Growing the racing audience – clubs and ownership options
This week’s news of a free racing club for 18-26 year olds by the Qipco British Champions Series is the latest attempt by racing administrators to engage a young audience which has to fight through 6-8 pages of football and other sport before reaching the racing pages in every mainstream newspaper or web site. It’s a harsh reality that racing barely figures for this age group, reflected in this year’s Epsom Derby broadcast at lunchtime rather than mid-afternoon.
New initiatives are welcome, irrespective of whence they come, if they raise the profile of the sport and attract new audiences. And where a previous generation would have been tempted into football betting from racing, a form of reverse osmosis is now taking place, where football punters are being brought back into racing by initiatives like the Coral Racing Club.
There seems little doubt that expanding ownership and including newcomers in the immersive experience of sharing in the triumph and disaster that are bedfellows of owning racehorses is a proven route to growing the racing audience, and a more sure-footed way to grow a sustainable interest in the sport than the plethora of music nights that draw big crowds with little interest in the sport.
Embarking on ownership of a racehorse is both exciting and fraught with pitfalls. Here’s a handy guide.
Do your research
Before diving into racehorse ownership, it’s crucial to do thorough research. Familiarise yourself with the different types of horse races, the various racehorse breeds, and the racing industry’s rules and regulations. You also need to study the form and performance of horses in races, understand the costs involved in buying, owning, and training a racehorse, and learn about the risks and challenges of horse racing ownership.
The latter part is of particular importance, as the cost of a racehorse will count in thousands of pounds. You need to make sure you are going to have the required resources to purchase a racehorse without putting strain on your financial situation – if you donÔÇÖt, you could end up hurting yourself as well as the horse. The dream that came true for 21 year old Cameron Sword, a part owner in Corach Rambler, a few Saturdays ago, but it’s not always thus. Be realistic.
Seek expert advice
Caveat emptor is a phrase that might have been made for dream-chasing racehorse owners. Although every horse may have the same physionomy, there are those destined to win and a whole bunch of no-hopers.
Buying a racehorse can be a complex process, and it’s going to be a good idea to seek professional advice before you get started. Consult with experienced trainers and other industry professionals who can guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions.
These experts are going to be able to provide you with valuable insights and expertise on evaluating potential racehorses, negotiating prices, and managing the ownership process, all of which you are going to want to know before beginning the process.
Don’t wade in feet first
“Club ownership” of racehorses is a very popular way to experience the thrill without the baggage of ownership. Pioneers like the Elite Racing Club, which once had 7,500 members, have long offered tremendous value to everyday fans wanting a small piece of the adrenalin rush that comes with leading in a winner. Some clubs charge as little as ┬ú37 which is Christmas gift territory.
The next stage is to opt into a syndicate. Most trainers offer these as part shares in horses they’ve bought to sell on. A Syndicate manager will communicate with you and relay the horse’s progress and running plans. When you’re savvy enough yourself, you may even run your own syndicate too. But syndicate ownership is no longer as cheap as once it might have been; the value of quality bloodstock means any share worth its salt will set you back ┬ú5-25,000 for anything from a 12th share to a quarter, before running costs are included.
Racing clubs are hugely valuable to Australian and New Zealand racing, providing a community of like-minded souls to go racing with, events for your own benefit like the popular picnic races, and the wherewithal to train horses on the track, unlike here in the UK, where virtually all trainers operate from private property.
Check sales reports or betting sites for purchase details
Prices of horses that have been publicly sold at auction are readily available, so if a horse is presented for sale, it’s as well to find out what it cost your vendor. Of course, part of a trainer’s expertise is to improve and develop the youngstock in his/her care, but it’s best to be appraised of the scale of their margin!
Auctions are common avenues for buying racehorses in the UK and abroad. These events offer an opportunity to see a wide variety of horses and assess their physical conformation, pedigree, and potential for racing. At the sales, you can conduct thorough inspections, review pedigrees, and consult with experts to evaluate the suitability of a racehorse for your goals and budget. If you’re buying yourself, remember auctioneers will add VAT and buyer’s premiums which bump up the price.
Alternatively, you could go to one of the many UK horse racing bookmakers to get a quick rundown of racehorses form, but these analyses will only relate to horses in training.
Get a pre-purchase veterinary sign-off
A pre-purchase veterinary examination is a critical step in buying a racehorse. Without a professional examination, you could be tempted into purchasing a horse with issues.
Hire a reputable equine veterinarian to conduct a comprehensive health check-up of the horse to identify any potential health issues that may affect its racing career. This examination can help you make an informed decision and avoid costly surprises after the purchase. It might be a little pricey, but it is going to be more than worth it.
However, even this is not fool-proof. Trainer Tom George lost a suit against Tattersalls Auctioneers last year when returning a horse which apparently didn’t comply with the sale conditions. In the end, the judge sided with the auction house that the sale was legitimate – an expensive error costing over ┬ú90k.
Try a low cost option
At the bottom end of the racing spectrum, you can buy into a Point-to-Point horse for relatively small sums, but a picnic from the back of the car in a muddy, wet field is not quite the allure of Ascot or Cheltenham. Whilst it has many charms and a quaint intimacy that is loved by many, it can be an acquired taste.
Select a country
Time was when owning a racehorse was in practical terms limited to the UK. But travel is so easy now that you can have a horse abroad.
In recent years, there’s been a flow of top owners seeking to train some of their Jump horses in Ireland where the racing is considered to be more competitive. And whilst Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead clean up at Cheltenham and Aintree, who’s to refute that charge.
But Ireland isn’t the only alternative. There are British trainers now operating in France where the rewards are much better and the variety of courses even more extensive. Buying a horse from a┬á claimer in France, winning a race then selling on into the UK market is just one way to make racing entertainment pay for itself. And France is so much more bucolic than England!
Whichever way you proceed, the sport is for fun, but it also comes with responsibility. Hundreds of horses leave racing every year, a majority to safe and loving second homes. Part of your ownership legacy is to ensure the horse that gave so much pleasure has a good second career, whomever owns him/her.