First Time Owner FAQ
Horse racing is one the world’s great sports, and can be thrilling for any owner, but all the more for a first time owner. However, there are a few questions which need to be addressed by the owner who is starting out in the “Sport of Kings”. Financially, the sport can be very demanding, if new owners are unrealistic or fail to take advice from people with experience in the field.
The best way is to do some research on horse racing, which should allow you to determine your level of interest and what investment you can afford, and one which you can afford. Sporting Post and Parade Magazine are two local publications on horse racing, and most of the print media devote a page or two to discussing horse racing, and recent results. There are also numerous horse racing sites online – and many trainers have websites which are worth reading.
You can own a horse either in partnership or outright. Alternatively, it is possibly to get involved in a syndicate, which usually consists of more than six people. This is a cheaper option, and also allows new owners to meet more “racing” people. Syndicate ownership also often allows owners to have shares in more than one horse, which spreads the risk considerably while allowing for more racing opportunities.
It is vitally important to find a trainer who suits you. A trainer plays a vital part in ensuring that an owner, even if they have a poor horse, has an enjoyable and memorable experience. Location is important, in order to see the horse purchased, and to follow its racing career on a first hand level. Training fees per horse are variable, and range from R3000, to as much as R8000 per month. It is also important that an owner feels able to talk to and communicate with a trainer, as this will make the experience more enjoyable for both parties.
For a first time owner, it is important to speak to as many informed people as possible. Chat to bloodstock agents, and other owners to get a better picture of what kind of racing experience you are looking for. The racing industry is open to all, and consists of multi millionaires who own many horses, to working class people with just a share in one racehorse.
A decent yearling at a yearling sale can be bought from about R50,000 upwards. While good horses have been bought for bargains prices, this tends to be the exception to the norm. The middle of today’s thoroughbred market place tends to be around R200 000 – R300 000. Add to this additional costs (such as VAT on the purchase, training fees and keep, vet bills, shoeing spelling farm costs and nomination fees), and owning a racehorse can require a further R60,000-R70,000 annual outlay.
While horses can be purchased in training and race immediately, this tends to be a much more expensive option than buying a yearling. A yearling needs to mature, as a racehorse can only start its career as a 2-year-old, and sometimes is only ready to run at three. So, for an average purchase, a buyer is looking at approximately a year before his horse can run – and often it is longer. However, this also depends on the trainer. A number of trainers are known for sending out precocious 2yos, and if an owner is looking for a quick return, he/she needs to look at the trainer’s past record, as well as the pedigree of their horse.
Another option, is buying a horse at a Ready To Run sale, which sells 2yos already capable of racing.
There are few experiences quite as thrilling or nerve-wracking as selecting and buying a yearling at a sale.
It is important to find a reputable bloodstock agent to assist you at the yearling sales, which are held throughout the year at Cape Town, KZN and Gauteng. These sales cater for all buyers – both at the top end, and lower end of the market.
If you wish to buy the horse yourself, you then need to complete a buyer’s card application at the sales company, and also apply for credit with the sales company in question. Alternatively, the trainer or bloodstock agent can do this.
Before going to the sale, it is advisable to get a catalogue and look through the book with your trainer and or bloodstock agent. They will take into account how much money you have, and earmark a few lots. At the sale, you will look at the various horses you have shortlisted along with the trainer and agent. Inevitably, a few won’t look good enough, and others will sell for more money than you have.
Having purchased your horse, it is important that a vet examines the animal, as if the horse can’t breathe properly, it will prove a costly buy. If a purchased horse fails the vet’s inspection, the vendor will take it back.
All first time owners need to register with the NHA (or South African Jockey Club). They must then visit the various NHA offices, and design their own racing colours. A selection of silks will be available and you can either choose from these, or design your own. The colours can’t be currently in use, and must be original. Your trainer can advise you about this interesting process.
Once the sales company sends through registration papers following your purchase, you need to complete these and send them to the NHA. You will need to complete an “authority to act” form for your trainer. You also need to send your banking details through to the Jockey Club, so they can deposit the winning cheque once you earn your first cheque. Cheques are paid to the first four home in a race, and, in some of the bigger races, can be paid out to the first ten finishers.
The trainer will often have a stable jockey, who automatically will ride your horse. Occasionally, if he has more than one runner in the race, the trainer will have to find an outsider rider for your horse. The trainer will, in other words, be responsible for selecting a suitable jockey.
A horse needs to win a maiden race, in order to run in better races. Two-year-olds can run in juvenile races, which is open only to this age group. Once a horse has won his/her maiden, they can run in a novice plate, and then go through a series of handicaps. The very top horses are capable of contesting feature races. The top features are classified as G1, then G2 and G3. There are also features, rated slightly below Graded races, which are Listed races.
Finally, if you do become an owner, be prepared for some of the greatest highs and lows of your life.