Spend a day at any racetrack in the country and you are sure to hear the phrase “class of the race.” Many handicappers have built their entire selection process around class, but what is it? How do you define class? How do you determine which horse is the “class of the race?”
In general, there are four classes of races:
- Maiden Races
- Claiming Races
- Allowance Races
- Stakes Races
These four imprecise classifications have sub-categories.
Maiden Special Weight (MSW) races are carded for horses that trainers and/or owners do not want to risk losing, but not all MSW races are created equal. A MSW race at Portland Meadows with a purse of $6,000 is certainly not going to attract the same caliber of horses as a MSW race at Belmont Park with a purse of $80,000.
Then there are Maiden Claiming races for horses that failed to win in MSW company or who are not thought to be good enough to compete against horses entered in MSW races. While carded for horses that have never won a race, these races are a subset of Claiming races as much as they are a subset of Maiden races, and the lower their claiming price the lower the quality of horses you are going to find entered in such races. Belmont Park will card Maiden races with claiming prices of $40,000 or more while Portland Meadows will offer Maiden races with tags as low as $2,500.
Now, if you are a handicapper who relies on class distinctions, what do you do with the information presented so far? Many will set up elaborate charts listing every possible level at which a horse could be entered at every racetrack in the country, taking into consideration purse values as well as claiming prices. While this might satisfy a need to classify races, questions still remain. How do you classify the horses that run in those races? How do you define “class of the race?”