The claiming game, as anyone at all familiar with horseracing can attest, is the worst this odious industry offers – a place where cheap horses eke out meager livings for bottom-of-the-barrel trainers and owners. “For Sale” prior to every race, the horses here are shuffled like unruly foster children. And because they’re not worth much – literally, their claiming price – and because they’re typically running for slots-enhanced pots (which often pay first through last), they are raced – a lot.
For most of these cogs, something bad awaits. Could be a breakdown, could be the kill auction, but eventually, Death – unnatural, premature Death – comes. And at close to 70% of all American racing, claiming is impossible to marginalize. Here is a look at a few of today’s entrants at racino tracks Charles Town and Finger Lakes.
In the 4th at Charles Town, the average number of career starts for the 10-horse field is 57.6. The elder statesman in this group is a 9-year-old gelding named Changing Funds. In 7+ years on the circuit – almost all claiming – Changing Funds has been whip-run a total of 101 times (with only 7 Firsts).
In the 4th at Finger Lakes, 8-year-old Bad Boy Bubby will be run for the 78th time. This will be his third race in November (11/5, 11/10) and sixth in barely over six weeks – all claiming, all at Finger Lakes, all under trainer/owner Mark Tasso. In that same race, another 8-year-old – Straight Thunder – will also be making his third November start. The Edward Perdue-trained gelding goes in with 89 notches on his saddle.
The 6th race at Finger Lakes will be 7-year-old Wabash River’s 79th and 7-year-old Small Town’s 92nd. Just last month, the Ortis Henry-trained/owned Wabash was raced twice within a week.
And finally, there is the 7th at Finger Lakes, where a pair of horses with a combined 231 starts will have a go – 8-year-old Western Jet (trainer/owner Gino Gabrielli), a FL denizen since 2009, 95 races; 11-year-old Barco (trainer/owner Jose Cabrera), 136 races. Yes, 136 races. This is the American claiming game. This is horseracing.