Making up almost 70 percent of all horse races in the United States, a claiming race is a race in which each and every horse is entered at a fixed price and can be bought or “claimed” by any licensed owner prior to the start of the race. There are several different price levels of claiming race, ranging anywhere from around $10,000 for low-level horses to over $45,000 for very high-level horses.
Should a licensed owner wish to place a “claim” at the track, they may simply go to the claiming office and fill out a claim form, which must then be dropped into the claim box at least 16 minutes before the start of the race. Upon making a claim, that owner must first deposit sufficient funds to cover both the claiming price and sales tax with the bookkeeper at the track.
At the end of the race, the claim box is opened, and each horse with a claim on it comes under the ownership of the person(s) who put in the claim, even if the horse was injured during the race or performs poorly. In exchange, the previous owner gets to keep the price for which the horse was entered. The original owner is also awarded any winnings from the race that the horse had won. The new owner is responsible for transporting, horse training and stabling the horse immediately after the end of the claiming race.
If more than a single claim has been placed on a horse, the racing secretary uses a “shake” to determine who actually wins the horse. Normally, the shake involves the use of a “Kelly” bottle that contains numbered pills corresponding to each of the claims made. At the end of the race, the racing secretary draws one of the pills from the bottle to determine the winner. All claimants who did not win the horse are not required to pay, and their money is returned to them.
Purpose of Claiming Races
Because claiming races are established for different price levels, the prices on most horses are the same. This makes the competition and ability of horses nearly equal, and many owners will enter a horse in a claiming race in an effort to get the horse more racing experience while gambling on the fact that no one will claim the horse. Although the claiming process can win you a promising horse that will perform well in the future, it can also be very risky. Oftentimes, an owner who has determined a horse is past its peak will enter that horse into a claiming race with the hopes that someone will make a claim and rid them of a costly non-performer.
Risks of Claiming Races
Horses entered into claiming races are often of low or moderate talent, or older horses that are almost done with their racing careers. Before claiming a horse, no claimant is allowed to have a veterinarian check for any medical conditions, and prospective bidders must rely on their trainer to get as much information as possible from the evaluation of the horse. In addition, because ownership is transferred at the start of a race, if the horse that has been claimed is injured during the claiming races; the new owner must pay the purchase price and take ownership of the horse regardless of its condition. The new owner must also have a way to transport the horse after the race is over and is immediately responsible for the horse’s care and boarding.
Rewards of Claiming Races
Although horses that run in claiming races may be of low to moderate talent, some trainers will enter young horses that are just beginning their thoroughbred racing careers to find their true level of ability. In 1961, a foal named Crazy Kid was claimed for $2750 in a claiming race in Mexico by Paula Hunt. In 1962, Crazy Kid won the Bing Crosby Handicap race with a world-record time of 1:07 4/5.
In addition, breeders will sometime use claiming races to build breeding stock if a claiming racer appears to have certain abilities that could be passed on to young horses. There have been instances where claimed horses have gone on to become champions.
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