Entering a race does not cost any money, unless it is a stakes race. The following sections describe what resource is used to find that next race, how the entering process works, and, if you are lucky enough to own a stakes horse, what fees are paid to enter a stakes race.
The Condition Book
The condition book is published every two weeks and is usually applicable for two weeks. The book is available to everyone, and can be obtained in the office of the Racing Secretary at the track with a current meet. The Condition Book is the basic Bible for the next two weeks of racing, and your trainer, if one of your horses is race-ready, will fall upon it eagerly to find out if there is a race perfectly suited to your horse. This is also the day when jockeys' agents filter through the backside, making preliminary deals for their "boys" to ride mounts in the listed races.
The Racing Secretary "writes" the roster of races based on the preponderance or types of horses residing at the track. That is, to the extent that there are "maidens" and "claiming horses" stabled at the track hosting the meet, the Racing Secretary will write an abundance of "Maiden" and "Claiming" races to accommodate them. The Racing Secretary, on the other hand, is sometimes required by state mandate to write an average of one per day for state-bred horses only. The Secretary must also accommodate owners by writing an appropriate number of high-purse and "Stakes" races, so that owners of the relatively few top-class horses available within the bounds of a "circuit" have a chance to make good on their investments.
The Secretary's main role is to painstakingly design races with "a level field" - races, both for the sake of bettors and owners, in which all the horses will be closely competitive.
Theirs is not only an extremely detailed and difficult job, but the Secretaries will be the first to admit that the listed qualifications often seem to present a tangled web. No one - least of all you, or your trainer - should hesitate to contact the Secretary for an explanation of any condition that is even slightly unclear. The Secretary's second main goal is to fill 8-10 races every day: if an owner or trainer hangs back from entering a race because of a confusing condition, and that race fails to fill, the Secretary's job just got several hours harder.
Before looking through the Condition Book, you might want to be certain you are familiar with the correct definitions of terms and titles you'll be seeing.
"Conditions": These concern the horse's racing record, sex, age -- and sometimes even color. There are actually races, such as Hollywood Park's "Gray Cup," written strictly for grays and roans.
Kinds of Races
"Claiming" Race: a race with (and sometimes without appreciable) conditions in which every horse entered is available for the price states in the Condition Book (as well as the Program). The claiming price is the factor which keeps a level "field" in these races.
"Allowance" Race: a race with conditions, but without a claiming price. The elaborate "conditions" specified in these races (particularly concerning the horse's racing record) are the factors which keep the field "even." In these races, all prior earnings from claiming races - regardless of how much - are disregarded.
"Starter": An Allowance race in which the basic condition is that the horse has raced within a given time past in a Claiming race with a stated price of "X" dollars or less.
"Closed" Race: A race restricted to "non-winners of three races (or fewer than 3) of $3,000 other than Maiden, Claiming, or Starter". In short, what this means is that NO winner of an Allowance Race is eligible for a Closed Race.
"Stakes" Races: Races in which the owners of the entered horses contribute to the purse or price (usually through a nominating fee and an entry fee).
"Added": If the word appears after purse amount, it means that the Racing Association (at the track) is "adding" that sum to owners' entry fees. The Added amount will go to the winner(s) in addition to the race's purses.
"Handicap" Races: The Racing Secretary sets conditions and, with a staff committee, assigns weights to each horse individually based on past money won, and whether the horse is an Allowance - or Stakes-class runner.
"Graded" Stake: Top-of-the-line races which are internationally recognized as such, with Grade III being the lowest and Grade I being the top.
"Invitational" Stakes Race: The Racing Association of the current meet in the region "invites" individual horses to compete in a given (promoted) race, without requiring the owners to contribute to the purse.
"Match Race": A special "duel" race (differing from an Exhibition in that it has wagering and purses) put on by a Track between two "star" horses.
"Substitute Race": A race, described in the Condition Book for a particular day, which will be the first to be placed on the official racing card for that day should any of the "listed" races fail to fill.
Definitions of Common Condition Book Terms
Nominator: The person who enters a horse in a Stakes race. (The owner at the time of entry pays the "nominating" fee. If the ownership changes after nomination, the current owner collects the purse.)
By Subscription: Designates that an entry fee is required.
State-Bred: A horse foaled in a particular state. Most, but not all, tracks will card races restricted to those horses foaled in that state. These restricted races may also have their purses supplemented by the state's breed incentive fund.
Maiden: is a horse of any age (or sex) which has never won a race in any recognized jurisdiction, which means, technically, any meet covered by Daily Racing Form or its equivalent.
Fillies: Female horses 2, 3 or 4 years old.
Mares: Female horses who have turned 5 (as of January 1 from the year of their birth).
Colts: Male horses (not gelded) 2, 3 or 4 years old; indicated on forms with lower-case "c."
Horses: Males who have turned 5 (as of January 1 from the year of their birth).
Geldings: Male horses (over 2 years) who have been castrated. These are indicated on forms by notation "g."
Ridglings: Male horses which have one or both testicles un-descended, or who have (for whatever reason) only one testicle.
Bay: The entire coat of the horse may vary from a yellow-tan to a bright auburn. The mane, tail and lower portion of the legs are always black, unless white markings are present. Abbreviation indicated by "B."
Black: The entire coat of the horse is black, including the muzzle, the flanks, the mane, tail and legs, unless white markings are present. Abbreviation indicated by "Blk."
Chestnut: The entire coat of the horse may vary from a red-yellow to a golden-yellow. The mane, tail and legs are usually variations of coat color, unless white markings are present. Abbreviation indicated by "Ch."
Dark Bay/Brown: The entire coat of the horse will vary from a brown, with areas of tan on the shoulders, head and flanks, to a dark brown, with tan areas seen only in the flanks and/or muzzle. The mane, tail and lower portion of the legs is always black, unless white markings are present. Abbreviation indicated by "Dk b. or br."
Gray: The majority of the coat of the horse is a mixture of black and white hairs. The mane, tail and legs may be either black or gray, unless white markings are present. Abbreviation in programs and on forms is "Gr."
Roan: The majority of the coat of the horse is a mixture of red and white hairs or brown and white hairs. The mane, tail and legs may be black, chestnut or roan, unless white markings are present. Abbreviation indicated by "Ro."
Sprinters: Horses who specialize in short races (4 1/2 to 7 1/2 furlongs).
Route Horses: Horses who specialize in longer races (1 mile or more), generally covering 2 turns or more on the track.
Turf Horses: Horses who specialize in races on the grass tracks.