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Horse Racing Structure Quick Guide

Apr 9, 2008
Whether you just love watching a good horse race or your looking to stake your claim at the track, knowing the racing structure is a must. Today, I'll present you with the general structure of horse racing.

When you get right down to it, all horse races fall within four main categories: maiden races, claiming races, allowance races, stakes races. Within those categories are various classes, but for this article we'll focus mainly on the main categories.

Maiden Horse Races

Maiden races are my favorite, because as a horse racing bettor, I get the most "rush" be wagering on them. A maiden race features a field of horses that have never won before. And one thing is for sure; one of those horses is about to enjoy its first victory.

When a horse finally gets that elusive first victory, his or her maiden is broken. As a horse racing bettor, you deal a lot with the unknown. How do you gauge a field of horses that were always also-rans? But when you get one right, it feels great.

By the way, horses that haven't won yet aren't limited to maiden races. They can be raced in other types of horse races. If you're looking for the best maiden horses to watch, check out a Maiden Special Weight race. This class is all horses that are expected to be solid.

Claiming Races

You could call these races "shopping time," because in a claiming race, all horses are up for sale. Before the race, anyone with the cash can claim the horse.

It's a simple process to understand. An interested party claims the horse before the race. After the race is run, the old owner gets the claiming price and any purse due him or her and the claiming party gets the horse.

Sometimes horses are run above their value and someone under them. It can be a game. It's most likely that you'll watch and bet on many claiming races, because this is the most active category in horse racing by far.

Allowance Races

The purses (prize money) at this level are higher than the previous two and this is a level just below the big one (stakes races). Generally, these will be horses that meet certain non-winning conditions. For instance, NW3X is for horses that haven't won three races other than maiden, claiming or starter.

There are various classes of allowance races--as there are in all categories.

Stakes Races

This is the big time. Most casual horse racing fans and horse racing bettors view these races. Some popular ones are the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup.

All of the best horses (and some filler horses) run in these races. Stakes races have the highest purses--millions of dollars. The "stakes" are high.

When it comes to stakes races, Graded stakes races are the top of the mountain. These races are ranked G1, G2 and G3 with G1 being the king. Graded stakes races often feature horses from all over the country and sometimes from other parts of the world--especially the big ones.

And don't be fooled by the numbering system. There's a big talent drop from G1 to G3.

Now that you know the four major horse racing categories, you're ready to begin breaking down the classes within each category. Horse racing is one of the most exciting sports around. I wish you the best of luck at the track.
About the Author
Get more horse racing education, winners and news at HorseRacingWinner.com. Horse racing history, track reviews and horse racing betting help at BettingOnHorse.com. The author also contributes to the baseball betting blog at: SportsBettingBaseball.com.
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