Decoding the World of Horse Racing: Types and Classes Unraveled


From Grassroots to Glory: Navigating the Levels of Horse Racing

If you’re new to the world of horse racing, you might only be aware of major events like the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup. While these races represent the pinnacle of North American racing and feature top-notch thoroughbred horses, it’s essential to understand that horses begin their careers at much lower levels of competition.

In North American racing, there exists a hierarchical class system that horses must navigate before they can reach the spotlight.

Horse Racing

Let’s explore the various types of races these horses typically go through, starting from the least competitive level:

Maiden races

In horse racing, a competing horse that has not yet won a race is referred to as a maiden. When a maiden horse wins its first race, it is said to have “broken its maiden.” Typically, this achievement occurs in a maiden race, although an exceptional horse might secure its first victory in an allowance or even a stakes race. It’s important to note that there’s no strict rule dictating that a horse must begin its career as a maiden and remain at that level until it secures a win.

Maiden horses are divided into two categories:

  • Maiden special weight races showcase high-caliber horses that are anticipated to secure their first victories swiftly, propelling them into more prestigious competitions.
  • On the other hand, maiden claiming races are designed for horses that have not succeeded in the maiden special weight category or are deemed not proficient enough to compete at a higher level.

Claiming races

Maiden claiming is a subset of the racing claim. Seekers are the lowest class on the path. Every horse has a price in a competitive race. It can be bought or “claimed” out of the race for this price. If someone wants to claim a horse, they must put in a claim before the race. He becomes the new owner of a horse after the race, regardless of whether the horse wins or finishes last. The original owner gets a purse or winnings if the horse finishes in the money, and the new owner gets the horse – even if it is injured or dies in the race.

Claiming prices tend to be higher at prominent tracks such as Belmont or Santa Anita, whereas they are relatively lower at smaller tracks like Portland Meadows or Thistle. Generally, the horse’s quality decreases with a lower price tag.

Racing accessories

Add-on races are the next step from claiming races. These horses are not for sale and the purse – the money available for horses and owners to win each race – is larger. Horses in these races must carry a certain amount of weight or be allowed to carry less weight due to certain factors, hence the name “supplement”. Typical conditions of these races are that only non-winners of a certain number, except the girl, claiming, or starter can run. The allowance is usually five kilometers from the weight awarded if the horse has not won since a certain date or if it has not won a certain amount of money. Those five pounds can mean a lot.

Racing Upgrades:

Beyond claiming races, there are add-on races where horses aren’t up for sale, and the purse—money available for winning—is higher.

In these races, horses must carry specific weights, or they can carry less due to certain factors, known as “supplementing.” These races typically have conditions like allowing only non-winners of a certain number, except maiden, claiming, or starter horses.

Additionally, there are allowance races, which often reduce the weight assigned to a horse if it hasn’t won within a specified time or hasn’t earned a certain amount. Those few pounds can make a significant difference.

Stakes Racing:

Stakes races are the pinnacle of horse racing where elite competitors vie for top honors. These races carry immense prestige and offer substantial purses, although the prize money can significantly differ between smaller local events and major races. Local races might offer just a few thousand dollars, whereas events like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic boast purses in the millions.

Local stakes races feature the best horses from the area, while graded stakes races attract top contenders from local stables, as well as those from across the nation or even internationally. Local races often come with specific requirements, like horses needing to be bred within the state, and are referred to as restricted stakes races.

source :

image 14
credit : Marlenka

Also Watch: The Journey of a Colt Horse: From Tiny Hooves to Majestic Strides