Long known as the ‘sport of kings’, competitive horse racing has enjoyed something of a lofty status for much of its history. Although you will not find royalty at most meetings these days, the sport has consistently attracted people with money and power, including celebrities. The wealthy seem to enjoy the fancy attire, fine dining, exclusive boxes and the thrill that comes with cheering on their own horse.
With horse racing having such a competitive element, it should come as little surprise that it often attracts people who made careers by pushing themselves physically to the next level. Although not exclusively, sporting stars feature heavily on our list of celeb racehorse owners. There are many that have dipped in and out of the ownership game but here we will only focus on names that are still reportedly active or have been active recently.
If you wish to check the overall record of a particular celebrity owner, this is a task often made tricky by joint ownership agreements. Rather than owning all their horses outright, many celebrities join forces with other names or buy into a syndicate. If you wanted to look at Sir Alex Ferguson’s horses for example you would see some are owned by Ferugson, Mason, Hales, whereas others are Ferguson, Barber, Mason and others.
You may wonder why a celebrity does not just fund the hobby outright, given the wealth they amassed during their careers. Being the owner of a horse can be eye-wateringly expensive at times and for individuals who may no longer earn much money, their savings could take quite the dent. By joining forces with others though, people can reduce the risk while still enjoying the involvement that comes with being an owner.
Sir Alex Ferguson
The legendary Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, is no stranger to the winner’s enclosure in horse racing. With a passion that rivals his dedication to football, Ferguson has tasted success as a racehorse owner and breeder. His ownership highlights include horses like Rock of Gibraltar, a multiple Group 1 winner, and What A Friend who achieved modest fame by winning the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
The former Red Devils boss celebrated what he claimed to be his best day at the race during the 2021 Grand National Festival. Having been an owner for two decades at this point, it was quite the bold statement but one that was hard to argue with. In just half a day at Aintree, Fergie bagged a Grade One treble with Monmiral, Clan Des Obeaux and Protektorat all winning their respective contests. This completed a lucrative 63/1 treble which paid out around £170k in prize money, with Ferguson getting a decent chunk of this for himself.
Given how popular horse racing is in France, it should be no real surprise that a Frenchman has made it onto our list. Although still very active on the football field, the World Cup-winning forward appears to be getting a head-start on some of his post-career hobbies. He was introduced to the sport by his father Alain who himself has been in the ownership game for some time.
Antonie is now part of the Ecurie Griezmann stable who have already enjoyed involvement in some big races. Back in June 2021, they entered Natasukashi in the Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines in France, a race which was worth over £500,000 for connections of the winning horse. Unfortunately for Griezmann, his horse finished dead last that day but the team has enjoyed 29 victories from 180 efforts at the time of writing, amassing over €500,000 in prize money.
Carol Vorderman & Richard Hammond
This unlikely duo has a share in the Surf on the Turf syndicate, which means they are part owners of the horse Subway Surf. The bay mare appears to have retired now, having last raced in May 2022, and she will be remembered for being an ‘almost but not quite’ runner. In her final 13 races the Milan offspring failed to record a win but finished in the runner-up on five occasions and third an additional two times. Time will tell if the Surf on the Turf syndicate continues and if they get more fortunate with the horses they own.
In the meantime though, Vorderman is a regular visitor to the races and has some other part ownership involvement. The situation with the Grand Tour star is less clear but his wife Mindy is active in the business, notably with Class 2 winner Farinet.
Dame Judi Dench
Dame Judi Dench has long had a passion for horse racing and this is what saw her named as the principal Patron of the British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre. Her biggest feat on the course though came via Smokey Oakey, winner of the 2008 Lincoln Handicap. Born in 1934 (Dench that is), she is not as present on the racecourse as she used to be but she still has a share in a few horses. The world-famous actress is known to be generous with her nags too, in part as she donated Smokey Oakey to the East Park Riding for the Disabled Group upon his retirement.
We mentioned earlier how some celebrities have an assortment of different ownership agreements and one of the more interesting ones is the Dench-Alex Ferguson link-up. The pair are both part owners of Outlaw Peter following the investment of Ferguson and millionaire businessman Ged Mason in the gelding. So far Peter has shown decent promise, recording a top-two finish in seven of his last nine efforts. One of these did feature just two runners mind you!
A true cockney geezer at heart, it is no great surprise that Harry Redknapp is a regular at the races. With his management days fully behind him, and him not being a character who wants an entirely peaceful retirement, racehorse ownership seemed to be the way to go. The former Portsmouth and Tottenham boss (among others) had a tough start to life as an owner but he’s been gaining some notable successes of late. Knockhill is one of these, a horse bought for 44,000 guineas (£46,200) which was then sold for a six-figure sum after winning as a 33/1 debutant.
Most of Redknapp’s horses run solely under his name, although he has had a few partnership arrangements (like with Knockhill). For horses running solely for him though, at the time of writing he had a respectable 17% strike rate for GB jump races (five year) and 13% over the flat (five year), which is a pretty decent record for a new trainer.
Actress Hurley has been involved in racing since 2009 and has often been spotted at major meetings such as the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood. In 2011, as part-owner, she sold one of her horses, Memory (a Group 2 winner) to Queen Elizabeth II for a sizeable £500,000. It turned out not to be the best investment the former monarch made though as Memory’s progeny did not get up to too much, with the exception of Call To Mind.
Back then Hurley was one of many wealthy people who invested in the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing syndicate. Others who invested at the time included actor Hugh Bonneville and chef Heston Blumenthal. It is unclear how much money she still has in Highclere but the syndicate is going strong with around 50 active horses.
For someone with such a glittering footballing career, mimicking this on the racetrack was always going to be a tough ask. Although Owen is yet to hit such heights outside of football, he is an owner with a decent amount of prowess. He has won some very notable races including the Dubai Gold Cup, the Breeders’ Cup Turf and the Irish St Leger. All these wins came courtesy of Brown Panther, who sadly died following a fatal injury at the Curragh in 2015.
Did you know that interested racing fans can join the Michael Owen Racing Club for an annual fee of £95? Members get regular updates from the horses he owns, plus the opportunity to win tickets when they are in action. At the time of writing though, Owen only had two horses in action, He’s a Gentleman foaled in 2019 and Pearly Star foaled in 2020. Trainer Hugo Palmer has spoken highly of them but the pair have one win each across 34 attempts so members have had little to celebrate of late. Not sure you are really justifying that £95 fee Michael.
As someone who married into royalty, former England rugby player Tindall was always going to have some useful racing connections. Wife Zara, granddaughter of the late Queen Elizabeth II, herself has a real racing passion and even has an equestrian Olympic silver medal. Together the pair have made quite the team. They first really got a taste for racehorse ownership thanks to Monbeg Dude’s success in the Welsh Grand National and then had a decent pop at the Aintree version too. Purchased by Mike for a sizeable £12,000 on something of a whim, the 40/1 shot earned £105,000 in prize money for finishing third in Aintree’s big race in 2015.
More recently, Mike and Zara have been to Australia where owners were selling young thoroughbreds at the Magic Million Yearling Sale. With the average sale price £154,000 during one week, it was the chance to get some considerable money for their Pierata colt. Mike’s continued involvement in the sport is thanks to him reinvesting some of Monbeg Dude’s winnings (career earnings of £261,997). From this, he put a good chunk of the money into a syndicate set up by Hannah Wall and David Redvers.