Claiming Races

Sweet Loretta (no. 1), ridden by Javier Castellano and trained by Todd Pletcher dead heats with Pretty City Dancer (no. 6), ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. and trained by Mark Casse, to win the 125th running of the grade 1 Spinaway Stakes for two year old fillies on September 3, 2016 at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. (Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire)

Sweet Loretta (no. 1), ridden by Javier Castellano and trained by Todd Pletcher dead heats with Pretty City Dancer (no. 6), ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. and trained by Mark Casse, to win the 125th running of the grade 1 Spinaway Stakes for two year old fillies on September 3, 2016 at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. (Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire)

Claiming races make up the “bread and butter” of horse racing since this is the largest class of races. The horses in these races can be purchased for the price of the race that is advertised. For example, if the claiming price or race is $75,000, every horse in the race can be purchased (claimed) out of that race for $75,000.

The largest advantage of claiming over purchasing at auction or even privately is that the horse in question is actively racing and could become a better racehorse or could simply be a failure. It is important to work with a trainer who has an excellent record at claiming. However, unlike auction and private acquisition, the buyer is not at liberty to have a pre-purchase performed on the horse. Instead,the horse is sold as is.

In order to place a claim on a horse, you will first need an owner’s license in the particular racetrack’s state. States do not recognize out-of-state licenses, but they are easy to obtain by filling out the appropriate paperwork, providing identification, and paying the necessary fee.

Once you have obtained your owner’s license, you will need to establish an account with the racetrack’s bookkeeper. Then you will need to have enough money in the on-track account to cover both the claim price and the sales tax of the horse.

You will then need to fill out the claim form on the day of the race. There must be no misspellings of any words, or the form could become void. If more than one person fills out a form for a horse, the owner is decided by the computer in a random selection also known as a “shake”.

All responsibility and risk are now yours, should your claim be successful. If the horse is injured or dies in the race or on the way back to the barn, you are responsible for all veterinary bills and subsequent costs. Many racetracks are trying to change this rule to protect the claimer, but progress has been slow.