So, you think you want to own a racehorse?
Plenty of punters dream of owning a winner, but just what will it cost, what are the pitfalls, and how do you go about it? Read on to find out…
Well, owning a hacking pony is a costly enough experience. What with vets fees, shoes, stabling, feed and insurance the cost soon mounts, but owning a racehorse is quite a different matter and, unless you have almost inexhaustible funds, not a decision to be taken lightly or after a session down the pub. A racehorse can be a costly adventure but it doesn’t have to be.
How do you become the proud owner of your very own horse? Well, there are a number of ways that you can get in on the action.
The preferred route of millionaires and royalty – Average costs can run to £16,000+ per year.
The preferred route of millionaires and royalty is sole ownership. To give you an idea of cost you only have to look at the type of person who can afford to become the sole owner of a racehorse. The list includes: The Queen, Michael O’Leary, Sir Alex Ferguson, Princess Anne, the Aga Khan, Wayne Rooney, Burt Bacharach, Steven Speilberg and Ronnie Wood.
The British Horse Racing Board says that the average annual cost of owning a racehorse is £16,500. But that’s an average, costs could escalate if your horse catches a cold and runs up a large vet’s bill during the year or if you decide that you are so confident that you splash out on an expensive trainer. Realistically owning a racehorse is going to cost you between £1,500 and £1,800 a month minimum, and on the basis that your horse may only run once every other month, it would need to win pretty consistently just to break even.
If you take off the rose-coloured specs, you’ll see that the odds are just a little stacked against earning a million from owning a racehorse. Many owners would just be happy to break even on the costs of ownership. But of course its lots of fun and just think of how envious your friends will be… and what about those smart tweed suits and glamorous hats? But how will you afford it all? Well, if you can’t stretch to sole ownership there are lots of other options if you fancy your chances as an owner.
A great way to spread the costs of ownership – Choose between a Syndicate or Racing Club
So, if you’re not a prince, a film star, or a Premier League footballer, the cheapest and most straightforward way to become a racehorse owner is to join a syndicate or racing club. There’s a difference between a syndicate and a racing club. Members of a syndicate/partnership are sharing the legal ownership of a horse. Members of a racing club are enjoying some of the benefits of ownership, except, essentially, they do not have any ownership rights of the horse(s).
There are many Clubs and Syndicates in the UK and most offer a number of different packages, each one at a varying cost. For example, Elite Racing Club give you the chance to follow a string of horses for a fixed fee of around £180 a year… as cheap as chaps. Members receive a share of the prizemoney earned by the club’s horses. Additionally they receive a weekly newsletter, plus options to visit both the stables as well as courses where the club’s horses are racing, with opportunities for members to gain both paddock and winners enclosure entry.
For those with more to spend Deva Racing offers 1/12th shares in racing partnership horses trained by Donald McCain Jnr (Grand National winning trainer) and Tom Dascombe, the horses are offered on a fixed cost basis allowing you to budget for your commitment. You get an owners badge every time your horse runs and regular visits to the stables to see your horse on the gallops and to discuss progress with the trainer.
Typically you can expect to pay around £150 – £300 per month for a registered share in a syndicate horse, and you’ll probably have to pay a one-off fee of around £1500 – £3000 which covers the original purchase price of the horse. The more expensive the horse is to purchase the larger the one-off fee is likely to be. However, there are cheaper options, for instance, with Myracing.com it is possible to be part of a syndicate for £25 a month.
The advantage of racing clubs and syndicates is that they take away the hassle and all of the worry out of ownership. It’s a shared thing – all the training, organisation and maintenance that your horse needs is looked after by the syndicate, leaving you to enjoy the finer side of being an owner – like a glass or two of bubbly.
Racing Clubs can be a good first stepping stone into the world of racing – Expect to pay around £150+ per year.
Racing Clubs are not an independent form of co-ownership. Therefore by joining or becoming a member of a Racing Club you receive the benefits of that Club but are not entering into racehorse ownership yourself. It’s important to check each Racing Clubs terms and conditions, each club will operate slightly differently. However, normally you’re assured an ‘interest’ in a horse or horses at a fixed yearly/monthly cost for a fix period of time. Racing Clubs can be a good first stepping stone into the world of racing.
Get the best of both worlds with a registered racing partnership – Expect to pay around £150 – £300 per month.
A syndicate is a loose term often used in racing to describe a group of people who own a horse together, regardless of whether it has been formally registered as a joint ownership or a racing partnership. If a syndicate is set-up as in the joint ownership model then all members will be registered as owners, racing partnerships require only two members to be registered as owners. The maximum number of syndicate members for joint ownership is 12 and for Racing Partnerships 20.
There are a number of professional syndicate organisers who work on a commercial basis and charge a fee to set up and run syndicates. They will usually take care of all the daily admin, providing members with ‘hassle free’ ownership. The costs involved in being part of a syndicate will depend on a number of factors; value of the horse, training fees, vet bills etc. Many professional syndicate organisers will also offer a fixed monthly cost to members, ensuring that you don’t get any nasty bills!
I purchased my share in Whiskey Chaser via Deva Racing, all the racing partnerships and syndicates offered by Deva Racing are on a fixed cost basis, which is fantastic as it allows you to budget for your commitment. I have already enjoyed multiple visits to Bank House where Whiskey Chaser is being trained by Donald McCain. Regular updates on the progress of the horse are always available and stable visits are actively encouraged, along with organised social events for owners.
Company ownership is another way of becoming a racehorse owner. Mind you, you need to own a company first. Companies usually buy a racehorse for prestige and advertising purposes. In most cases the horse is owned by the company’s shareholders and the company must appoint a Registered Agent to act on its behalf. There are a number of benefits to corporate ownership including being able to name a horse after the company or brand, and of course jockeys can wear corporate colour silks. As with football and Formula One it gives excellent exposure to a wider audience, has great client entertainment opportunities, employees and their families can become involved, and of course VAT and training fees are all reclaimable – so it’s one in the eye for the tax man.
Another way to get involved in the game is leasing. You ‘own’ the horse for a set period of time, perhaps for one race or for its complete racing career. But the horse is never actually yours, so you can’t sell it. Of course the costs that the horse incurs are the responsibility of the lessee for the lease period and the horse will run under the ownership of the lease holder. It’s important that everything is put down on paper and that a written agreement is made regarding the lease period and of course any prize money split. At the end of the lease the ownership of the horse returns to the legal owner leaving you free to move on to your next victory.
Owning a racehorse is an exciting proposition. If you are in it for the excitement and fun then you are on to a winner. If you want it to make you rich, then you may need more than a little luck. Either way, there’s some form of ownership out there to suit most racing fans regardless of the depths of their pockets. Whichever type of ownership you decide is right and affordable for you, there’s something thrilling about owning a racehorse. It’s cheaper than buying a football team, and who doesn’t like wearing big hats and drinking champagne at the races? Good luck!
The following websites explain in more detail the various ways to get involved in ownership.
BHA Ownership page of the BHA (governing body).
Own1 Guide For New Racehorse Owners.
ROA Racehorse Owners Association.
Weatherbys Owner Information.
Here are some useful links to various Racing Clubs & Syndicates in the UK & Ireland.
Elite Racing Club
Winning Ways (Ireland)
Own A Racehorse
Lancashire Racing Stables
Jonjo O’Neill Racing
Onto A Winner
A collection of articles and stories about owning a race horse.
A Syndicate Winners Article
Daily Telegraph Article
This Is Money Article
How Stuff Works Article