Elsewhere on the site you can read a piece about the amount of money that jockeys make in the horse racing industry, as well as the richest jockeys in history. They are the most public figures in the sport, recognisable by most people who have more than just a passing interest in the gee-gees. Second on that list is almost certainly the trainers, with the best in the business being household names.
The likes of Gordon Elliott, Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson are personalities that make headlines because of their successes, with money flowing into their bank accounts as a result. Yet what about the less successful trainers? What sort of money can they make on a yearly basis and does it vary wildly throughout the industry? We’ve had a look.
Trainers Face Four Major Costs
Regardless of the level that a trainer operates at, they face four major costs that they need to shell out for regularly:
The most costly of these is normally the staff, depending on the size of the yard. A decent size staff can end up costing a trainer as much as 40% of their overall running costs, which is why those working in a yard no longer have the luxury of years gone by. In the past staff members would look after a maximum of three horses, but nowadays it can be as many as five.
Yards will often look to part-time workers and trainees to help make up the numbers, but they can’t be trusted to look after individual horses for the simple reason that they lack the experience. A staff member’s day can look like this:
- Start work at 6am
- Work through until 11.20am
- Return for 2 hours in the afternoon
- Finish at 6pm
Those staff members will be paid around £500 a week for that working day, which is more than most people in much better paid jobs will have to put in time-wise. A trainer with six full-time staff members and part-time riders paid £20 a lot will have an outlay of around £17,500 every single month.
The payment of staff is a crucial part of a trainer’s outlay for the simple reason that they’re the ones that will keep the horses healthy and safe. The other major cost is rent or mortgage payments, which will obviously vary for every trainer. Using a good racing town like Newmarket as an example, rent there costs around £3,000 per month.
That means around £36,000 in rent every year, plus about £120 per horse for horses to be able to access the gallops in Newmarket. The more horses you have in your yards the more it will cost you to give them all a run, which is something else that a trainer needs to factor in. Obviously those that have inherited a facility, for example, will save money over others.
Chuck in bills for the likes of gas and electricity and you can see how much the overheads on a yard can make a massive difference to a trainer’s income at the end of the year. Horses need to be kept warm and dry, so it’s not as if they can be left in an abandoned barn with no light or heating in place there.
As well as being kept warm and dry, horses also need to be fed and looked after. With as many as 30 horses in a yard it can cost £2,000 a month for bedding alone, whilst hay on top of that will be another £700 per month. Feed, supplements and other products will add nearly £2,000 to the costs.
There’s also the slight matter of the stables needing to be mucked out. Once they’ve been mucked that muck then needs to be taken away if it’s not going to be reused elsewhere in the yard, with the cost for that sitting at around £350 per month. Ulcers are common for horses, with ulcer powder and similar things costing £400 a month.
The reason these are variables is that it’s dictated by the number of horses a yard has. It is obviously cheaper to have fewer horses, but then the possible income from those horses is also reduced. It’s a balance that trainers need to think about when deciding how many horses to have and how many staff they’ll need to work with them.
This is the toughest one for a trainer to budget for, just as it for normal people to do at their home. Costs for when a tractor breaks down, say, or a horse gets ill and needs to receive treatment from a vet. You not only have the vet’s fees but also the cost of the medication that a horse needs in order to recover its full health.
Something that could be put into the column for incidentals, variables or fixed overheads is the transportation of horses from one venue to another. A 320 mile round-trip can cost about £250 per horse, which works out as 78 pence per horse per mile. Send 25 horses on a 6,000 mile round trip and that’s nearly £5,000 in travelling costs.
Obviously that’s not even taking into account the cost of transporting the human beings that need to go with the horses in order to look after and work with them. That can send costs up even higher depending on how many staff a trainer wants to take and how they’ll be travelling from place to place.
A training yard with more horses will benefit from the economies of scale, but only slightly. The more horses that are looked after by a yard, the more the outlays will be to look after them. A 30-horses yard will be looking at monthly outlays of around £35,000, or £1,167 per horse.
Translate that to a 100-horse yard and the outlay sits at about £100,000 per month. The equates to approximately £1,000 per horse. A slight saving, but not when you consider the increased outlay across the board that a bigger yard will have to cope with.
What About Income?
Now that we know about the outlay that a trainer will have to cope with, we can look at their income with a better understanding of how the figures alone don’t tell the full story. The first place to start is by looking at prize money, which can seem like a huge dividend if you’re only looking at those at the top end of the industry.
Trainers receive a little bit less than 10% of prize money for a horse that is a winner, whilst horses that only place result in them getting a touch shy of 6% of the associated prize money. A flat horse trainer that saw his horses gain £8.5 million in prize money would receive about £750,000 of that money, for example.
It looks like an impressive figure, but when you factor in what we already know about costs you can see that in actual fact it would only cover a 100-horse yard’s expenses for about half a year. When Jonjo O’Neill took roughly £50,000 of the £640,000 that his 125 individual runners amassed during a year, it wasn’t enough to cover one month in overheads.
How Trainers Make Money
Prize money, then, is only one possible source of income for a horse trainer. It would have to be, given how little of it they actually receive and the fact that it’s not an income that they can know for sure that they’re going to receive each month. When it comes to doing their projections for the year, a trainer can’t include prize money that they might not win.There are three other ways that training yards are able to make money:
- Training Fees
- Buying & Then Selling Horses
- Transportation Fees
Trainers aren’t really able to depend on the buying and selling of horses as a way of making money, given that most claim that the best that they can usually do is to simply break even. That is especially the case when it comes to jump racing, with flat racing usually providing a greater opportunity to make a profit because the horses are pricier.
A better bet when it comes to turning a profit is in transportation, with trainers that are able to offer their transportation vehicles to others likely to see that raise them some money. Fees can be set at whatever they think is fair, so they can charge others £1 per horse per mile if they wish to, seeing the money come in from that for much lower overheads.
The main income that a trainer is able to make comes from training fees. It’s why the successful trainers are able to make more money than their less successful counterparts. A trainer that is in demand can obviously set much higher prices than one that isn’t. The higher prices they charge for training, the more money they’ll make.
The trouble with this as far as we’re concerned is that most trainers are reluctant to advertise how much they charge for training. It can range anywhere from £30 per day, per horse through to £90 per day, per horse. A yard with just 30 horses in it would operate at a loss if charging £30 per day, per horse. A Minimum of £39 would need to be charged simply to break even.
Let’s say that a trainer with 30 horses decided to charge £40 per horse, per day. That would present them with a monthly profit of around £8,000, provided they have no incidentals that they need to cope with. A Broken tractor or an ill or injured horse would see that profit reduce quickly, as it would if a horse’s owner decided to remove it from the yard.
With this in mind, then, a trainer’s best hope of making a profit is to charge a healthy amount for training and have their yard full as much as possible. That also means that the likes of prize money and anything earned from transporting horses or buying and selling them is just pure profit on top of the money made from the training.
Total Income and Outgoings
Here’s a look at the ins and outs for a trainer with a 30-horse yard that doesn’t offer transportation, earns a middling amount in prize money (£250,000 over a year, of which they receive 6%) and charges £50 per horse, per day for training:
|Amount Per Month
|Amount Per Month
|Access To Gallops
|Food & Hay
|Collection Of Muck
Looking at that yard, we can see that the monthly profit sits at around £13,025. That amounts to yearly profits of £156,300.
You can see the importance of the training fees, given that a cost of £30 per horse, per day would amount to around £27,375 a month in profit. That would mean a loss of around £5,425 every month.
It’s crucial that a trainer is able to justify the price that they pay for training, which is why the best in the business are able to earn such large amounts of money. They can not only charge more for training but are also able to add decent prize money into their monthly profit column more often than not because their horses are successful.
It really can be a case of the haves and the have-nots when it comes to the world of horse training. The more horses a yard can have the more likely they are to generate a profit as long as they’re good enough to justify the high fee that they will want to charge to train a horse. The losses will also be higher, though, because of the size of the yard.
It’s also worth noting that the staffing cost is based on not having to pay the staff more than £500 per week, but that can easily change depending on the quality of the staff. Different yards will have different outlays for all sorts of reasons, but this is as good a guide to likely profit that we can offer without knowing every variable around.