If you’ve paid any attention whatsoever to horse racing over the years, it will come as no surprise to you that it is not cheap to buy and train a racehorse. For the majority of people, the cost would be far too much to even entertain the idea, but there are ways of getting involved in the world of ownership that make it accessible to many who might not have realised before. Of course, if you want your own horse then you might be able to get one for a reasonable amount of money, but the cost of keeping it and training it goes on top of that.
There is a reason why it seems to mainly be the rich and / or famous that own racehorses. On top of the cost of buying, maintaining and training a horse, you also normally have to pay for it to enter races and the prize money isn’t usually all that much. Indeed, for many owners the way in which they make money from their horse is by putting them out to stud, although it is fair to say that it is usually only horses that have enjoyed a degree of success that get to charge the big bucks. The question is, then, just how much does it cost to buy and train a racehorse?
Start With The Horse
It might sound obvious, but the first place to start is with the horse that you want to buy. After all, you can line up the best trainer in the world but it would be a bit pointless if they had nothing to take into the field with them. It is probably not that much of a surprise to learn that the exact price of a horse is not something that it is easy to put a figure on. There are any number of different factors that will go towards deciding a horse’s price, but you might be interested to know that the average horse sold at auctions at the time of writing is around £27,000, or 25,000 guineas.
That isn’t to say that you’ll actually have to pay that much to buy a horse, of course. If you choose to look away from the auctions then there will be plenty of options open to you. The average cost is around £4,000, with the major considerations that you’ll face being what breed the horses is and how popular that breed is at the time that you’re looking to purchase it. As with any commodity, how available your chosen breed is will also be a deciding factor in the price that you’ll eventually pay to get a horse you can take home.
Buying From A Charity
One of the cheapest ways to get a horse is to turn to an animal welfare charity. The likes of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will allow you to buy a horse that they’ve rescued, for example. The fee to do so is normally quite small, too, so you can expect to pay in the region of £50 for a horse. You will need to be able to prove that you can give them a good life, though, and most horses will have led a rubbish life before you get them. That means that they might be malnourished or difficult to handle; both of which will make them tricky to train for the rigours of horse racing.
National Equine Welfare Council
Whilst you’re extremely unlikely to be able to get a racehorse from the National Equine Welfare Council, what you might be able to do is get the contact details of a dealer that might have a line on a racehorse becoming available. The key things that you’ll want to do is to make sure that the dealer is trustworthy and also that you can see the home environment that the racehorse is kept in. If you’re new to the world of horse racing, you would be well-served to get the help of someone that knows what they’re talking about so that you can be sure that you’re not being taken for a ride.
If you’ve got the money, an auction is a great place to turn in order to buy a horse. Obviously the problem with this is that other people will have the same idea, so there will be a lot of competition for the horses on offer. The people bidding are also likely to know more than you unless you’re either an expert or are working with someone that knows what they’re talking about. Whether it be ensuring you’re paying a sensible price or inspecting the horse to make sure it is well-bred, someone involved in the process needs to be up on the topic.
The Close-Knit Community
As anyone that has ever noted the number of names that come up time and time again in horse racing, such as Balding, Mullins and Walsh, will tell you, horse racing is close-knit as a community. That’s why horses that are going to be sold are most likely to be known about by those that already have connections in the world of horse racing. You can look out on equestrian websites and magazines for that reason, in addition to making contact with breeders to see what they’re plans are with the horses that are being bred.
Claiming & Selling Races
The final thing to tell you about in terms of being able to buy a horse is the world of claiming and selling races. These two different types of race are just as competitive as any other, with the big difference being that they can be bought at the end. The winner of a selling race is put up for auction at the race’s conclusion, with a minimum price of £3,200 put on the horse. This can be changed at the course’s discretion, but it at least ensures the horse’s owners will get some money for their prized asset at the end of the event.
In a claiming race, all of the horses that are taking part can be bought. The price that there available for is set by the trainer ahead of the race, so the price can’t be changed if the horse does well. In 2018, the British Horseracing Authority put a cap on the commission that courses would be able to charge on selling and claiming races, limiting it to 10% This was because courses were putting large commissions in place and owners stopped putting their horses into such races, fearing that they’d lose out financially.
How Much Does Training Cost?
Buying a horse can cost you a surprisingly small amount of money right the way up to an amount that would be eye-watering for most people. One area that you can’t really skimp on if you want your horse to be successful, though, is the training. Unsurprisingly, the best trainers charge the most money, so trying to explain how much it will cost becomes a little bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ scenario. Line up a horse to be trained by Nicky Henderson, say, and you’ll be looking at a lot more than just some random person.
You will also find that each trainer will have their own way of paying. Some will ask you to pay a monthly fee whilst others will break their costs down daily. What they’ll charge depends largely on what they’ve done with the horse whilst it’s been in their command, so it’s not even like most of them will have set fees. In 2017, Willie Mullins split from owner Michael O’Leary when it was revealed that he was putting his training prices up by 10%, moving from €50 to €55 per day. That might not seem like much, but that’s €275 per week, or more than €1,000 a month.
Paying To Enter Races
You’ve bought your horse and settled on a trainer, so the next thing that you’ll want to do is enter it into a race or two. What you might not have thought of is just how expensive this is likely to be. As with so many other aspects of horse racing, there are numerous different things that might influence this. All we can tell you for certain is how much you’ll need to pay to the British Horseracing Authority in terms of administrative fees for entering your horse into a race, with the following being those costs at the time of writing:
- Entering a domestic race online: £23
- Enterting a domestic race by telephone: £32.95
- Entering a race in a foreign country: £82.50
All prices are excluding Value Added Tax, too. The one thing that might make you slightly more willing to pay this money is that it is used to pay the overall prize money for the races, as well as the administration of the BHA and the race that you’re looking to enter. Race entry fees themselves tend to be a percentage of the prize pot, ranging from 0.25% through to about 1.5%. The Grand National, as an example, has a prize pot of £1 million on the line, so the entry fee for the race would come in at around £15,000 per horse.
What Other Fees Are There?
If you’re still interested in buying a horse and entering it into a race or two then you might well change your mind when you realise what else it is that you’ve got to pay for. For starters, the jockeys that ride your horse need to be paid. They get a flat fee, which is £127.90 in flat racing and £174.63 in the jump racing world, at the time of writing. If your horse ends up the prize money then you’ll also need to pay the jockey a percentage of any winnings, so it isn’t a cheap thing to get someone to ride your horse.
Then there are the medical and insurance fees that you’ll need to pay. Horses need any number of veterinary checks and procedures, a lot of which won’t be covered by your insurance. If they get an injury in a race, however, then there’s a good chance that decent insurance will cover it. The problem is, you need to pay for the privilege, so the cost of it goes on top of everything else that you’re already shelling out for. That being said, if you can afford to get involved in the world of horse racing then maybe you’re not too worried about that.
Syndicates: The ‘Cheaper’ Way To Own A Racehorse
Whilst it’s fairly clear from what we’ve written here that owning a racehorse is not a cheap activity, there are ways of doing it that can reduce the cost. One of the best ways available to most people is to become part of a syndicate. This form of shared ownership often means that most of the issues of owning a horse, such as paying for medical care or the cost of entering a race, are taken care of. It works by offering a limited number of shares in a horse, with those that buy such a share paying a fixed fee. Depending on the trainer that is offering the syndicate membership and some other factors, this could be as low as £25 per month.
The big thing about being part of a syndicate that most people will be pleased with is the fact that you get most of the benefits of being any other sort of owner. You will be able to go into the parade ring at the racecourse that your horse is racing at, for example, in addition to the likes of the owners’ bar. There are other areas that are usually pretty exclusive, which owners are able to enter regardless of whether they have one share in a horse or they’ve bought it outright. Ownership has its benefits, even if it costs a lot to get them.