Have you ever wondered how a trainer or owner decides which race is best for their horse? Read on to learn more about classes in harness racing!

Non-winners and winners:

  • Restricted to non-winners of a set number of races lifetime
  • Can be non-winners of a given amount of money in a given amount of recent starts
  • Certain races can have additional conditions as well, such as “non-winners of a set number of races OR a set number of dollars lifetime”. 
  • Once graduated, a horse can compete in conditions for winners of a given number of races in a given number of time


  • Straight claimers: As they sound, simply a claiming race without conditions
  • Claiming handicaps: Where post positions are handicapped based off of a horse’s claiming price
  • Conditioned claimers: Claiming races with additional conditions, such as non-winners of a given number of races at a set claiming price


  • Require an invitation to compete
  • Open or preferred races are restricted to top horses at a particular racetrack
  • Stakes races can be invitationals

Early/Late Closing Events:

  • Similar to stakes races, early and late closing events require advance payments to be eligible to run in them
  • Required advance payments are made much closer to the actual date of the race compared to stakes races
  • “Early” or “late” refers to the time period involved

Stakes Races:

  • The highest class of race in harness racing
  • Horsemen must make a series of payments well in advance of the race date to keep horses eligible to compete
  • Missing one payment makes a horse ineligible

Two standardbred horses coming around the trackSire Stakes:

  • Vary from state to state
  • Pennsylvania Sire Stakes are restricted to horses whose sires were standing in Pennsylvania in the year of conception
  • Payments are made as yearlings, two-year-olds, and three-year-olds
  • Points are accumulated with each round of stakes, and the year’s leading point earners have the opportunity to compete in a year-end championship event for added money
  • Pennsylvania also has consolations

Tiers of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes:

  • Pennsylvania Sire Stakes: for top level sire stakes horses
  • Pennsylvania Stallion Series: the “B” level, below sire stakes
  • Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Fairs: contested at county fairs
    • “A” divisions are for top fair horses
      • Points are earned for a chance to compete in fair championships
    • “B” divisions are for lower level horses who do not earn points
      • If a horse wins three of four starts at the B level, it must move up to the A level until it loses at least two starts
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