Skip to Content

How to Evaluate Horses in Claiming Races: Tips for Buyers

Last updated: May 6, 2024

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Welcome to the exciting world of claiming races! Where each horse can be bought, or “claimed,” by a registered buyer for a set price before the race begins. This opens opportunities for newcomers to join the racing community or for existing owners to expand their stables.

Before you claim a horse, it’s crucial to examine it carefully. Making a well-informed decision can lead to racing success and financial gain, while a hasty or uninformed choice could bring unexpected costs and complications.

In this guide, we’ll highlight the key aspects to consider when evaluating a horse from a claiming race. We’ll show you how to assess the horse’s health, delve into its racing history, and gauge its potential for improvement. Ready to learn how to pick a standout horse? Let’s begin by diving deeper into what claiming races involve and how to spot a potential winner.

Picture of our horse playing near the barn.
This horse started in claiming races and is now running in allowance races.

Key Rules and Procedures for Claiming Race Horses

Claiming races have specific rules and procedures that potential buyers must know. In a claiming race, each horse has a price tag before the race starts, and any registered buyer can claim the horse at that price. The buyer takes ownership regardless of the outcome of the race.

Here are key rules and typical procedures you should know:

  • Claim Submission: Buyers must submit their claim before the race, usually through a sealed, confidential process.
  • Ownership Transfer: Ownership transfers to the new owner immediately after the race, regardless of any injuries the horse might sustain during the race.
  • Post-Race Claims: Sometimes, multiple claims are made for the same horse. In such cases, the new owner is determined by random draw.

Understanding these elements can help prospective owners avoid common pitfalls and manage their expectations about the claiming process.

Picture of an older horse in a $5,000 claiming race.
This is an older horse getting ready for a claiming race.

Setting Goals and Budget: Considerations for Claiming Horses

Before you start claiming horses, set clear goals and plan your budget. This prepares you for success in claiming races.

Setting Your Budget

Start by setting your budget. Make sure it includes the claiming price, training, upkeep, veterinary care, and extra costs. A clear budget is important to avoid overspending.

Determining Your Goals

Your aims for acquiring a claimed horse can vary:

  • Racing: Looking for a potential race winner or a horse that could advance to higher classes?
  • Breeding: Interested in horses with valuable bloodlines for breeding?
  • Recreational: Seeking a horse for leisure activities?

Each goal dictates a different selection strategy and may influence the races from which you choose to claim.

A Personal Insight about Claiming Races

I have friends who follow older, successful mares. When these mares enter claiming races, they claim them to use as broodmares, acquiring quality breeding stock at good prices.

Carefully consider your budget and goals to plan your approach to claiming a horse. This helps you pick a horse that meets your needs and supports your long-term plans.

Picture of my horse that ran in a few claiming races before moving to allowance races.
Going for a morning workout.

Guide to Physical Health Assessment in Horse Claiming

When you’re looking at a horse to claim, it’s essential to gather as much information as possible about the horse’s condition and history. Use what you can see and find out online to get a full picture.

Utilizing Online Tools

  • Online Stables: Some platforms let you add horses to your “online stable.” These services update you on the horse’s race schedule, training sessions, and more, making it easier to follow horses you might want to claim. Check out Equibase.

Strategic Physical Observation

  • Morning Workouts and Barn Visits: Visiting a horse during its morning workout and at the barn can reveal a lot about its health and behavior.
  • Race Day Observations: Watching a horse compete gives you insights into its stamina, speed, and how it handles competition.

Building Relationships

  • Insider Insights: Connecting with trainers and caretakers can give you extra information about a horse’s condition and training that you wouldn’t get otherwise.

Comprehensive Post-Claim Assessment

  • Vet Check: Always have a vet check the horse after you claim it. This helps you understand any health issues and plan how to care for your new horse.

Engaging Questions to Consider

  • Have you set up alerts for your online stable to keep track of horses?
  • What have you learned from online tracking that helped you make a claiming decision?

Combining observations with digital tracking enhances your ability to assess a horse before claiming. This approach ensures you’re well-prepared to make informed decisions in the competitive world of horse claiming.

Picture of horses competing in a turf race.
Horses competing in a turf race.

Critical Factors to Evaluate Before Claiming a Horse

When you look at a horse to claim, check its race history, performance, and how it’s managed. This information reveals the horse’s potential and helps you make smart choices.

Analyzing Race History and Performance

  • Race Performance: Examine the horse’s race history. Consistent performance in higher-class races suggests a strong contender.
  • Recent Changes: A drop in class could indicate problems. Investigate any significant moves down in class to understand the reasons behind them.

Real-Life Example

  • I was once interested in a horse that moved from allowance races to a cheaper claiming race. It seemed like a great opportunity, but upon further investigation, we found serious health issues, leading me to pass on the horse.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Trainer’s Insight: Evaluate the trainer’s expertise. An inexperienced trainer might not be maximizing the horse’s abilities.
  • Workout Logs: Consistent workout performance indicates good conditioning and potential.

Potential for Improvement

Before claiming, assess if there’s potential to enhance the horse’s performance:

Training and Conditioning

  • Training Quality: Poor training can often be improved, potentially unlocking better performance.

Genetic Potential

  • Pedigree Analysis: A strong lineage might mean untapped potential, especially if the horse’s performance hasn’t met expectations.

Signs of Untapped Potential

  • Performance Fluctuations: Instances of exceptional performance suggest the horse might excel under different conditions.

Personal Experiences

  • After I discovered a horse whose lineage excelled on turf but was being raced on dirt, I claimed it and switched to turf races. This change improved the horse’s performance.
  • Another time, I found a horse consistently entered in short races. After claiming, we adjusted its training to focus on longer distances, which enhanced its performance.

Deciding to Claim

Ask yourself:

  • Is the recent class change strategic or a sign of decline?
  • What do the trainer’s history and the horse’s workouts indicate about its potential?
Picture of racehorses coming around the final turn to home.
Racehorses coming around the final turn.

Frequently Asked Questions About Claiming Race Horses

What is a claiming race?

How do I determine the right budget for claiming a horse?

Consider the claiming price, training costs, ongoing care, and potential unexpected expenses. To avoid financial strain, set a budget that covers all these aspects.

What should I look for during a horse’s workout and barn visit?

Observe the horse’s energy, responsiveness to training, and signs of physical issues like limping or distress. Check for a healthy coat and overall alert demeanor.

How do I use race performance data to assess a horse?

Analyze past race results, noting consistency, race conditions, and performances against similar competitors. Look for patterns that indicate strengths or potential issues.

Picture of three young horses on the training track.
These are some young horses training in the morning.

Concluding Advice on How to Successfully Claim Race Horses

Claiming a horse is a strategic decision that requires careful thought and attention to detail. By analyzing race history, assessing training and genetic potential, and considering the insights from experienced trainers, you can make informed decisions that increase your chances of success in the racing world.

Remember, every horse has a story, and understanding that story through its performance, management, and pedigree can lead to wise claiming choices. We encourage you to use these guidelines as a starting point, but also to continue learning and adapting your strategies as you gain more experience.

We’d love to hear about your experiences in horse claiming! If you’ve had success with a claimed horse, or learned something valuable through the process, please share your story with us in the comments or email me Your insights enrich our community and help others navigate the complexities of horse racing.

Stay Connected and Informed:

  • If you found this guide helpful, consider signing up for our newsletter for more insights and updates on horseracing.
  • For personalized advice or specific inquiries, feel free to contact me directly at

For further reading and resources, consider checking authorities such as:

  1. The Jockey Club: Visit The Jockey Club
  2. BloodHorse: Visit BloodHorse
  3. Racing Post: Visit Racing Post
  4. Equibase: Visit Equibase

These organizations offer extensive data and expert advice that can deepen your understanding and improve your approaches to claiming races.

By staying informed and engaged, you can turn each claim into an opportunity for growth and success. Happy claiming, and may your decisions lead to many rewarding races.