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What is a Claiming Race?

In a claiming race, all racing horses are available for purchase until a few minutes before the race begins.
Racehorse.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
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Horse racing is a sport for gamblers, adrenaline junkies and horse enthusiasts alike. The thrill of pounding hooves across the dirt is enough to make almost anyone get up and shout for a favorite pony. There are many different types of races, each with specific goals that improve the race and affect betting styles and behavior. In a claiming race, all of the horses running are available for purchase at a pre-determined price until a few minutes before the race begins. Regardless of how the horse performs, it belongs to the claimer as soon as the money is put down.

A claiming race first and foremost intends to create a relatively even field of play. Since the horses are all offered for sale, it is reasonable to assume that few, if any, are the pride of a stable. The fact that all horses in a claiming race are for sale discourages owners from entering superior horses into the race in order to win an easy purse. While a fantastic horse will likely win the purse, he or she will also likely be purchased at a lower-than-value price.

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Because a claiming race boasts horses of inconsistent ability, it can be quite exciting to watch. Horses in a claiming race may not be fully trained, or they may suffer from some temperament or form irregularity. This means that a claiming race can truly be anyone's game. In a narrowly divided field, it is quite possible for the marginal long shot to have a great day and the marginal favorite to have a bad one.

Betting on claiming races is considered fairly risky, as the horses typically have similar abilities and a higher than usual chance of inconsistency in their performance. Knowledgeable betters often carefully study the backgrounds of each horse, even watching recordings of previous performances to help determine which horse is best suited for the track and if any have been consistently performing above class. Casual betters may consider a claiming race a shot in the dark; if all horses are similar in ability, luck may be more important than knowledge.

A claiming race may be a good way for stables to rid themselves of extraneous horses or those they do not believe will become great racers. Yet it can also be an opportunity for smart buyers to cheaply purchase horses that simply have not meshed well with previous trainers or matured into fine racehorses as of yet. The famed racehorse Seabiscuit, having won a pathetic five out of 35 races, was purchased by Charles and Marcella Howard after a claiming race. After proper training by a veteran horseman Tom Smith and talented jockey Red Pollard, Seabiscuit went on to become one of the most celebrated racehorses of all time.

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