It’s easy to assume that if you own horses, especially great horses, that you must be making a small fortune when they win. The reality, however, is a lot different.
Sure, there are super owners like JP McManus, Trevor Hemmings, Rich Ricci, and Michael O’Leary with Gigginstown, but they put far more into the sport then they will ever get out of it. Owning one or more horses in training is a hobby. It is something to take your mind off all the boring day-to-day stuff. It’s good for a day out at the races but the chances are, it is not something you will ever make money from.
The ROA have suggested that to keep a jumps race horse will cost you an average of £16,325 per annum. I would disagree slightly with this figure. Having previously been a syndicate owner, my annual costs were £2700 and I was only one of twelve who co-owned the horse. So in reality we paid £32,400 per year to keep him.
This was broken down by monthly payments to the trainer/syndicate and covered all of the costs. Those costs include race management, food, training, vet fees, harriers, staff to look after it, race entry fees etc…
I can also state with absolute certainty that we never got anywhere near that in winnings. So how do some owners make a lot and others not so much?
Typically the total purse is divided by the first three or four home in most races. Bigger races like the Grand National have the total prize fund divvied up between the first 10 to cross the finishing line. However, there is a huge difference between the £500K for the winner and the £1000 for being 10th!
Of that money, the owners receive 75%. The trainer and jockey both get 10% with 5% reserved for miscellaneous such as charity, stable staff etc… That means if you happen to own the winner of the Grand National you walk away with £375K. Not bad for one race.
But we all know that the majority of races are not as lucrative as the National. In fact, according to the ROA (Racehorse Owners Association) annual report in 2018, only 0.9% of owners earned more than £100K in the year.
In total, only 8.38% of all owners made at least £30K. Considering that’s roughly how much it costs to keep a racehorse, the vast majority of owners didn’t even break even. The reality is that almost one in eight owners won’t break even.
Costs To The Owners
Some races can be incredibly expensive to enter. The fees plus transport, the jockey and on-site vets can all mount up. Those who are just in the sport for fun probably don’t give much thought to them, particularly if the costs are already built into the monthly fee being paid to the trainer/syndicate.
However, savvier owners will work out the ‘cost per run’ calculations. Related to prize-money levels, sometimes it’s not even worth running the horse in a race with less than £3,000 prize for the winner. Not only is the cost per run higher but so too is the risk of injury.
Owners must also work out if they should go with a ‘big trainer’ rather than a ‘small trainer’. That is determined by how many races they have won and how much total prize-money they have collected. Often, the bigger the trainer the higher the costs.
On average it should cost approx £39 per day to keep a jumps horse. However, that fee can climb to an average of nearly £60 per day with the big trainers. Depending on the agreement you have with the trainer, those costs may not even include vets fees.
Is It Worth It To Own A Horse
There are plenty of benefits to owning a horse. They are beautiful animals and even visiting them in their yard is incredible. Sure, you get a few days out and it’s exciting to watch your horse race but it’s also nerve-racking. You want them to do well but most importantly, come back safe.
But if you’re in it to make money then there are definitely easier ways to do that. You will almost certainly never make as much as you have spent. Unless of course, you happen to stumble on a horse like Tiger Roll and win a Grand National. But how many of us would be that lucky!