It is not without reason that horse racing is often referred to as ‘the Sport of Kings’.Due to the prohibitive costs involved in purchasing and keeping racehorses, ownership has traditionally been reserved for the rich and famous. However, with the increasing popularity of syndicates and partnerships across the world, it is now possible for almost everyone to share the thrill of owning a racehorse. Horse racing is no longer just for the elite – it is a sport for everyone.
You often hear that shared joy is double joy, and the perfect example of that came when Redzel galloped to victory in the very first running of the world’s richest turf race, The Everest in Sydney on October 14. The journey of owning a thoroughbred racehorse can be one of the biggest thrills you will ever experience, and sharing a victory with 30 other people is a memory few could forget.
The photographers trackside at Royal Randwick to capture the historic first winner of the inaugural Everest had to back way up to make sure everyone would fit into the winner’s photo. With 30 part-owners, as well as some of their friends and family, there were almost one hundred people gathered in the spot usually reserved for only a privileged few. The celebrations knew no bounds.
Redzel’s victory in The Everest was worth A$5,800,000 and is the ultimate evidence that ownership of top-class racehorses is no longer reserved to the rich and famous.
“We offer track work mornings and stable open days. It’s nice for owners to get to see the actual environment that the horses are in. Racing is unfortunately perceived as a very closed sport, so we are trying to open it up as much as possible.”
“Among the part-owners of Redzel, we have a concreter, a taxi driver, a primary school teacher, a doctor, and a couple of delivery men. It’s remarkable that they are able to compete on this level,” says Alex Wiltshire. He is the communications manager at Triple Crown, the syndication company responsible for Redzel.
Syndication means that the ownership of a horse is split between several people and is managed by a syndicator. All of Triple Crown’s horses race in the same red silks, but each horse has a number of different part-owners, normally between 10 and 20. An alternative is a partnership, consisting of fewer people, who register a share in a horse in their own name.
Syndicates and partnerships provide a cost-effective alternative to sole ownership. Redzel was purchased for A$120,000 at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sales in 2014. Although that is not particularly expensive for a well-bred racehorse like Redzel, a Snitzel son out of Golden Slipper-placed mare Millrich, it is much more than most people can afford. When divided into 10, 20 or 30 shares, the initial purchase cost is suddenly much more manageable. For a 5% share, Triple Crown’s syndicate members pay an average monthly fee of A$200. And Redzel’s owners have certainly got a good return on investment – to date, the five-year-old gelding has won almost A$8,000,000, making him one of the top earners in Australian racing history.
But racehorse ownership is about much more than a potential return on investment, it is about the whole experience. From selecting the horse at the sale, watching track work in the mornings, discussing tactics with the trainer, getting to know the horse’s personality and quirks, and seeing it develop into a full-blown racehorse, ownership can provide a lot of excitement.
“We make sure that owners get the full experience,” says Wiltshire. “We offer track work mornings and stable open days. It’s nice for owners to get to see the actual environment that the horses are in. Racing is unfortunately perceived as a very closed sport, so we are trying to open it up as much as possible.”
“Obviously, they also get the excitement. Whether it is a maiden at a small track or a A$10 million race like the Everest, the thrill of winning as a racehorse owner is the same.”
In recent years, Australia
has developed into the home of syndicates. Around one in every 300 Australians own a share in a racehorse. More than 5,000 syndicates, with a total of almost 30,000 members, operate around the country. However, syndicates and partnerships are available all over the world, and they come in all shapes and forms.
In the United States, Anna Seitz Ciannello found that most racehorse owners were men and decided to do something to change it. In 2013, she launched the It’s All About the Girls syndicate, an ownership experience just for women.
“During the first few partnerships I started, I noticed that a lot of the wives of our male partners really enjoyed going to the races and some of them seemed to be having more fun than their spouses. I wanted to show these women how they could get involved themselves for a relatively low cost and It’s All About the Girls was born,” she explains.
“The first It’s All About the Girls partnership was made up of 40 women from all over the United States. We had a party to name the horse and design the silks and just enjoy the camaraderie of owning a racehorse with other fun-loving women.”
The horse was named Four Inch Heels, and when she won her very first race, It’s All About the Girls was off to a great start. The success led to more horses and more members, and the syndicate currently has five fillies in the USA, three in Australia, and recently purchased two yearlings in Ireland.
The first Australian horse was purchased in 2015, and her ownership group consists of nearly 40 women from seven countries. The aptly named filly Global Glamour turned out to be a superstar, winning two Group 1 races within one week in 2016, providing the ownership group with an adventure they will never forget.
“Global Glamour has been a phenomenal mare for us and she has taken our partners on a heck of a ride so far! For many of our partners, this was their first foray into racehorse ownership, so they are definitely spoiled and having a ball,” says Seitz Ciannello.
The part-owners receive weekly updates and photos, and are encouraged to visit the stable in the mornings to watch their horses train. On race day, they are invited to join the trainer in the saddling paddock, and hopefully into the winner’s enclosure after the race. Seitz Ciannello is also making sure that the part-owners are involved in every step of the selection and training of the horses.
“We feel the more we educate our partners, the more interested they become in the sport. We try to teach them everything from how our selection process at the sales works to the training process and picking certain spots for our horses,” she says.
“We can’t guarantee every horse we buy will have success at the races, but we can give the partners a good, honest experience and show them a good time. And we’ve noticed a lot of the women have not only become friends with each other but also network together. We have amazing women involved in our syndicates and I know I have learned a lot from them about the business world outside of horses.”
Despite sharing the costs with other people, syndicates can still be quite expensive. Therefore, the team behind miRunners decided to take shared ownership one step further, and make racehorse ownership available for more people.
The Australian start-up was established in 2016, and has developed an online platform that allows them to divide a horse into 1000 units, sold through their website or mobile app.
“Racing has traditionally been reserved for the rich and famous, but with technology, that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. It is a wonderful product that now can be experienced by everyone, at a price point of their choice,” says Steve Brown, co-founder of the company.
“Many can’t afford paying A$1000 or A$2000 up front. But most can afford A$165, which is what we are. For less than what many people will spend at the bookies on a raceday, people can now become an owner, and that changes their experience completely.”
The 1000 shares in the first horse, Saganaki, sold out before his first trial, and miRunners are now planning the purchase of their next thoroughbred in January.
Saganaki cost A$165,000 as a yearling, which made the initial cost per unit A$165. On top of that, there is a A$15 monthly subscription fee for the first unit purchased, that covers the costs of the horse’s upkeep and the management fees, that then drops to $5 per unit for subsequent units bought in the horse.
“We are not selling people a cheap product. We are selling them a premium product, but just at a price point that is affordable. And I think that is important, because owning a horse on a big day is an experience. And if we can make that accessible to people, it is a big change,” Brown explains.
The units in Saganaki are owned by more than 500 individuals and include mothers and fathers, first-timers and life-time horse lovers, professionals and retirees, all over Australia.
“We find that people want to own a horse and be part of its growth, development and training. They get their share of prize money, but that is not the important part. It’s not for the money. Because they are involved from the start, seeing the horse being broken in and educated, and being involved in the naming and colour design, it is beyond the win, lose or draw,” Brown says. “Obviously, we hope that he is a good horse, but it is more about getting to know the horse and their individual quirks, and the experience along the way.”
Join a syndicate!
With different forms of ownership that cater to every budget, it is surprisingly easy to get to experience the thrills of owning a racehorse. Here are some syndicates and racing clubs that you can become a member of:
UNITED KINGDOM AND IRELAND:
Ditcheat Thoroughbreds. A recently established syndicate with National Hunt horses in training with Paul Nicholls.
Middleham Park Racing. A highly successful syndicate that has horses with the top trainers in Britain and Ireland.
Gordon Elliot Racing Club. For an all-in price of €670 per year, the club members can experience ownership in eight horses with Irish National Hunt trainer Gordon Elliot.
Elite Racing Club. The 9,000 members pay £199 per year and are associated with all the 25 horses owned by the club.
miRunners. A recently established company that divides each horse into 1,000 units.
Triple Crown. A highly successful syndicate with multiple Group 1 winners.
Darby Racing. Won Australia’s biggest two-year-old race, the Golden Slipper, with A$20,000 purchase She Will Reign in 2017.
Little Red Feather. California’s largest racing syndicate with over 300 active partners and 40 horses.
Nexus Racing Club. Dedicated to promoting youth involvement in horse racing through partnership with established owners. Has no equity in the horses.
West Point Thoroughbreds. 500 Partners and a stable of over 70 horses, which includes a share of 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.
Highclere Racing. A British syndication company with horses in Europe, Australia, and USA. One or more horses per partnership.
Team Valor. An American syndication company with horses in USA, South Africa, and Europe. Raced the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
It’s All About the Girls Racing. A partnership for women, with horses in training in the USA, Australia, and Ireland.