Finding Lines, Golden Lines

Third Time Dev
8 min readAug 10, 2022


Morpheus is a well known B-grade horse maxi

Welcome… to another update, everyone!

Depending on how long you’ve been hanging around Discord, you may be familiar with one of our MANTRAS — that there is a place at the table for skilled stable owners across the Photo Finish™ LIVE ecosystem, regardless of their budget.

We wanted to go into more detail with specifics as we get closer to releasing the next big revision of the game — Beta Version 2. One of the most common questions we receive from our players is “how am I able to compete if I only own a low grade / value horse?”

Choosing which horse to buy on the market can be a very difficult decision, just like real life!

The quick answer is that there are numerous ways for you as a player to find your niche and become a profitable horse owner, irrespective of what level horse you own.

We look to real life at all times to help us guide our design. To this point — did you know that nearly 20,000 thoroughbreds are born every single year in the US alone? Only 20 or so horses make it into the Kentucky Derby…therefore we can all safely assume that the $37 billion dollar horse racing industry is certainly not built around the other 19,980 horses losing money!

Having touched on that, we’d like to introduce the “Finding Lines” series, Entry #1. A series created to inspire all levels of stable owners to find their edge in the ecosystem, and perhaps pick up a few tricks from the industry along the way.

The concept is simple: find and enter different types of races for your horse that ensure the fairest competition via the various restrictions and rules placed on the race types themselves.

Hundreds of real life races run each day across the globe with strict restrictions + handicaps to keep the fields as balanced and competitive as possible for the betting / spectator community!


Let’s start with a case study on a real life horse named No More Mask.

Original auction paperwork for No More Mask in 2020 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2020 Fall Yearling Sale
No More Mask’s career stats. Do you think the owners are like total anti maskers, or did they get fully boosted and they were super stoked to be able to not have to wear a mask around? Makes you think…

Some key details to note:

  1. No More Mask has started 17 races, won 6, placed 2 and showed 3. This was done by racing almost EXCLUSIVELY CLAIMING RACES with purses from ~$25k-35k and a claiming price across most of them set at $10,000.

Let’s quote Equibase here: “Claiming races are the most commonly run races in the country. Horses competing in claiming races are offered for sale for a specified price to eligible buyers”
In layman’s terms — a claiming race is a race where you “risk” someone buying your horse at a specified claiming price BEFORE the race is run. By entering the race, your horse is now for sale.

2. Diving into individual races tells us even more — that No More Mask developed its career statistics on a consistent track throughout the last two years of racing — with the claimers being uniformly 6.5 furlong dirt runs (and very often in clear weather).

3. Most importantly, we look at the initial auction price vs. career earnings of No More Mask — this horse was sold as a yearling for $5,000 while having career earnings of ~$140,000.

What does this tell us? Simply put, No More Mask’s owners have created fantastic returns by running almost exclusively claiming races. They have persisted in selecting this race set-up across the 2 year career, and are now way up on their initial $5,000 investment. A pretty impressive 28x gain by a horse none of us have likely ever heard of!


Let’s look at another case study — this horse is named Breviary.

  1. Breviary was purchased at auction as a yearling for $15,000, with a current career earnings total of ~$220k.
  2. Breviary is in her third year of racing, what about the career statistics? 29 starts with 7 wins, 5 places and 3 showings. A decent record, although more spotty than No More Mask and with a broader spread of race-types across her career
  3. One of the elements of Breviary’s profitability is the STARTER race.

Simply put, a starter is a type of allowance race where the condition of entry is that the horse has raced for a certain claiming price (or less) within a specified period of time.

The option to enter starters opens up for you after you haved race in a claiming race. A starter is really just a type of ALLOWANCE race, meaning that it is a race with specific entry requirements — being eligible to enter a Starter Race just happens to involve having competed in a Claiming Race within some timeframe as the principal requirement.

Thus, one of the main utilities of a Starter Race is that one can race against horses at a claiming level, WITHOUT risking their horse being claimed. For this reason, you can link the idea of a starter and a claimer together as parts of an overall race entry strategy.

Unlike No More Mask, the more comprehensive race-type entry in Breviary’s records shows some of the top-end limitations of the horse — namely that Breviary has so far failed to meaningfully place in a Black-Type stakes race.

The easiest answer is that a Black-Type refers to an official STAKES race, as defined by various official horse racing organizations (depending on where it’s run). It’s called a black-type because once won, a horse’s name appears in bold “black type” lettering in sales catalogs — a sort of industry-standard signifier of high performance horses, that you’ve made it to the BIG LEAGUES.

In the case of Breviary, we can view a Black-Type race as a performance barrier, demonstrating an upper limit on her performance capabilities through her low placements in these tougher fields.

Type of race | TB = Thoroughbred | Finish Position… do you see a pattern here?

What’s the bottom line, you ask?

The race times on these horses indicate that they clearly wouldn’t be competitive in higher stakes races. This is especially apparent when we look at Breviary’s placements in tougher fields, this horse seems to have an upper limit.

However, in both cases, these lower tier horses are quite profitable. These are the ~B grade horses of the industry, grinding out races for solid returns within their most consistently successful parameters. Claiming, Starter, Allowance, etc tend to stay at the bottom of the race-type hierarchy — and these races provide the necessary arena for the lower graded horses of the industry to thrive.

TL;DR — Photo Finish™ LIVE will feature a variety of real-life race types and restrictions that allows lower tier horses to race against similar competition.

Sounds like a bold strategy…

Let’s head to the marketplace for the currently live Beta V1:

Factoring in the funny-money skewing horse values, let’s filter for a solid ~B grade foal instead of by price, taking into account its bloodline since its untested stats will begin as ?’s. A mere 25,000 for an unraced colt — let’s go for it!

With an unraced Mom and a Dad with only 1 win, Pandora NY 2 is likely not going to command a lot of value on the marketplace.

Imagine we can fast-forward 2 seasons when this foal is ready to hit the track, we’re looking at the upcoming race list… where is the safest place to see what this horse is capable of?

Well, let’s give The Narrows Maiden Claiming a shot.

What is a Maiden Claiming Race?
We already know from above that a Claiming Race is one where your horse is for sale. “Maiden” just means that only horses that have never won a race are allowed to enter. You may hear the phrase “he finally broke his maiden” which would refer to a horse finally winning his first race.

Though it seems unlikely that a completely untested B+ grade colt would be claimed, you do need to steel your nerves that your horse (and possibly new best friend) could be bought out from under you as this race is run. In this scenario, the claiming price tag (not shown accurately) paid by the new owner gives you somewhat of a hedge on the initial purchase. Also worth noting that if your horse wins this Claiming Race, you, as the original owner, would win the purse (not the new owner). Winning a race and selling a horse in the same fell swoop can often be an excellent profitable flip for many owners.

What’s most important here is that the mere fact that all horses are for sale at the claiming price really protects the field from high performance horses dropping down to scoop up the purse.

The cherry on top is that looking into the bloodline of our B+ horse, we are likely well suited to the race type — the parents both have longer distance LDS (left turning, dirt, soft/mud track) stat profiles. This provides further advantage beyond leveraging the maiden claiming race type…now we’re actually in a good spot to nab a win!


Now let’s say this horse won The Narrows Maiden Claiming, where would you look to maximize his chances for continued success (while also providing useful data for future decision making)?

If you see promise in your horse, and want to avoid it being claimed…what is a race type you could target that would allow you to stay in the claiming-level field while ensuring that you retain the horse…?

How about a Starter Allowance race?

Given you meet the criteria for entry, this is a great option to try because it allows you to cut the field off by requiring entrants have recently risked a claim (recall the definition of the Starter race-type above). The finishing touch would be the usual considerations — looking for the most suitable track to run this race-type on for your horse.

In Summary

What’s important to understand here is that “grades” (i.e. B+ / A- / S+) don’t exist in real life, and the industry has developed ways to create opportunities for horses across the performance spectrum. Instead of simply limiting horses from entering races by grade, the different race types in Photo Finish™ LIVE provide a far more authentic and interesting way to find YOUR horse’s performance pocket and land a spot at the podium, not to mention make meaningful returns.

Although the best horses WILL race for the highest stakes, there is a whole hierarchy to explore beneath.

Has this been elucidating? This is merely one pathway through the jungle, my friends… stay tuned for entry 2!

And just a reminder — stop by THIS FRIDAY AT 3PM for a rowdy gathering led by @ThirdTime_Ian and feat. @ThirdTime_Fib, bring your most thoughtful questions and a cold one.



Third Time Dev

Game development studio with many years in AAA, mobile, and F2P. Crypto enthusiasts. Big fans of Unity.