Race your own horses

The Sport of Kings

Originally published in Crème de la Crème, January 2010

Gabriel Knowles

Owning and racing your own horse needn't cost you a fortune, and sharing the cost with a group of like-minded enthusiasts can make it very economical indeed. Start a syndicate!

It may be the sport of kings but you don’t need to have a basement full of bullion to get amongst the glitz and glamour of horse racing.

In fact for under $1000 you can get a share in six horses and watch them race all around Australia without paying another dollar.
This is the method many first timers choose when they take the plunge into thoroughbred ownership and according to Rod Peacock from Hancox Bloodstock it represents the best value for money. “We set up an unlisted public company. Then we buy six horses and 800 people pay $950 per share. That pays for everything to race those horses for three years and if any of them are really good then they can go on for another year.” Peacock says. “Obviously it all depends on the horse but in those big packages you get a lot of entertainment along the way. Every second week they’ll have a runner and they’re all over Australia.”

For those with a little more disposable income, getting involved in a syndicate with 20 other shareholders or a partnership of 10 owners offers much higher returns. “Your 10 and 20 share groups have ongoing fees.” Peacock says. “You’ve got an upfront cost to buy your share and then there’s a monthly fee. The 20 share people might put in $130 a month and that covers everything. We find monthly is the way to go so that people can budget around it.“

While race day might bring the finest hats, dresses and suits out of the closet that’s not to say participants are limited to those with the finest threads. “It’s all walks of life. In fact we generally get young people, they’ll come in during their early twenties and generally stick with it.” Peacock admits. “We had a guy who was 92 and he rang up and said he wanted to join but could he leave his shares to his grandson.”

“You might get a group of mates that set up their own syndicate and buy a couple of shares in the one horse.” Peacock offers before giving the secret to success. “We advise that instead of buying one horse they spread their risk and buy shares in several horses and then they get more action along the way. Instead of buying a whole horse - buy 20% of five horses.”

So what should prospective thoroughbred owners keep in mind when considering getting involved? “We tell people not to expect enormous things. You’re taking a punt getting into racehorses so you should go into it hoping rather than expecting to make money”, says Peacock. “In the long run very few people make a profit out of racing but you can have a hell of a lot of fun along the way. It’s like buying a lotto ticket but more interesting!”

Syndication: Probably the easiest way to get involved with racing outside of a bookmaker’s office. After the up-front and one-off payment you’re ready to follow your horses all over the country. Starting from under $1000.

Partnership: The next level for those with a bit more disposable income and passion for the track. This is most popular amongst groups of friends who want to experience the thrill and pride of seeing their charges race. Shares cost from $1000 to $10,000, and monthly fees starting from $130 a month.

Sole Ownership: One for the racing aficionados. They might have to keep their horse in oats all year round but they also get a big say in any major decisions along with the trainer. Having a tilt at the Melbourne Cup could be their choice. Buying a thoroughbred can cost as little as $1000 or as much as a million. Maintenance costs average around $15,000 a year.

Leasing: The try-before-you-buy option. The horse will race under your name while you’re paying but you’ll have to keep it fed and fit. And should the horse start winning the owner will want it back at the end of the lease. A typical lease structure involves paying the owner one third of any winnings.

The Sport of Kings as published in PDF form