A claiming race is an event held for horses that may be purchased (i.e., claimed) by a person or entity of standing for a specified price. If a horse is claimed, the previous owner receives any purse money due even though title to the horse claimed transfers to the claimant as soon as the field leaves the starting gate. A disqualification of the horse by order of the stewards shall have no effect upon the claim.
In California, and soon to come, I am sure, in other jurisdictions, the stewards shall void the claim and return the horse to the original owner if the horse suffers a fatality during the running of the race, or the official veterinarian determines the horse will be placed on the Veterinarian’s List as unsound or lame before the horse is released to the successful claimant.
The highest level claiming race is the optional claimer, with claiming prices of $100,000 or more. In such races, horses may be entered to be claimed or not at the discretion of the owner. Such races occur most often at major racetracks such as Del Mar or Belmont Park. On the other end of the spectrum are claiming races held at minor racetracks such as Beulah Park and Portland Meadows, where claiming prices have been known to be as low as $1,000.
Based on claiming prices, you might be tempted as many are to relate class to claiming price as these natural stepping stones should, theoretically, make it easier to determine the “class of the race,” but how do you decide the class of a horse that wins a six furlong claiming race for $16,000 in a time of 1:10 1/5 one day, then loses a six furlong $12,500 claiming race two weeks later while finishing second in 1:10 flat as the overwhelming odds-on favorite to a horse whose only previous win was in a $10,000 claiming event six months earlier?