What Is A Claiming Race and How Does It Work?

What Is A Claiming Race and How Does It Work?

As with any competitive sport, horse racing is subject to a hierarchy when it comes to meets and races. Whilst we may all be familiar with the big names in racing like Glorious Goodwood and Royal Ascot, there are races lower down the racing hierarchy that does not get the recognition and attention that many feel they should, and this is often because they are not promoted or televised in the way the bigger meets are. At the bottom of the racing, hierarchy are claiming races. In this article, we answer the question: what is a claiming race and how does it work?

What is a claiming race?

Sitting at the bottom of the horse racing pecking order, a claiming race sees unknown and untested horses competing against each other. Many bettors may not actually realize that they are betting on a claiming race when they lay down a stake on one of its runners, but claiming races play an integral and important role in the sport of horse racing. Claiming races are a source of ready liquidity and with each race, a considerable amount of money flows into the sport.

How do claiming races work?

Horses that run in a claiming race can be ‘claimed’ by a buyer before the race gets underway. Buyers are able to lay claim to the horse up until 15 minutes before the start of the race that the horse is scheduled to compete in. Once the race commences, the ownership of the horse is transferred to the buyer.

The set fee for a claiming race is given before the race begins. In the lead-up to the race, owners reduce the weight of the horse - therefore making it seem more likely to win the race - and as this happens, the fee is decreased accordingly. Horses with the lowest weights are clearly horses that owners wish to part ways with. If an owner is looking to sell a horse, then the likelihood is that it is past its best and is unlikely to win the race. Therefore, punters need to be savvy and take a look at the horses, their recent form, and owners before placing down a bet. Checking the weight of the horse gives a good indication of the status of the horse and the owner’s future intentions and plans for it.

Why bet on a claiming race?

Claiming races are popular with bettors because the field is generally pretty even. With the standard of horses involved being low, there is a good chance that an outlier might win the race. Add to this to the fact that the horse’s weight can be decreased and give it a more positive chance of winning, and the field of competition becomes a lot more reliable and consistent.

Claiming races are particularly popular in America, and if you watch races from tracks like Churchill Downs and Fairgrounds, then you are likely to be watching - and betting on - claiming races without knowing it.


With the return of beloved horse racing events, lots of new supporters and fans have joined the masses in their enjoyment of the sport. Most people are aware of the major horse races but some might not be aware of what a claiming race actually is. This article aims to change that and educate the fans.