What is a maiden race?

In simple terms, a maiden race is a horse race in which none of the participants have won in that specific discipline at any recognised race meeting anywhere in the world. Maiden races come in various ‘flavours’, including handicaps, conditions and weight-for-age races, and are run on the Flat and under National Hunt Rules. However, horses often progress from one discipline to another – for example, from Flat racing to hurdling, or from hurdling to steeplechasing – during their careers, so specific rules apply to each discipline.

On the Flat, horses that have won a National Hunt Flat race are still eligible for maiden races, but horses that have previously run on the Flat are ineligible for National Hunt Flat races, maiden or otherwise, regardless of whether or not they have previously won a race. Over hurdles and fences, horses that have won a National Hunt race are ineligible for maiden races, as are those that have won a steeplechase at a point-to-point meeting.

Granted that less than half of racehorses ever win a race, it is not unusual to read in the racing press that so-and-so is a ‘long-standing’ maiden. Eligibility for some maiden races is based on age or sex, but so-called ‘all-aged’ maiden races are typically open to any horse aged four years and upwards provided, of course, that is has yet to shed its maiden tag. Some horses never do, and develop a cult following as they continue, year-after-year, without winning a race. Steeplechaser Quixall Crossett, for example, went to post 103 times in his career, but the best he ever managed was two second-place finishes.