A maiden race is quite simply for horses that have never won a race of any description in their life. Maidens are only open to horses that are either two or three years of age and this will be specified. Certain races are also dependent on what sex the horse is.
The races themselves are run over a variety of distances and formats (both flat and jumps), as well as being either weight for age, handicap or set weights. The only commonality is that none of the horses going to post have previously won in that realm of racing. By that, we mean that a horse can have won a flat race and still enter a National Hunt maiden and the same applies vice versa, whilst a horse can have won bumper (NH flat race) and still enter a jumps or flat maiden.
It is, of course, possible that a horse may not win a race as a two or three year old. In this situation, the horse itself is still classed as a maiden, however, no special races will be put on for such an animal once it gets to four years of age and they will have to race against other horses that have previously enjoyed success.
Generally, the grade of the track usually tells you how good the form of a maiden race is deemed to be. It is also known that certain trainers aim their star pupils from the gallops at certain maiden races, so the race trends are of high importance.
On the opening day of the season, Doncaster hosts the Brocklesby, this is a key race for horses full of speed and early season types to follow. Away from the top tracks, Yarmouth maiden races can also produce a nice type. The main reason for this is the tracks proximity to Newmarket, meaning talented horses do not have far to travel.
Newbury maiden races are arguably the strongest. Newbury over the years has seen numerous Group 1 and even Classic winners lose their maiden tag here. Two times Arc winner, Enable, made her debut here in a maiden and only finished third before racking up numerous Group 1s, telling you the strength of the track’s maiden races. Ascot, York, Goodwood and Newmarket also boast strong maiden form. It was at the last of those that the amazing Frankel started his career. Maiden races at lesser tracks are not of the same grade as the grade one racecourses.
Three-year old maiden races are also of importance. These races are targeted by trainers who class certain horses as too backward as a juvenile and therefore are put away for a year. Newmarket holds a maiden race for unraced three-year olds called the Wood Ditton. This one-mile race is classed as one of the feature races in the calendar for this age group. In recent years, horses, such as UAE Jewel, have won this race before going on to compete at a much higher level.