Owning a racehorse the cheaper way

By Catherine Burns
Business reporter, BBC News

image captionTrainer John Best says syndicate members must take his advice

They say you do not get rich gambling but what about owning racehorses?

The prize money for this year's Grand National is £950,000.

It is an expensive sport though, especially at the top levels.

It can cost anything from several thousand to millions of pounds to buy a horse.

There is a saying in the sport: it costs as much to train a bad horse as a good one.

The Racehorse Owners Association thinks it comes to an average of £20,000 a year.

And if that is not eye-watering enough, it says for every £100 an owner spends, they will only see £20 as a return on their investment.


One way to take part without so much expense is to join a syndicate.

Around half of racehorses are owned by groups of people.

A few hundred pounds will pay for your own tiny share a horse.

If you want a bigger chunk it will cost thousands.

Stuart Riley works for the Racing Post and points out it is not just about the money.

"People join syndicates because it's a more cost effective way of getting involved in a great sport," he says.

"They're very unlikely to get rich quickly. It's not a get-rich-quick scheme, it's a have-fun-quick scheme."

Selling at the right time

John Best trains horses for syndicates.

He charges members a flat yearly fee, and that covers every possible expense, from stable costs and vets' bills to race entries.

He says there is no need for racehorse owners to lose money.

In his view it all comes down to one key thing: selling the horse on again at the right time.

"Overall, from the time they buy a horse until they sell, they can make a healthy profit, about 20% or 30% - provided they listen to my advice."

He says his biggest success story was an owner who invested £70,000.

The prize money and profits from selling his horse came to more than £1.5m.

But right now, he's very excited about one young horse in particular.

"A year ago Stone of Folca was syndicated for £30,000," he says.

"We've just recently turned down an offer for £300,000 - and I'm confident by the end of the summer he could be worth a million or more."

Winners enclosure

Pub landlady Miggie Ravenscroft is one of the horse's many owners.

image captionMiggie's winnings are now money to burn

She paid £185 in all, so she thinks her share is the equivalent to maybe an ear, or some whiskers.

But even so, she still gets to enjoy some serious perks.

Last year, out of all the owners, her name was picked for a badge at Royal Ascot.

Stone of Folca came 4th in the race, so Miggie got to go into the winners' enclosure.

She realises how lucky that makes her.

"There are people who've had horses all their lives and never get there, so that was such a start - he's an absolutely brilliant horse."

After that success, she joined another syndicate.

This time she invested £1,000 and it has not gone so well.

In fact, the horse was doing so badly, the syndicate decided to stop racing her.

But it has not put Miggie off.

"The money I've made is mine to burn as I wish. This is never going to make me rich but it makes me happy."

There is no compulsory regulation for racing syndicates, although they can sign up to the Racing Syndicates and Club Association.

Any group that joins agrees to abide by its rules.

The Racehorse Owners Association says if you want to join a syndicate, you should always make sure there is a partnership agreement and read it properly before you sign up.

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