Some personal thoughts on ownership

Buying a horse

First things first: decide if you are going to be a sole owner, in a partnership or in a syndicate.  If you have always set your heart on naming a horse, choosing your own racing colours and deciding with the trainer when and where he runs then you may want to go down the sole ownership route. If you are also cynical and/or pessimistic this is also the route as it will allow you to blame the trainer and make changes at your own discretion. For many people all of the above may well be true but sole ownership is not an option because of one factor: money!

Obviously if you partner with, let’s say, three people then your costs would be 75% less and you would still have a lot of the pleasure of ownership and have a few mates to have the craic with when it runs. Just think of the celebrations when you win! (Although, in the spirit of balance, who will get you out of the trough of despair when you lose?) Of course, friends can always fall out so make sure everyone knows what is expected. We all have that ‘friend’ who is last into the bar – make sure you get their money up front.

Assuming that neither sole ownership or a partnership is an option for you (presumably because you either can’t afford it and/or have no friends) then there are always syndicates. These have become extremely popular over recent years as it gives people the thrill of ownership and the sense of belonging at a fraction of the cost. Many syndicates have over 100 members (some many more) who pay a fixed amount for the training and running of a horse. Many syndicates have several horses for members to follow ; the members are provided, typically, with updates and can go into the paddock on  a rota basis.

                                            Snaafi Dancer at auction.....horses can make fools out of you

                                            Snaafi Dancer at auction.....horses can make fools out of you

How much the horse costs is anyone's guess. It seems like any horse that wins a Point to Point can fetch the best part of 100k at auction. But you don't have to go to auction; you can buy privately (I would suggest engaging a trainer in advance) Bay of Freedom was unraced (and unbroken) so there is much more risk associated with buying a horse like that; a risk that is reflected in a lower price. I was happy to pay 16000 Euros for him based on his pedigree, conformation and just the way he held himself when walking; it could have been a complete waste of money but, as of now, it looks like money well spent. I have no interest in selling but figures above 100k were being bandied around after he won at Galway.

Horses can and do go for crazy money and many times there is little or no return. Things, however, are not as crazy as they were in the early 1980's when a yearling called Snaafi Dancer was sold for the incredible sum of $10.2m. Sent to be trained in England, he never set foot on a race; by all accounts he was so slow it would have been embarrassing. His pedigree was good so not all hope was lost as he went to stud; two years later and beset by fertility problems, his stud career was over after producing just four foals (who were all pretty useless).

Best advice: find someone you trust who knows about horses and follow them and not the money.

Choosing a Name

The name does not have to have any particular meaning or logic but there are some things to consider:

1)      The name cannot be longer than 18 characters (including spaces)

2)      It cannot be in use or protected (some great horses of the past have their names protected so that some inferior horse doesn’t get given the same name (it’s a bit like retiring numbers in other sports)

3)      It cannot be deemed offensive (however subtle you might think you’re being) or the name of a real person (unless you have their permission). If you choose Patrick Murphy that would be a lot of emailing to get permission but, on the other hand, is The Edge a real name?

4)      Names are a bit like tattoos: they cannot be removed or adequately covered up and once you have one you are stuck with it. Accordingly, you might want to think twice about naming your horse I Love Mabel particularly if you only met her four weeks ago. I guess you could always sell her to someone whose wife is also called Mabel (although that would rule anyone out under 95)

5)      It may be fun to find a name that Des Scahill (course commentator) cannot pronounce. (Hint: you may want to start with a list of names he can pronounce – it’s much shorter)

How much does it cost?

The phrase ‘think of a number and double it’ comes to mind. Peter Fahey charges 35 Euro per day when the horse is in training and 12 Euros when it is at grass. On that basis the maximum training fees are 12740 Euros per year but that will never happen; no horse is in training all year round. Realistically, it is unlikely that a horse will be in full training for more than nine months so that would ‘reduce’ the training fees to 10647 Euros

For a partnership of four people that would work out to around 50 Euros per week or two less pints per night – not entirely out of sight for many people

There are, however, a few additional costs on top of these training fees. A short list would include vet fees, medication, shoes, transportation.  In my 15 months with Peter his charges have totalled 18351 Euros which is about 14680 per year. And there’s more....

Peter will occasionally take the horse for to the Curragh to gallop; these gallop fees are 30 Euro each and  are charged directly to my HRI account and, to date, I have paid 960 Euros. HRI also levies charges for registering names (a one –off charge) and Authority to Act, colours and membership of the Owners Association and the Horse Welfare Trust.

When it comes to actually racing there are some additional fees. It costs 0.8% of the prize money to enter in any given race; a further 0.2% is payable if the horse is declared to run. Therefore, for a 10000 Euro race the entry fee would be 80 Euro and an additional 20 if the horse is declared.  In a professional race, there is a jockeys fee; these change annually.

If you actually win or get placed prize money there are deductions made for the jockey, trainer as well as the Jockeys and Stable Staff associations.

If you were to look at my Profit and (Loss) after 15 months it would be something like this:

Income                                                    7030

Expenses                                             (20722)

Net Expenses                                     (13692) Euros    (around $16500)


At the end of the day

My advice for potential owners is this:

Throw away any business acumen you may have, commit to losing 20000 Euros a year, develop previously unidentified levels of patience, find a supportive wife, husband or partner and just do it! It is the most intoxicating thing you will ever do.  

I am so lucky to be able to have a horse, never mind one like Bay of Freedom. You cannot put a price on the dream I am living now; long may it continue.