When maiden special weight to maiden claiming isn't a class drop
You often hear bettors speak of horses dropping in class, or facing easier competition. For example, dropping in class can mean descending from Grade 1 to Grade 2 company, or from a $50,000 claimer into a $30,000 claimer.
Many handicappers consider the drop from maiden special weight to maiden claiming company to be one of the biggest class drops in horse racing. Shifting from a maiden special weight (where champions and Grade 1 winners typically debut) to a maiden claimer (where every horse can be purchased for a predetermined amount) can potentially turn an uncompetitive racehorse into a runaway winner.
But is descending from maiden special weight to maiden claiming always a drop in class? Not necessary. As counterintuitive as it might seem, some maiden claimers can be tougher than maiden special weights. The key is to analyze where the races are taking place, and whether the maiden special weights include eligibility restrictions.
Let’s highlight an extreme example. At Mahoning Valley in Ohio, a maiden special weight for Ohio-bred fillies and mares sprinting six furlongs on dirt produces a par winning Brisnet Speed rating of 66. In other words, a typical race held over these conditions should see the winner post a 66 Brisnet Speed rating.
Now contrast this with Santa Anita in California, where some of North America’s best racing takes place. At Santa Anita, a $20,000 maiden claimer for fillies and mares racing one mile produces a par winning Brisnet Speed rating of 76—a full 10 points higher than the maiden special weight at Mahoning Valley.
There are two key takeaways here. First off, maiden claimers at a major track (like Santa Anita) can be tougher than maiden special weights at smaller tracks (like Mahoning Valley). Secondly, restricted maiden special weights (including those open only to horses bred in a certain state) often lack the depth of unrestricted maiden special weights.
The latter point is worth reiterating, because the effect can be seen across races at a single track. Consider Fair Grounds, where a $20,000 maiden claimer for fillies and mares racing one mile on dirt produces a par winning Brisnet Speed rating of 70. That’s higher than the par figure of 69 generated by maiden special weights for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares racing one mile and 70 yards on dirt.
The drop from maiden special weight to maiden claiming company is still an important betting angle resulting in many winners. But it’s important to recognize exceptions where the drop in class isn’t as precipitous as it might appear.