Handicapping Tip of the Day # 8 – The Optional Claimer. What You Need to Know.

Handicapping Tips # 8 – concerning the class condition, optional claimers/allowance.

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

A lot of handicappers don’t understand the difference between the ‘regular’ allowance races and the races listed as ‘optional allowance claimers.’  In allowance races, like in maiden special weights (races for non-winners), the runners are protected.  They are not available to be claimed or purchased.  Thus, the best horses in the country typically rise through the class ranks by racing in these types of races.

Several years ago, tracks began to introduce optional allowance claimers, whereby the field could consist of both horses protected and runners available to be claimed.  In essence, what the tracks did was create a tougher type of allowance race.  Why?  Because now an allowance race (of the optional variety) could include a horse that had already won this condition, e.g. non-winners of two races other than.  It wasn’t limited to younger horses just moving up through the ranks.

Take the 7th race at Fair Grounds on January 29, 2015 as an example.  This was an optional claimer for “non-winners of two races other than maiden, claimer or starter.”  The winner ended up being Dark Braham, who paid a generous $43.40 to win, despite having already won the 2X allowance condition the previous April.  However, he was eligible for this race because he was entered for the optional $20,000 claiming tag.   In fact, half of the eight entrants had done so, making this race tougher than a ‘regular’ two-other-than allowance race at Fair Grounds.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.


  1. Good site with very insightful angles!

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