Allowance races are designed to offer talented young horses an opportunity to prove they are as good as their owners and trainers hope they can be.
Unlike claiming races, where any entrant is eligible to be purchased for whatever price is designated in the conditions of the race, allowance races are designed to provide talented young horses with a path to stakes races – the highest level of competition – without risking losing them.
Horses entered in allowance races usually begin their careers in maiden special weight races, races for horses that have never won a race. Horses in these races cannot be “claimed,” or purchased, by rival owners.
Once the horse wins, they must move on to face other horses that also have won at least once. If the owner and trainer believe the horse has great promise, they will often enter him or her in an allowance “non-winners of 1x” race. To be eligible for such a race, horses cannot have won any race other than that maiden race unless it was a claiming race. Since owners aren’t likely to risk losing such a promising horse, that means they will be facing other promising youngsters whose owners also have protected them.
If the horse wins a “non-winners of 1x” race, they will often take the next step and be entered in a “now-winners of 2x” allowance race – a race limited to horses that have only won once after their maiden race.
The next step would be a non-winners of 3x” race, after which they would be expected to continue on to face stakes company, unless the increasingly tough competition has led the owner and trainer to conclude that their horse isn’t the next coming of Secretariat after all. In that case, they will probably seek out slightly softer competition where they can continue to earn paychecks.