Why class matters

Under the race type column, there is a vast amount of information to take away. These are listed so that you can easily understand the horse’s potential, and also the potential of horses he has run against. Still, the race type is an often overlooked aspect of racing. This is because the different types of races can be rather complicated. There are a few different classifications to be aware of. They are:

    Maiden Races: These are for horses that have never won a race. These races are generally the least competitive of races, simply because of the many horses that are stuck at this level for long periods of time. These perennial losers might never win a race. On the other hand, first time racers are often found at this level. Sometimes these horses can surprise handicappers and have extraordinary races.
    Claiming Races: Owners or trainers at the track can purchase horses for the given claiming price. This ensures that races stay fair since it would be unwise to enter a dominating horse in a cheap claiming race. Another savvy trainer would jump at the chance to buy a good horse at such a low price. It also gives the race more excitement by grouping horses with like talent together.
    Allowance Races: These are usually a step up from claimers. Although they have proven to be difficult for novices to grasp, allowance races, in the literal sense, refer to the amount of weight the horse will carry. There are many stipulations that can accompany this type of race. For example, one race might be for horses who have never won three lifetime races. Another might be for horses who haven’t won two races over the last year.
    Stakes Races: These are the big races with large purses. Only the top horses compete in these races. Sometimes these races are graded 1, 2, or 3; the lower the grade number, the more competitive the race is.

Race differentiation in detail
Once you learn how to differentiate between the different types of races, the easier your handicapping job will be. For instance, it is not uncommon for a horse to drop in class after struggling at a higher limit. If a horse is struggling to break its maiden, trainers will not enter the horse in a highly priced claiming race. It just doesn’t make sense. The reverse is also true. If a horse is struggling at a $30,000 allowance, a drop to $10,000 Claiming might be just what the horse needed to win.

    Let’s look at class in a bit more detail. A common race class line will look something like this:

3 Clm 5000

This lets readers know that the race is for three year olds and is an unrestricted $5,000 claiming race. This means that any trainer or owner entered in a race at the track can claim the horse for the dollar amount given. If the horse wins at this level though, they might jump up to a higher class; this can either be a larger dollar amount claiming race or an allowance race.

Maybe because claiming races represent the majority of races run in the U.S., allowance races are a bit harder to handicap. Rather than posting the amount that the horses are selling for, allowance races contain the purse amount.

Alw 30000 N1Y

The above allowance race has a $30,000 purse and is for horses that have not won a race in the past year. Allowance horses are not being put up for sale.

This all seems pretty straightforward until you throw both types of races into a past performance chart. How do you compare these two types of races?

This is a question that has stumped many would-be successful handicappers. With a little practice, however, you can easily distinguish between the two. Here are some tips for dealing with allowance races.

    The first thing to do is search the past performances for horses that have won other races. A mediocre horse with one or two wins moving from a lower class to a higher one will be at more of a disadvantage if he is facing other winning horses.
    Next, take a look at the purse structure at your given track. A $6,250 claiming race might have a purse of $11,000, whereas a $10,000 allowance race has a smaller purse. This would indicate that the claimer is slightly more competitive than the allowance. Likewise, a $17,000 allowance race will be more competitive that the $6,250 claiming.
    Many allowance races come with restrictions. The more restricted the field, the easier it is for a fast horse to take away a victory.

The relationship between claiming races and allowance races will be slightly different from track to track. Pay close attention to the horses that you suspect are dropping down in class, as these might come out to be big winners for you.

Our next class will focus on another integral part of the past performance chart: speed figures.

elementary school
Pre-KHorse Racing Basics
KindergartenPari-Mutuel System Betting
1st GradeHorse Racing 101
2nd GradeWhy Pick One Horse Over Another
3rd GradeReading Horse Charts
4th GradeWhy Class Matters
5th GradeSpeed Figures
middle school
6th GradeIntro to Exotic Betting
7th GradeExotics Part II Multi Race Bets
8th GradeSelecting the Right Races
high school
9th GradeThe Morning Line
10th GradeMoney Management
11th GradeBetting Tactics to Avoid
12th GradePerfecting the Craft