The dream of owning a racehorse is one held by many punters and fans of the sport of horse racing. Watching a horse that you have backed romp home to land even a small bet is an incredible thrill so it is hard to even imagine how it would feel to watch one of your own horses land any race, let alone a big one. Throw in the glamour of the parade ring and perhaps even the winner’s enclosure, the chance to access all areas of the course, and watching your horse develop and improve in training and it is very easy to understand why many fans of horse racing would just love to find a way to own a horse.
But how much does it cost to own a racehorse? And what about other costs such as training, stables, veterinary fees, insurance and so on? Well, in some regards, the answer to the question “How much does it cost to own a racehorse?” – as with many similar questions – is equivalent to “How long is a piece of string?”. That said, racehorse ownership is no longer the sole preserve of the very wealthy and innovative new methods of ownership mean that just about anyone can now own at least a share in a horse.
Most of the big races will tend to be won by horses owned by millionaires and even billionaires and when we look at the fees commanded for the best-bred horses we will understand why. However, there is still the odd fairy tale, so if your budget is more seaside donkey than thoroughbred stallion you might still be able to get the thrill of (at least partly) owning a winner of a big contest.
Read on as we take a closer look at just how much it costs to own a racehorse, as we go about breaking down the various outgoings and also look at the different models of ownership.
How Much Does It Cost to Purchase the Racehorse?
If you want to own a racehorse the most obvious outlay will be on purchasing the horse itself. You can either buy a horse outright, or if you are an established owner, pay to have a top stud “cover” one of your mares. Frankel, the highest rated flat horse in the history of racing, also commands one of the biggest stud fees too. The charge started at £125,000 based purely on his brilliance at the track but once his progeny began winning races that fee jumped to £175,000, although Dubawi (£250,000) and Frankel’s sire Galileo (undisclosed) still command even more.
In terms of buying horses, if we again look at the very top end, a Frankel yearling is likely to set you back something around the £400,000-£500,000 mark. In 2019, 37 such horses were sold, commanding an average fee of more than £436,000!
That said, the cheapest of Frankel’s offspring that year went for around £70,000 and horses with less esteemed sires can be bought for figures as low as just a few thousand pounds. Of course, once you have the horse, there are lots of other charges too, with training fees the next thing to consider.
Other Costs Involved
The Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) was established back in 1945 and offers a wealth of information on owning a horse. Their 2015 survey into costs showed that to keep a horse in training would set you back around £20,000 a year. They state, “For a Flat horse the average cost was £22,595 and for a Jumps horse the average was £16,325.”
However, it is worth noting that these charges relate to the “annual costs of keeping a horse in training”, as opposed to the annual costs of having a horse trained. This figure also includes other aspects of ownership and is, in fact, fairly comprehensive:
- Vet fees
- Entries and registration fees
- Jockey costs
- Pre/out of training costs
In addition to these regular annual charges there are potentially further costs involved though, chiefly insurance, although the average figures quoted above should, generally speaking, cover all normal charges. However, just as a horse can cost anything from a low four-figure sum right up to a high six- or even seven-figure one, many of the costs quoted by the ROA can also vary enormously.
What Is the Daily Cost of Owning a Racehorse?
Whilst around £20,000 is an average figure, clearly this can vary a lot, with the quality of the trainer likely to be the biggest factor pushing costs up. The ROA stats, which we should add are from a relatively small sample size and date back only to 2015, suggest an average daily fee of £44 for a flat horse and £39 for a NH one. However, the highest fees within the survey were £75 on the flat and £57 for jumps.
Moving from £44 to £75 a day means a much higher charge over the course of an entire year and the top, top trainers charge considerably more than that as well. With additional charges for the big-name trainers to attend races, the figure can soon add up, although many racing fans may still be pleasantly surprised with how affordable horse ownership can be.
What Is the Yearly Cost of Owning a Racehorse?
A broad range of £10,000 to £35,000 a year probably covers the vast majority of horses. Clearly when we say “how affordable horse ownership can be” we are talking in relative terms. To own a horse outright, individually, still takes some serious cash but there are a good range of different models that do make it within reach of just about anyone.
How Much Does it Cost to Own a Horse in a Syndicate?
For many, going to the races is a sociable activity that they enjoy with friends or family. If you, your friends or your family happen to be reasonably well off, owning a decent racehorse might well be within your grasp if you opt to buy one as a group, otherwise known as a syndicate.
The ROA estimate that more than half of horses being trained in the UK are owned either jointly, through a partnership or in syndicates. Obviously the fewer people you partner with, the more it will cost. Some charges are slightly different for group owners but essentially you would be just dividing the costs mentioned above by however many people are taking a share in the horse (although not all need to own an equal share of the horse).
Whilst it will cost more the fewer people that are involved, the rewards are commensurately better too. Here we mean not just financially but also in terms of the access you will get to the horse and to race days, and also the frequency with which you will be able to enjoy the perks of ownership. Of course, you will probably find it emotionally more rewarding too, with there being a big psychological difference in being one of three owners, for example, rather than one of 100.
In terms of a traditional syndicate, the typical minimum stake one can take in a horse is 2.5%, with 25% usually the level required to be listed as an owner on the racecard. Such syndicates allow owners to group together with people they don’t necessarily know and split the costs among themselves. A 5% stake is usually sufficient for two badges whenever your horse runs, meaning you can gain entry and cheer your steed on from the members’ area. If you get lucky, you’ll also get a 5% share of any prize money (after jockey and trainer fees) and if the syndicate vote to sell the horse you’ll get 5% of any money raised.
If the horse does well even a horse with a relatively low-key pedigree may attract offers from bigger owners and lead to the syndicate generating a healthy net win. That said, such an outcome is definitely the exception rather than rule and racehorse ownership, for most at least, should be a hobby and a passion rather than a serious investment.
Middleham Park Racing
Probably the most famous company offering access to horses through this model is Middleham Park Racing. Based in Lincolnshire, this highly reputable company has been around since 1995 and boast more than 1,000 winners, with “Over £6.2 million pounds of prize money and sales returns achieved in the last two years!”
Whilst other syndicates may operate differently, Middleham say that their average horse will have 16 owners. Precise costings vary but so we have included some examples below that were available as of the 3rd April 2020 and are based on the minimum 2.5% share (the fee is doubled for a 5% share and so on, although monthly fees become proportionately cheaper the more you buy).
|Horse and Notes||Initial cost||Monthly fee|
|Cosmic George – 2YO son of 2,000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach||£850||£92.50|
|King Of Tonga – 4YO, won at Newmarket November 2019||£1975||£82.50|
|Zion Star – 2YO, son of Estidhkaar||£1850||£90|
Leasing a Horse
The concept of leasing a horse may seem strange, however this is another option for those wanting to experience the thrill of racehorse “ownership”. Although you will never actually own the horse, or even a share in it, you will enjoy the same experience, in the same way you would driving a leased Mercedes!
If you opt to lease a horse you will pay a fee to do so and effectively you will “own” that horse for an agreed period of time. You will then be responsible for its upkeep, training and so on. Any winnings earned during the period of the lease will be yours but you will not be able to sell the horse. At the end of the lease period the horse simply returns to the owner but during the course of the agreement you get all the benefits, perks and excitement of ownership.
Leasing can be done either independently, as a partnership or as part of a syndicate and is another way to reduce the overall cost. Whilst you will pay a fee, it will be significantly lower than if you had bought the horse outright.
The Cheapest Way to Own a Horse
By far the cheapest way to own a stake in a racehorse is through any one of a number of companies who offer small-share syndicates. Whilst a traditional system allows fans to buy as little as 2.5% of a horse, these newer ownership models permit much smaller shares in a horse to be owned.
These companies allow a one-off investment of as little as £50 and in truth are great gifts but perhaps not ideal for someone really wanting to experience the full thrill of ownership. They are brilliantly priced, not least because there are no monthly costs. If you buy a share in this way you may be one of 4,000 shareholders, or possibly even more.
That means you will not receive the benefits of full access and the behind the scenes race day experience. You can typically be entered into a ballot for such perks, but with thousands of other people also hoping to get lucky, your odds clearly are not great. Moreover, any financial return you get on your investment is likely to be minimal, given you might actually own as little as 0.025% of the horse.
In addition, whilst there are no extra charges, these shares are usually valid for a limited period of time, usually a season. Essentially all the training, gallops, entry fees and so are included in that price but if you want to continue your involvement with the horse you will need to pay another fee for the following year. In truth, therefore, it is probably better to view these forms of ownership as short-term leases, albeit with the option to extend.
Although these small-share models may not appear an attractive option, they do employ some top trainers. Many of the top names in the business, such as Nicky Henderson, are (or have been) involved. As such, it should come as no major surprise that they have, over the years, landed one or two big wins and uncovered some truly top notch horses.
One of the biggest successes for this sort of site is Pentland Hills. In 2018-2019, this Henderson-trained gelding won five out of six races, including the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. A few weeks after that huge win he was at it again at Aintree, landing the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.
Other notable horses include Getaway Trump, who landed the £100,000 Novices’ Hurdle Final at Sandown in April 2019, and the now-retired Sound Investment, who won three races, landing £120,000 in prize money for his owners.
In terms of the more traditional syndicates there have been some even bigger successes, with Middleham’s Ventura Storm landing a Grade 1 in Italy and finishing second in the St Leger. They also boast Toormore, who won the Group One National Stakes over in Ireland and G Force, who came home in front in the Haydock Sprint Cup, another Group 1.
We would all clearly love to own 100% of a Cheltenham Gold Cup horse or perhaps even a healthy share of something going to post at Royal Ascot. However, if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to paying £175,000 just for a roll in the hay with Frankel, there might still be a way for you to say that “your” horse won a big race, even if you only have £50 to spare!