What is a selling race?

As the name suggests, a selling race is a horse race in which all the runners are for sale. Immediately afterwards, the winner is sold – or at least offered for sale, subject to a predetermined bid – at a compulsory public auction. Similarly, any other horse can be bought, or ‘claimed’, for a price specified by its trainer at the time of entry. Winning owners can bid on their own horse and, if they win the auction, the winning horse is said to be ‘bought in’; of course, they do risk paying more for buying their own horse than the prize money they receive for winning the race in the first place.

Selling races can be handicaps, in which horses carry weight according to their official handicap ratings, or non-handicaps, in which horses carry weight according to their age and sex. In either case, selling races are low grade in terms of quality. In fact, following the demise of so-called ‘banded’ racing – a shortlived, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to cater for the worst horses in training – selling races represent the lowest grade of all in horse racing. That said, there is still the occasional ‘rags-to-riches’ story about a horse that was bought, cheaply, out of a selling race and went on to repay the original investment many times over.