What is an optional claimer in horse racing?

Optional claimers are strange races that litter the horse racing world as courses seek to ensure they have enough runners on the day

Horse racing betting optional claimer


Organising horse races at meets across the country is not easy, with hundreds of owners trying to get their horses into races they think they’ll win. And that’s why races such as optional claimers exist.

If you’ve never heard of an optional claimer before then don’t worry. Many horse racing betting fans won’t even bother to notice them when scouring the race cards at the start of each day.

But optional claimers can be a great source of winning bets if you do your research! Here, Paddy Power is on hand to bring you the latest in our Demystifying Racing series and explain what optional claiming races are, and why their odds are worth checking out…


An optional claimer is a hybrid of two types of horse races: Allowance Races and Claiming Races.

An allowance race fields horses that all meet the same criteria, such as age, previous runs and maximum wins. Allowances are then made to the weight they carry, depending on other criteria like jockey experience and sex of the horse. Allowance races are a step up from claiming races, where horses also run under similar criteria (to improve competitiveness) but crucially are all up for sale. Claiming races often feature inexperienced or ageing runners.

And so an optional claimer is a mix of the two, whereby horses may or may not be entered for a claiming price.

You may not even realise an optional claimer is taking place (Image: GETTY)

To run as an allowance horse – and therefore not be at risk of being claimed/bought – a horse must meet the allowance conditions.

However, owners whose horses have surpassed allowance racing – usually by winning this category of race and going on to better things – can only return to run optional claimers if they agree to be on sale.


Optional claimers exist primarily to ensure race organisers can fill races. Often it can be complicated to find a competitive number of horses to race at the same standard, on the same day, at the same racetrack.

Allowance races aren’t always the easiest to come by in horse racing, partially because once horses run out of allowance conditions they cannot run in these races again, unless their owners are open to being claimed. This is the ‘optional’ part of the optional claiming race.

For an owner, running their horse in an optional claimer when they have already progressed from allowance races could be a gamble. After all, what if someone claims their horse before the race?

The reason owners go for optional claimers here may be because they are chasing more wins at a standard they know their horse is comfortable at, or they are eyeing up the prize money. However, some owners may believe their horse has peaked, and so is ready to sell.

Racing odds for optional claimers often reveal more than form guides (Image: GETTY)


If you’re racing betting and want to find a strong runner then check out optional claimers. Horses that have run out of allowance conditions but haven’t made the grade at higher levels may be fielded in optional claiming races.

This is often done so that owners can chase a big win and a potential payout if the horse is sold. What’s more, the odds don’t always reflect the true quality of the horse in optional claimers. That’s because their poor form in higher-level races disguises how good they are in lesser meets.



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