Horse Racing/claims races
I know this is probably a stupid question, and believe me, I'm not even at the novice level in regard to horseracing, but why in the world would you enter a horse that you feel has potential in a claims race and risk losing him or her to another owner/trainer? It seems to me that it is too easy to find out how much potential and in what condition a horse is by word of mouth. Just wondering why an owner would risk losing a valuable animal in such a way.
Actually your question is a good one and frequently asked of me on other forums. There are several reasons that an unproven horse (and even a proven one) might be entered in a claiming race.
In the horse "business" pretty much every horse is for sale at some price. Claiming races can vary in price tags from $1000 to $100,000 and even higher at some better tracks.
A racehorse must win its first race within a certain number of races and by a certain age (known as *breaking its maiden*) so that it can remain eligible for racing. Most trainers start their horses in higher types (classes) of races, such as Maiden or Maiden Allowances, but will drop the horse in class if it does not win in that level of race. Usually the next step a licensed trainer will take is to enter into a maiden claiming race because all of entries will not yet have won a race either. The intention of that type race is so the field will be as evenly matched and fair as possible.
If you are dealing with an older horse that is a winner but has stopped winning, sometimes dropping him into a claiming race with lesser caliber horses can result in an easy win - hopefully easy! The thinking with this strategy is giving your good horse win can boost its confidence and hopefully the horse can return to his previous winning form. However, the owner does run the risk of losing the horse to a claim but usually the strategy is a calculated risk vs. reward situation.
I hope that helps answer your question. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.