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The Levels or Classes of Horse Racing


Horses compete in a Maiden Special Weight at Horseshoe Indianapolis, part of an article about the levels of horse racing
Horses compete in a Maiden Special Weight at Horseshoe Indianapolis

Horse racing is a complex sport with many different levels, or classes, at which horses compete. These differing levels even out competition and allow for better wagering opportunities. This is a basic look at the levels of horse racing.


The Levels of Horse Racing are as follows:

  1. Maiden

  2. Claiming

  3. Starter

  4. Allowance

  5. Stakes (non-listed, listed, handicap, and graded)


Maiden


Maiden races are the beginning level of horse racing. These races are restricted to horses who have yet to win a race. A horse winning their first race is often referred to as "breaking their maiden".


Horses competing in a Maiden race at Horseshoe Indianapolis, part of an article on the levels of horse racing
Horses competing in a Maiden race at Horseshoe Indianapolis

Claiming


A claiming race is an event in which all of the entries are for sale for a predetermined amount. Interested buyers must purchase, or claim, the horse they want before the start of the race. A claimed horse will transfer ownership regardless of whether they win or lose the race.


Optional Claiming


Optional Claiming races are races in which a horse can compete in an Allowance or Starter race for a claiming price if they do not meet the Allowance or Starter race's conditions.


Horses competing in an Allowance Optional Claiming race at Horseshoe Indianapolis as part of an article about the levels of horse racing
Horses competing in an Allowance Optional Claiming race at Horseshoe Indianapolis

Starter


Starter races are Allowance or Handicap races that are restricted only to horses who have previously run at the Claiming level. An example of conditions for Starter races is "for three-year-olds and upward which have started for a claiming price of $5,000 or less in one of their last five starts".


A horse winning a Starter Allowance at Horseshoe Indianapolis as part of an article about the levels of horse racing
A horse winning a Starter Allowance at Horseshoe Indianapolis

Allowance


Allowance races are a step above claiming races and a step below stakes races. The horses competing in these races carry weight that is predetermined by a race's conditions. Conditions are a method of leveling the competition between the race's entrants and can include things like age and races won (or not won). Below is an example of the conditions of an Allowance race at Horseshoe Indianapolis.



Stakes


Stakes are the highest level of competition in horse racing. There are levels within this level: non-listed stakes, listed stakes, handicaps, and graded stakes (Grade 3, Grade 2, and Grade 1).


Non-Listed & Listed Stakes


Non-listed stakes must carry a minimum purse of $50,000. Listed Stakes must carry a minimum purse of $75,000.


Handicap


Handicaps are stakes races in which every individual competitor is assigned a weight based on their accomplishments by a racing secretary or track handicapper. Handicaps are not as common as they were before the introduction of graded stakes. Many of the great horses in racing history are known for their ability to win while carrying weights that were much higher than the weight their competitors were carrying.


Doubledogjustice winning the Snack Handicap at Horseshoe Indianapolis as part of an article about the levels of horse racing
Doubledogjustice winning the Snack Handicap. The weights horses in this race carried ranged from 120 - 126 pounds.

Graded Stakes


Graded stakes races are the highest level of competition in horse racing. These races offer high purses and attract the best horses. There are three levels within this level: Grade 3 races, such as the Holy Bull Stakes or Shames Stakes; Grade 2 races, such as the Rebel Stakes or Fountain of Youth Stakes; and Grade 1 races, such as the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic.


Grade 1 races are the most valuable races in the entire sport.


Defining Purpose winning the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks at Horseshoe Indianapolis as part of an article about the levels of horse racing
Defining Purpose winning the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks
 
 
Horse Racing Resource is a guide to horse racing knowledge by Champions of the Track

 

About: Champions of the Track works to create new fans of horse racing through entertaining, engaging, and informative content. Made by fans of horse racing, for fans of horse racing. Powered by KPB Media.



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What a great job of explaining what might seems like racing 101 to those of us in the business, but must look like Chinese to those on the outside looking in.

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