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Owning A Racehorse May Be Closer Than You Think!
 By mosquito   •   8th Jun 2011   •   3,885 views   •   25 comments
Owning A Racehorse

The racetrack is an amazing place – full of hope, energy, and dreams. As a child, my parents would take me to the tracks of Maryland and Delaware, and I’d be overwhelmed by all the colors, the beautiful horses, and the excitement of a race. I’d look enviously at the grooms, who I knew worked hard but got to get into the mysterious world of behind the scenes at a track. As I got older, I found my own way into the stables and into the racing industry. I prepared yearlings for sales, stayed up on foal watches, walked ‘hots’ and held horses for a racetrack farrier. I got my fair share of the action, and I got paid for it – but not much.

Now as an adult, I wanted to have the track back in my life. Where I live there is a beautiful track – Emerald Downs – which isn’t in the ‘big leagues’ by any stretch but is still a beautiful setting and has all the energy of a racetrack. I can’t put in the hours to work at the track, and I certainly can’t afford to live on racetrack wages. And if I can’t afford that, I certainly can’t afford to buy a racehorse myself – or can I?

Actually, I can. I found the perfect solution – I joined a racehorse syndicate. In a syndicate, you share ownership with several other people, so you split the costs and share the risk. It’s a great first step into the world of racing!

How do syndicates work?

In a syndicate, the syndicate manager oversees the purchase of a horse (or several horses), hires trainers, and then sells shares in the horses. Some syndicates are built around a single horse. In these you buy a percentage of a particular horse, and you can follow their training and racing career, sharing the monthly costs and the winnings with the other owners. Other syndicates are companies that own several horses, and you buy a share n the company. In these syndicates, the costs and the earnings of several horses are lumped together and then divided among the shareholders.

Benefits of syndicates

Owning A RacehorseThe great thing about joining a syndicate is that it makes racehorse ownership affordable. Small shares (often as little as 3%) are often available, and if the horse isn’t too pricey to begin with you can find these syndicates offering you the chance for your own racehorse for as little as a couple of hundred dollars. Monthly costs are split too, and for small shares you might find yourself paying as little as $40 to $50 a month. Of course, expensive horses get syndicated too, so you can pay a lot more. There is still a risk of course – your horse may be slow, or get injured, but if you choose a syndicate that you can easily afford, then you minimize your risk.

Joining a syndicate company that has lots of horses means you have more horses to follow, so if one doesn't work out there are still plenty of other horses to cheer on. The downside of larger syndicates is that you are probably going to be one of dozens of shareholders (large syndicate companies can have over a hundred members) so on race days you may all have trouble fitting into the winner’s circle photo!

With a single horse syndicate, you will be part of a smaller group, so you usually get more attention from your syndicate manager and trainer, and you might find you feel more a part of the game. The downside of course is you’re dependent on one horse to do you proud.

Whichever type of syndicate you choose, you normally get all the benefits of ownership – that means ‘backstage passes’ to the stables, the opportunity to watch morning workouts and visit your horse on quiet afternoons, to be in the Paddock at saddling, and in the winner’s circle after its victory.

Getting started

Of course, owning even part of a racehorse is risky. If you prefer a single horse syndicate, choose carefully. For your first one, look for a horse that is already racing or at least working out at the racetrack already. If you want a two year old, look for a sturdy sprinter type that can race at two and earn you some money quickly – those monthly payments can add up if you are waiting for a stayer to grow up. Choose a trainer that it successful, and one who has several horses at your local track so you know he or she will be around. Ask a lot of questions about the horse, and research its pedigree and its siblings to make a good judgment of its chances at success. Go and watch it work too – your potential syndicate manager should be willing to give you a tour, introduce you to the horse and the trainer, and invite you to watch a workout or two.

Be realistic about what you can afford – some people have joined syndicates and their horse started winning so quickly they never wrote another check, but for most, you are taking on all the risks of a racehorse, you just aren’t doing it alone. Never spend more than you can afford to lose, even on a share of a horse. If you are cautious about joining a syndicate, then starting out with a multi horse syndicate company might be the best place to start for you.

What happens if..

Owning A RacehorseIf your horse wins? Usually your syndicate manager will take a slice of the winnings after all the other people have been paid (trainer, jockey, groom, etc). Then the balance usually goes into the syndicate ‘account’, and is used to offset the regular monthly costs. At the end of the year, if there is money left over, syndicate members get a check for their share of the winnings. Always ask your syndicate manager for the details of how costs and winnings are handled, and read your contract carefully !

If your horse is sold or claimed? If the horse is sold, or claimed out of a race, then the selling price is normally handled like winnings – a slice is taken out by the syndicate manager, and then the rest is divided among the members. Again, read your contract carefully. Some syndicates reserve the option to keep a horse as breeding stock; if you don’t want to be a part of that deal, then make sure you know how to sell your shares when the hose is finished racing. If the horse is given away at the end of its career, often syndicate members have the first option of taking the horse, otherwise make sure you and your syndicate manager are in agreement about the right way to handle a retired racehorse!

If your horse is injured or breaks down? Most syndicate participants don’t insure their horses, as they've only invested what they can afford. However, if it makes you nervous, most syndicates can point you in the direction of insurance. It’s unlikely that you will get any say in what happens to the horse in the event of a serious injury; that will be between the syndicate manager and the trainer, but if you have a strong opinion, voice it before you sign your contract!

Will this make me rich?

Probably not. Being in a syndicate doesn’t make a horse run faster. Sure, there are some syndicates who have hit it rich with a big stakes winner, but don’t except your syndicate to make you your first million. Do expect it to give you all the thrills and experience of racehorse ownership at a fraction of the cost, and do expect it to be a whole lot of fun!

What do I know about it?

Take a look at the photos. We joined our first racehorse syndicate this year, a two year old sprinting filly called Redseasalt. We visit her every week, our syndicate manager is always on the end of the phone if we have any questions, and our trainer – leading trainer at our track – knows us by name. We only own 3% of her, but we love her like she was 100% ours, and we love being a part of every side of the racetrack. If you have been dreaming about racehorse ownership, then my advice is to think about giving syndicate membership a try. Do your research, choose your syndicate carefully, only invest what you can afford to lose, and just enjoy the racing!
Owning A Racehorse May Be Closer Than You Think!
Owning A Racehorse May Be Closer Than You Think!
Owning A Racehorse May Be Closer Than You Think!
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