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Race classifications

Today’s lesson: what is meant by “class?”

We all know about first class, second class, etc. Races are also “class”ified. When a horse first starts out, they are entered into “maiden” races. These are for horses who have never won a race. So, it’s their maiden voyage.

Even maiden races have their own series of classifications. To explain, I need to explain a different classification series known as “claiming.” Essentially, when a horse cannot compete at high enough level, the horse may be put into a “claiming” race. The conditions for the race set a price at which the horse may be “claimed” (bought) by any trainer or owner who has raced their own horse at that particular race meet. The lower the “claiming” price, the lower the purse (usually) and the lower the level of competition. This is the key to all classifications… an effort to make each race competitive.

So, for those horses who have never won a race, they may be entered in a maiden claiming race. The claiming price at which they are entered may be based on a trainer or owner’s evaluation of the horse’s ability or the horse’s prior performances (say he ran last in a $50K claiming race, so now he’s entered in a $20K claiming race).

There is a level called “Maiden Special Weight.” In this case, the horse cannot be claimed and the purse is generally higher (always higher within a particular racetrack). Once a horse wins, the next level is an “allowance” for non-winners of 2, non-winners of 3, etc. The name “allowance” reflects the conditions for each individual race which may give weight allowances to some entrants based on their age, gender, number of victories, etc.

At some point, the horse runs out of new conditions and graduates to running in “Stakes” races. As a group, these are the highest quality races but, here too, they are divided into sub-classifications. Listed Stakes (also known as Overnight Stakes) are the first level of Stakes competition. This is where Ahvee’s Destiny has been running. There are also three higher grades of Stakes competition: Grade 3, 2 and 1. These are mostly longer distance races than Ahvee’s Destiny runs in. Grade 1 is the highest and includes the triple crown races like the Kentucky Derby and the top races in the country, like the Breeder’s Cup.

As noted earlier, when a horse is thought to be not competitive at whatever level of achievement, he goes down a notch, if possible. However, if there are no other kinds of races he can compete in, he often ends up in the claiming ranks or is retired. Claiming races can be run at prices exceeding $100K. However, that is rare. Most often, you’ll find them in the top race tracks at between $15,000 to $50,000. At lesser racetracks they can be for substantially less. Officer Sheila T Rex was claimed at Finger Lakes Race Track for $4,000.

Conditions within the categories can be written for only horses of a specific age or gender (or both). I think that does it for today’s lesson. If I’ve missed anything, please chime in!


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