Going Up and Down the Claiming Ladder

You may have heard the term “going up the ladder” or “dropping in class”. Both these phrases are referring to a horse moving up or down in claiming price.

You think of the different claiming prices ($2,500, $5,000, $7,500, $10,000, etc) as rungs on a ladder. We can refer to Yodeler’s race today as a good example showing horses moving up and down the ladder in order to find a “rung” or price at which they are competitive.

A quick glance at the Condition Book Index page we learned about a few blogs ago and we can easily distinguish the rungs on the ladder. These may not be all the rungs, but they are the rungs available for this current edition of the Condition Book.


  • M=Maiden race
  • (WA)= Restricted to Washington bred horses
  • NW=”Non-Winners of”, followed by a number.
  • NW2 = Non-Winners of 2 races and so forth.
  • NW1{Date}=Non-Winners of a race since a certain date. 
  • ALW=Allowance race. No claiming price. 


For an example of the claiming ladder, I referred to the “open” claiming prices in the most recent condition book. “Open” refers to any claiming race without conditions. C4000NW2 translates to “$4,000 Claiming for horses are Non-Winners of 2 Races”. That is a “condition” whereas C5-4000 has no restrictions and is “open”.

  • $50,000-$40,000 (this is same level whether it is for $50K or $40K, but an owner can opt to list the horse for the lower claiming price in order to get a break in the weight allowance. But it is the same “rung”)
  • $20,000-$18,000
  • $15,000
  • $10,000-$8,000
  • $7,500
  • $5,000-$4,000

If we look at Yodeler’s Past Performances we can see that he has essentially stayed at his spot on the ladder. The $3,200 level he was claimed for in California could be equated to our $5,000 level here.

We can feel pretty confident based on his past performances that he can be competitive at the $5,000 level here and he showed us that by finishing a game third against Hip Hop City during his last out.

However, we now have to account for his competition and determine if they are moving down a rung or two to his level, or moving up. His greatest competition would likely come from horses moving down the ladder or “dropping in class” OR a horse performing extremely well at a level below “moving up in class.”

Storming Kentucky is a great example that shows a horse moving up and down the ladder.

For comparison, I’ve charted both horses Claiming Price over their last six starts to better illustrate the ladder concept.

Claiming Chart

Nothing here will predict how one will fare against the other, it just demonstrates the different paths a horse can take to get to where they are at.

So the next question is, why would you move a horse up or down the ladder?

Each claiming price runs for a different purse. The higher the claiming price, the better the purse. So if you can jump a horse up in class, you are rewarded with more purse money.

The following example is of purses for our wide open claiming races, three year olds and upwards. All of this information I found in the newest edition of the Condition Book.

Claiming Price Purse
 $50-$40,000  $       20,475
 $20-$18,000  $       14,800
$15,000  $       12,700
 $10-$8,000  $       10,500
$7,500  $         9,300
 $5-$4,000  $         7,200
$2,500  $         5,900

We reference the condition book a lot, but the truth is a lot of owners aren’t familiar with the condition book at all. It is really the realm of the trainer. However, as an educated owner, the condition book can help you better understand the earning potential for your horse as well as understand how certain races make it from condition book to actual race day.


2 thoughts on “Going Up and Down the Claiming Ladder

  1. Thanks Sophia, this was a very clear explanation of how the claiming ranks work. Especially like the breakdown of the purse $ for the different claiming levels. John

  2. First off – would like to know if we can come see the horses and bring treats on Sunday July 6th …. also need info on the silk that we might order – we talked about it on Sunday!! Thank you !!!

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