Understanding Claiming Prices and Why Numbers Can Be Deceiving

Fans at Gulfstream Park follow the action on the racetrack. (Eclipse Sportswire)

As much as numbers don’t lie, they can confuse you.

In claiming races, numbers like 12,500 can have different meanings. Sometimes, horses who run for the same $12,500 claiming price at different tracks can face different levels of competition.

At Aqueduct, for example, a horse racing in a $12,500 claimer is probably facing some of the weakest horses on the grounds. Meanwhile, at Finger Lakes, with a much lower ceiling for claimers, some useful horses could be running for that tag.

And sometimes, $12,500 claiming tags can have different meanings at the same track or circuit.

For example, there was Trio of Champions in the first race at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 29. The 4-year-old gelding was coming off a race on Nov. 23 at Gulfstream Park West in a $12,500 optional claimer, a race in which horses can race either for the claiming tag or for the allowance condition, if they fit the criteria for the allowance designation.

In that race, Trio of Champions finished fourth, beaten by 10 ¼ lengths for trainer Juan Rodriguez.

Now, he was returning in a $12,500 claiming race for horses that had never won three races in their lifetime.

A $12,500 claimer is a $12,500 claimer?


Under the conditions of the optional claimer, the field could include horses who had broken their maiden and had trainers who did not want to lose their horse through the claim box. Also, a horse racing for the $12,500 tag could have 10 wins to its credit, not just two.

So, the optional claimer was a tougher race than the beaten claimer and Trio of Champions’ loss in the Nov. 23 race could be discounted. Adding some credence to that notion, Trio of Champions’ start on Nov. 7 was a victory in a $16,000 claiming race for horses who had not won two races in their lifetime, showing how well he fit in a beaten claimer as opposed to the optional-claimiing race.

Trio of Champions was listed at 5-2 on the morning line, but as the wagering commenced, he drifted all the way up to a very inviting price of 7-1.

As it turned out, anyone who hopped onboard and made it a Foursome of Champions collected on a nice ticket after an easy victory.

The gelding grabbed the early lead and pulled away with authority on the final turn to win by nine lengths. He paid $16.20 for a $2 win bet and served up a valuable lesson in how numbers can surely be deceiving.

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