What Is Black Type?

What Is Black Type?

A horse’s name printed in bold-faced “black type” letters designates that the horse has won or placed in a stakes race.

three horses racing (Credit: AQHA)

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Richard Chamberlain 

Black type. Breeders want it, horsemen look for it, horses need it. It’s a simple concept: Black type at a glance specifies a level of superiority in a racehorse.

Check any sale catalog. A horse’s name printed in bold-faced “black type” letters designates that the horse has won or placed in a stakes race. It jumps out from the page, with all the letters uppercased for a stakes winner, both upper- and lowercased for a stakes-placed horse, and regular type for all others: This horse won a stakes, that horse finished second or third in a stakes, another horse did neither.

Simple, right?

Too often, the answer is no, it’s not simple.

“I just had to tell another heartbroken owner that a foal listed under his mare on a catalog page is not black type, because the stakes that year only had a $12,500 purse,” said Robin Glenn, whose Robin Glenn Pedigrees, now QData, produces the Heritage Place, Los Alamitos, Ruidoso, and Texas Quarter Horse Association catalog pages. “I deal with this every single year when the sale catalogs come out, because an owner thinks a horse should be black type when it isn’t.”

OK, so black type is a simple concept. But this is a matter of the simple complicated by the devils in the details.

“Everyone needs to understand that just because a track calls a race a ‘stakes’ doesn’t mean that the horses earn black type,” Glenn said. “The condition book should always be compared to the AQHA rulebook. I don’t think the tracks intend to be deceptive, but for decades they have called races stakes or names that make people think they’re stakes. The problem in many cases is that it’s not an official stake race. That’s the first problem: the public’s misconception.

Then, quite often a track employee setting the race up for Equibase apparently also thinks it’s an official stakes, and notates it as such. So it comes out on Equibase as an official stakes, Equibase feeds the results to the public, and consequently, people think their horses are black type. AQHA Racing Department employees birddog the stakes races weekly and send corrections back to Equibase, but this is a monumental proofreading task and many times the incorrect designation has already been made public. Therefore, the best policy is for a race to be correctly notated by the racetrack in the first place.”

“Even trainers get fooled,” she continued. “I’ve been told of trainers who have recommended races that don’t qualify (as official stakes) to owners because they think the horse will earn black type, but then it doesn’t meet the specific AQHA rule criteria – most often the minimum purse of $15,000. It’s not that tracks or trainers are doing it on purpose, but it’s more from a lack of information or understanding of how this specific race is going to link to black type on a pedigree. The bottom line: It’s a huge, anger-generating disappointment for the owners and breeders who feel they got taken by what they always end up viewing as a scam.”

There are other considerations, also. It can get really complicated.

“Claiming races can’t be stakes and maiden races can’t be stakes, but there are races called a Claiming Stakes or a Maiden Stakes,” Glenn said. “Those aren’t official stakes and they don’t make black type. Down the road people get ready to sell the horse, its siblings or foals, we do a catalog page and the horse comes out without black type. And then we get a phone call, or the sales agent gets a call, or the sale company gets a call. Butch Wise (of Lazy E Ranch) told me he gets a dozen calls for every yearling catalog that comes out, from people who think we’ve missed putting black type on their pages. The worst thing about this is that the industry needs for its participants, particularly newcomers who are the most likely to be misinformed, to be happy they are in this business, not angry and disappointed.”

“In today’s world, black type means a lot more than it did it the past,” said Melodie Knuchell, the director of simulcasting and nominations at Los Alamitos who also chairs the AQHA Graded Stakes Committee. “People ask what makes a stakes race and how exactly do the grades come about. It’s not just the lay person out there – sometimes the professionals, and even people like myself, find it very hard to keep up with all the rule changes. Unless you spend literally hours pouring over everything, it’s hard to understand.”

Detailing Black Type

Horses that win or place in a stakes race earn black type. But this simple concept hinges on very specific criteria. To begin with, the race in which those horses run first, second or third has to be an official stakes for American Quarter Horses. In order to be eligible for AQHA certification as a stakes or restricted stakes race, the following conditions must be met, as detailed in the AQHA Handbook under RAC306:

  • Nominations must close more than 48 hours before the first race of the day on which the stakes or restricted stakes are to be run.
  • The track must provide AQHA with the conditions and purse structure (e.g., nomina¬tion, sustaining and entry fees, added monies and gross purse distribution).
  • The race must have a minimum purse of $15,000 U.S. funds if conducted in the United States; $15,000 Canadian funds if conducted in Canada; or $7,500 U.S. funds based on the conversion rate on each race day if conducted anywhere other than the United States or Canada.
  • The race must have stakes of $50 or more posted by each of the owners of the participating horses. This requirement shall be waived if the race in question is an invitational stakes race or an invitational handicap race for which owners do not contribute to the purse, but which is advertised in the regular stakes program.
  • A race that is otherwise eligible for AQHA recognition as a stakes or restricted stakes race shall not be deemed ineligible for such recognition if monies or prizes additional to those referenced above are added.
  • A stakes race may not be restricted or exclude entries in any way other than age or sex.
  • The following types of races are the only types of races that are eligible for restricted stakes recognition (signified by an “R” after the race name): races restricted to state of breeding, foaling and/or ownership; races in which state-breds are preferred; races restricted to those horses sold in a certain sale or sales with at least 50 yearlings consigned representing at least eight stallions, with a required minimum of $5,000 added to each race; and races restricted to the progeny of a restricted group of stallions, provided the stallions involved are the property of a minimum of five distinct owners and the foals eligible for the race represent a minimum of eight stallions on the original nomination list.

In addition, races not eligible for status as an AQHA stakes race include (but are not limited) to:

  • match races
  • races restricted to horses that are non-winners of a stakes race
  • races that are restricted to maidens, limit eligibility to horse that have started for a claiming price, horses entered to be claimed or that carry an optional-claiming condition
  • races that use a speed number (index, rating, etc)
  • and any trial races, with the exception of the Z Wayne Griffin Directors trials