiming races—including allowance optional claimers, starter optional claimers, and maiden optional claimers—are races in which some horses are entered for claiming tags while others are not, depending on whether the horses meet certain eligibility criteria.

Are all claiming races of a certain value created equal?

You might assume that, on average, all $50,000 claiming races are roughly equal. But that’s not always the case, and recognizing this is a key step in strengthening your handicapping skills.

Let’s provide some examples. Some claiming races are restricted to horses bred in a particular state, so a $50,000 claimer for horses bred in New Jersey is likely to be easier than an unrestricted $50,000 claimer contested over the same track. Along similar lines, an unrestricted $50,000 claimer is going to be tougher than a $50,000 restricted to horses who have never won two races.

Now that you’re up to speed on the basics of claiming races, you’ll be better prepared to handicap the many claiming events on the daily racing slate. Good luck!