Under the Saddle: What is a Claim?

Last updated & tested: 2019-10-14

What is a claimer? Bryony Frost is a recent example of a conditional jockey to have ridden it out

OpenOdds horse racing experts are back, and once again taking a peek under the saddle at a betting or industry term that is well worth explaining. This latest article centres on what is a claim? Who can claim weight allowances and when? We’ll explain it all to you!

Novice punters may hear or read phrases such as, “X takes off a valuable Y pounds with their claim”, and you may not know what that means. Well, what is a claim? It’s a horse racing term for when a weight allowance reducing the amount a horse has to carry is allowed.

Only two types of rider can claim; a conditional jockey and an amateur one. Amateurs are not professionals, but conditionals are riding horses with a view to turning professional. So, why do amateur and conditional jockeys get a weight allowance?

Let’s look at it this way. You may have ridden horses or ponies growing up and want to have a go at doing under rules or on the point-to-point circuit. You get a booked ride and it’s against seasoned professional jockeys like Richard Johnson or Frankie Dettori.

They’ve ridden thousands of winners and have a massive experience advantage over you. In order to make things fairer for amateur and conditional jockeys then, it makes sense to permit them to claim a weight allowance.

More winners equals less weight you can claim

Claimers will start off taking 10lb off a horse’s back, but once you’ve had so many winners then the amount is reduced to 7lb, then 5lb and 3lb. Eventually, when you’ve reached a certain threshold of winners, you lose your claim. This applies to both conditional and amateur jockeys.

The more talented a rider you are, then the faster you are likely to ride out your claim by getting the required number of winners. Owners and trainers will spot any ability demonstrated in the saddle by these types and sometimes book them on high-profile horses in valuable handicaps.

Depending on the terms of a group or graded race, you are unlikely to be allowed to claim in events that are at Listed level or higher. The rules are different in handicaps like the Grand National at Aintree or Ebor at York, however, and you are still allowed to take weight off a horse’s back.

In handicaps, the weight a horse carries is allotted based on their official rating in relation to the top rated horse in the field. Using a claimer here can offset any rise in a horse’s mark for its last run. Taking that extra weight off could be the difference between winning, placing and/or losing valuable prizes with the risk being the relative inexperience of an amateur or conditional jockey compared to a pro.

That doesn’t mean amateurs and conditional jockeys aren’t as good, however. Sam Waley-Cohen has ridden a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner before, while Ireland’s Jamie Codd has landed many races at the Festival alongside now retired female duo Katy Walsh and Nina Carberry.

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