Understand The Claiming Ladder and Types of Races

It can sometimes be difficult to decipher the different types of races, be they claiming, allowance, or other.

For this post, we’ll take a snapshot of the current condition book index and then explain each type of race listed there.


When you look at the index, it is easier to envision the claiming “ladder”. That is the progression of races in claiming value up and down. A horse may go up or down the claiming ladder or stay on a certain rung if they are running competitively.

The first races in the list are for maidens (horses that have never won a race):

  • M5000 – This is a maiden (M) claiming race for a $5,000 tag.
  • M5000 (WA) – This is the same race as above, but the (WA) indicates that it is restricted to horses bred in Washington.
  • M10000 – This is a maiden (M) claiming racing for a $10,000 tag.
  • M10000 (WA) – Same as above but restricted to Washington breds.
  • M25000 – Maiden (M) claiming race for a $25,000 tag.
  • MSW – Stands for “Maiden Special Weight” in which there is no claiming tag and these are horses you’d expect to continue on to “allowance” or “stakes” races.

You’ll notice that amongst these maiden races there are not as many rungs on the ladder. Value-wise there are 4 rungs: $5,000, $10,000, $25,000 and MSW.

Remember that once a horse wins one of these maiden races, they have to compete against other horses that have also won and then you begin to get more rungs on your ladder so the horses can find their competitive nook.

Next on the index are NW races which means “non-winners of”. A non-winners of 2 (NW2) for example, is the same as a horse that has only won one race.

  • C2500NW2 – Claiming (C) race for $2,500 for non-winners of 2 races (NW2)
  • C4000NW2 – Claiming (C) race for $4,000 for non-winners of 2 races (NW2)
  • C7500NW2 – Claiming race for $7,500 for non-winners of 2 races
  • C12500-10000NW2 – Claiming race (C) for a price of $12,500 OR $10,000 for non-winners of 2. As an owner, when you enter, you can determine if you want your horse to run for $10,000 or $12,500. The incentive to enter at the lower claiming price is generally a 3 lb break in the weight the horse carries.
  • C12500-10000NW3 – Same race as above, but for horses that are non-winners of 3 races. Just a note – if the horse has only won 1 race, they are still eligible for this, as is the horse that has won 2 races.
  • C25000-20000NW2 – Claiming race for a price of $25,000 OR $20,000 for non-winners of 2.

Make sense thus far?

The next bunch are the same as we’ve seen before with a small addition that is a date limitation:

C2500NW1(DATE)orNW4 – This is a claiming race (C) for $2,500 for horses that are non-winners of a race (NW1) since a certain date, or which have never won 4 races.

If we look at the full conditions of that race it says:

“For three year olds and upward which have not won a race since October 1, 2014 or which have never won four races.”

Now, we are going to skip ahead slightly to the fancy stuff:


Are you beginning to see why most owners don’t have a deep understanding of the condition book?

The above is deciphered as:


So you can see it spelled out when you go to that specific race in the condition book.

Next up are allowance races and optional claiming. These are for the better horses on the grounds that don’t have to run for the claiming tag.

  • ALWNW2/XMCorNW3or40000 – Allowance race for non-winners of two other than maiden, claiming or starter or which have never won three races or claiming price $40,000.
  • ALWNW3 – This seems easy now! Allowance for horses that have not won 3 races.
  • ALWOpt Clm $25,000 – This is the SAME race as described above in the image.
  • ALWOpt Clm $40,000 – This is the same race as described above. This is just another way of stating it.

And finally, we get to what seems very simple now, the open claiming:

  • C2500 – Claiming race (C) for $2,500
  • C3500 – Claiming race for $3,500
  • C5000-4000 – Claiming race for $5,000 OR $4,000 (with a weight break for lower price)
  • C10000-8000 – Claiming race for $10,000 OR $8,000 (with a weight break for lower price)
  • C25000 – Claiming race for $25,000
  • C25,000-22,500 – Claiming race for $25,000 – $22,500 (with weight break)

Is your mind blown yet? It all seems horribly complicated unless you think of it in terms of your horse’s career progression. And keep in mind this is an index of a three week condition book.

When a horse has a career it goes as follows:

  • Maiden
  • NW1
  • NW2
  • NW3
  • Open company.

That progression remains the same regardless of whether they run in allowance races or claiming races. The NW1, NW2, NW3 indicate a horse still has “conditions.”

Let’s say I have a horse I think is a M5000.

  • He runs for M5000 (wins)
  • Goes to C4000NW2 (wins)
  • Goes to C4000NW3 (wins)
  • Goes to C5000-4000.

And you can see all those races in the index we just covered in great detail. Just keep in mind that the condition book changes every couple weeks so this is just a general explanation using the current book as an example. Specific questions, please feel free to ask here on the blog or email emeraldracingclub@gmail.com.


WHPBA Meeting

As a licensed owner, you are automatically a member of the Washington Horsemen’s Benevolent Protection Association (HBPA).

The Washington HBPA is having their general membership & nominating meeting on Wednesday July 8:

  • 6:30 pm Reception
  • 7:00 pm Meeting – WTBOA Pavilion (Emerald Downs)
  • RSVP by July 3 to 253-804-6822 or contactus@whbpa.com

Emerald Ed

If you ever wanted to learn more about breeding and how it plays into handicapping strategies, be sure to attend our FREE Emerald Ed on Sunday, June 28 at 12 noon in the Emerald Room (4th floor).

Dir. of Media, Vince Bruun, and his special guest Chris Larmey will be going over pedigree and handicapping.

RSVP here.

Irish Day

Sunday, June 28 is also Irish Day. If you aren’t cooling off in a lake somewhere, come join us tomorrow!


2 thoughts on “Understand The Claiming Ladder and Types of Races

  1. Good job Boss.(as always- duh). As a bettor- the conditions of the race are the first thing to read and understand.

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