Saddle up and enjoy the race of your life

What do Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, soccer star Wayne Rooney and Hollywood director Steven Spielberg all have in common?


Each is the proud owner of that ultimate status symbol of the wealthy – a race horse. Along with wine, art and gold, thoroughbreds have long been the luxury investment of choice for the mega rich.

But the industry appears to be taking a new direction as an increasing number of ordinary members of the public decide to pool their money and head to the sales.

“Owning a race horse is more accessible than ever before,” says Richard Wayman, chief executive of the Racehorse Owners’ Association. “At the top end, you’ve got huge international buyers paying millions of pounds for the best bloodstock. But in recent years, lower down, there’s been a proliferation of people becoming part of a syndicate.”

But despite the glamour and excitement of owning your own race horse, speculative punters should always remember that purchasing a horse won’t necessarily mean you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

As a rule of thumb, success is 10% bloodline, jockey and trainer while the remaining 90% is good fortune.

Owning a race horse offers prestige, excitement, and a unique insight into the industry. But if you’re looking for a guaranteed return on your investment, think again.

Having rode horses as a jockey for over thirty years it is fair to say putting money into buying a racehorse is a risky proposition — you never know how good it’s going to be. All owners and trainers hope you can find a horse that can compete at that top level like a Frankel or a Black Caviar. But I think that’s more of a dream than reality.

Thoroughbreds range from £1,000 (“You’re very lucky if you buy one at that price and it wins any race. It’s a bit like buying a used car,” said Wayman) to more than £3 million.

And that’s just buying the horse. By the time you pay for stables, feed, trainers and jockeys, the net return is around 21% — meaning for every £100 you spend, you get just £21 back.

There are several different ways in which you can own a racehorse. You can have full ownership or part ownership. Two or more prospective owners can determine their share of ownership. Syndicates have been popular in recent years, whereby several enthusiasts club together, put money in the kitty and share the rollercoaster ride of racehorse ownership.

Before buying a racehorse or setting up a partnership you will need to decide whether you’re interested in a horse that runs on the Flat or over Jumps, or maybe even both. The British Flat racing season on turf extends from March to November, while racing on all-weather surfaces takes place throughout the year. Jump racing has its main season between October and April, but also holds Summer Jumping outside of these months.

Buying a racehorse from the Bloodstock Sales is good way to start so long as you know what you are doing, if you don’t then enlist the help of a bloodstock agent to accompany you to the auction. A bloodstock agent will normally charge about 5% of the purchase price of the horse in return for inspecting the horse and they should also provide a professional opinion as to whether the horse has the potential to perform on the racecourse.

Tattersalls in Newmarket and Doncaster Bloodstock Sales are the leading bloodstock auctioneers in Britain. Thoroughbreds are sold at public auction in guineas, this is because traditionally horses were sold in this currency and the five pence from every guinea was taken as commission by the auctioneer.

Win or lose, owning a race horse may not be a watertight investment. But it still offers a priceless experience.

Kevin Darley – Sports Consultant