Sport horses and racehorses are expensive. Buy a successful horse and you could be looking at a seven-figure sum. Dressage superstar Totilas may have been a one-off, but he sold for £16m, for example. Even well-bred youngsters at sales, particularly in the world of racing, can fetch eye-watering amounts.
For many years, particularly in racing, the way forward has been to share the purchase price and the running costs with other people via a syndicate. In most cases, you are not only getting horsepower for your money, but also a leading trainer into the bargain.
Of course, sharing the cost of an expensive horse means your outlay can still run into thousands of pounds. However, you often get a ‘money can’t buy’ experience from your investment, including the excitement of seeing your horse run on the racecourse (or at an event or show jumping competition), rubbing shoulders with racing’s best, making friends with other syndicate members, watching your horse and others in training, collecting a share of the prize-money (if it wins) and — if you can dare to dream — standing in the winner’s enclosure at Aintree or Cheltenham if it reaches the top of its game.
Before you get to that thrilling stage, you will need to write out a cheque to join. Ditcheat Thoroughbreds, the newest syndicate to launch, has set charges ranging from £6,450-£15,950 for a share in one of the eight racehorses that have been especially selected by that master of jump racing that is Paul Nicholls. Some syndicates are cheaper, but you may not get the chance to go racing with someone like the ten-times champion trainer.
“I think syndicates are more popular these days than they used to be and trainers are certainly more accessible than they were in the past,” reveals Nicholls. “More and more people are getting involved. Who wants to invest £250,000 in buying a racehorse when you can share the costs? My father even bought a share for my mum as a birthday present.”
Ditcheat Thoroughbreds has got off to a good start, recording a win from its first runner, Marracudja, who beat the favourite Ballyboley by nine lengths in a novices’ chase at Newton Abbot.
This particular syndicate was the brainchild of Ian Fogg, a near neighbour of Paul Nicholls, who sold his pharmaceutical company several years ago and was looking for an engrossing hobby.
Fogg believes investors will receive plenty for their money: “We have put together a budget that includes a contingency fund for injuries. If the money isn’t spent it goes back to the owners, as does any prize money every six months, plus the sale price of the horse. At the end of two years, the horses will be sold, unless the syndicate members say they would like to continue.
“Paul chooses the horses, trains them, enters them into the right races and then we all jump up and down at the end when they win. It’s the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off.”
For anyone who decides to take part in a syndicate, it’s key to remember that all agreements should be in writing, and drawn up with legal help. There could be money to be won — but also much to lose if the ‘I’s are not dotted and the ‘T’s not crossed from the get go.
Images of Paul Nicholls and Ian Fogg courtesy of Julie Harding