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6 Types of Horse Races & Classes Explained

Nicole Cosgrove

May 31, 2021

If you are new to the exciting sport of horseracing, one of the first things you will need to learn about are the different classes of races and what the differences are between them. It can seem like a steep learning curve at first, but you will have new knowledge that can help you understand and enjoy this exciting sport better with a little patience. We’ll go over each class and tell you about the qualifications, including weight, sex, and age, to help you make an informed wager next time you are at the track.

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Races and Classes

1. Claiming Horse Races

claiming horse race_Clarence Alford_Pixabay
Image Credit: Clarence Alford, Pixabay

Claiming horse races allow owners to buy and sell horses at the track. Every horse in a claiming race is for sale, and buyers will claim a horse for a specific price before the race and will take ownership of the horse after the race. All horses have a similar value, age, and weight, and the winner is meaningless to the buyers and sellers, but if the horse wins, profits will go to the previous owner. Prices typically range from $1000 to $100,000, and more than half of the thoroughbred races held in North America are Claiming Horse Races.


2. Optional Claiming

optional claiming horse race_Yenni Vance_Pixabay
Image Credit: Yenni Vance, Pixabay

Optional claiming horse races are similar to claiming races, but not all horses are for sale. The owner can choose if a buyer can purchase the horse before the race, and horse prices usually start closer to $100,000 than claiming races. Optional claiming races are a good way to test the skills of a horse against other similar horses before deciding to sell.

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Maiden Horse Races

Maiden horse races are for horses that have never won a race. Many horses, but not all, will start their career here. A horse that has not won a race will continue to run these races. When it wins, owners say the horse “broke its maiden,” and it will move on to other races. There are two classes of maiden horse races.

3. Maiden Horse Races – Class One

Maiden Horse Race_Piqsels

Maiden horse races give owners a chance to sell their horses at a reduced cost.  Owners will likely sell horses that do not show promise during maiden races. Like the other races, buyers will claim the horse before the race starts, and the race result has no bearing on the sale, but the seller will collect any winnings if the horse wins.


4. Maiden Special Weight Races – Class Two

Maiden Special horse race_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

Maiden Special weight races are for horses that owners believe will begin winning and move on to bigger competitions. Buyers cannot claim these horses, and there are restrictions on age, sex, type of surface, and distance allowing a trainer to pick a race it can win.


5. Allowance Horse Races

allowance horse race_dreamtemp_Pixabay
Image Credit: dreamtemp, Pixabay

Allowance horse races are for non-maiden horses that are not for sale. It’s called an allowance race because a horse needs to meet certain requirements to race. Some races will have several conditions to join, while others will have very few. These races usually have higher purses and can be lucrative for a trainer with a good horse that meets the requirements for several races.


6. Stakes Horse Races

Stakes Horse Race_Piqsels

Stakes races are the top tier when it comes to horse racing. Stakes refer to the entry fee required when the horse is eligible. There are four types of stakes races rated G1, G2, G3, and Stakes. G1 stands for grade one, and it is the most expensive horse race in America. Payouts in the G1 races often exceed 10 million dollars. For example, the Kentucky Derby is a G1 stakes race for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds.

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Summary

Most horses will often start in the maiden races. The owner may choose to sell the horse during the maiden races if it is not performing correctly, or they can look for a maiden special weighted race that can make the horse a winner. Once it breaks its maiden, the owner will likely try to get the horse into allowance and stakes races to earn money. When it becomes time to sell the horse, the owner will probably enter it into a claiming horse race where another buyer can purchase it.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this guide and found the answers to your questions. If we have helped you understand the race card better, please share these six different horse races and classes on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured Image Credit: Yenni Vance, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.