Under 20s Claiming Challenge returns for Aqueduct winter/spring meets
by Keith McCalmont
The Under 20’s Claiming Challenge will return for the upcoming winter and spring meets at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The program, launched in 2018 and open to local trainers with 20 or fewer horses nationwide, will begin on Thursday, December 9, Opening Day of the Aqueduct winter meet which runs through Sunday, March 27. The Claiming Challenge will come to a close at the conclusion of the 15-day Big A spring meet, which spans Thursday, March 31 through Sunday, April 24.
The top-eight trainers in the contest will share a prize pool of $80,000, with the winner receiving $16,000. Stall allotments for the Aqueduct winter meet, along with those at the Saratoga and the Belmont fall meets, will be used to determine eligible trainers.
Trainers earn points based on their horses' performances in all winners' claiming races on the main track at Aqueduct from December 9 through the end of the Big A spring meet. Points will be tallied and records verified on May 23, and awards will be granted thereafter.
To retain eligibility, there can be no more than 20 horses on a trainer's roster at any given time, although a trainer's stable may grow above 20 horses through claiming activity. Trainers who had 21 or more stalls allotted in either of the previous two race meets will be ineligible for this year’s contest.
Not all horses will be eligible for the contest, and only roster horses can earn points. A trainer may replace a claimed horse who was on their roster with another claimed horse. After a horse is claimed, it will be added to the trainer's roster only at the trainer's request.
Horses in for a tag in an allowance optional claiming race will qualify for contest points. Points are not earned in maiden, allowance, starter allowance or stakes races.
A horse that ends up on the stewards’ list for poor performance will not earn the trainer points for that race. Horses that are running for 50 percent or less of the claiming price from their most recent start will only be eligible to earn 50 percent of the typical points for that race.
In addition, horses can only earn contest points for two races within a given 30-day time period. A horse may enter in additional races during that timeframe but will not earn contest points for those additional races.
Dirt Races - All claiming races for winners, including horses in for an optional tag:
1st Place - 6 points
2nd Place - 5 points
3rd Place - 4 points
4th Place - 3 points
5th Place - 2 points
Turf Races - All turf claiming races for winners, including horses in for an optional tag:
1st Place - 5 points
2nd Place - 4 points
3rd Place - 3 points
4th Place - 2 points
5th Place - 1 points
The top-eight trainers in the contest will share in a prize pool of $80,000:
1st Place - $16,000
2nd Place - $14,000
3rd Place - $12,000
4th Place - $11,000
5th Place - $9,000
6th Place - $7,000
7th Place - $6,000
8th Place - $5,000
Important Dates at a glance:
November 27, 2021 - All contest applications due no later than 3:30 p.m.
December 2, 2021 - List of eligible contest trainers posted
December 9, 2021 - Contest begins; Aqueduct winter meet
February 15, 2022 - No additional horses may be added to earn contest points (unless replacing a claimed or injured horse)
April 24, 2022 - Contest ends; Closing day, Aqueduct spring meet
May 23, 2022 - Awards paid out
Past winners of the Under 20s Claiming Challenge:
2021 Belmont spring/summer – Mertkan Kantarmaci
2020-21 Aqueduct winter – Mertkan Kantarmaci
2019-20 Aqueduct winter – Eddie Barker/Mertkan Kantarmaci (tie)
2019 Belmont spring/summer – Mertkan Kantarmaci
2018-19 Aqueduct winter – Mertkan Kantarmaci
2018 Belmont spring/summer – Eddie Barker
For more information, please visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/horsemen/.