Becoming a racehorse owner opens up a whole new world....and could seriously change your life. Stand by for the thrill of a lifetime in which you'll experience being part of something special. Owners can take several routes into horseracing through syndicates, clubs or becoming outright owners.
Here, some of them take us on their journeys into racehorse ownership and describe how it fulfilled their dreams.
When Niall O’Brien agreed to accompany a friend on a stable yard tour, he never dreamt it would trigger a journey into racehorse ownership which would end in him co-owning a winner with Wayne Rooney.
“I was just the guy obsessed with going racing,” he says. “I loved the occasion, the atmosphere and the whole spectacle. I was hooked from a very early age.” Then he went on the stable yard tour and discovered syndicate ownership.
“I went back to work and started asking around a few colleagues to see if anyone would be interested in going into a syndicate if I set one up. I was very surprised at the interest; within a couple of weeks we had enough money to buy a horse.”
The group started small and waited three years for their first winner. But they learned from early mistakes and, 15 years on, own or co-own several horses and have 65 wins under their belts.
Then the syndicate discovered the remaining shares of a horse they’d bought into had been snapped up by football stars Wayne Rooney and John O’Shea, of Manchester United and Sunderland respectively. The two-year-old colt, Yourartisonfire, won on its second outing at Haydock Park, running in the yellow and white colours of the syndicate, OnToAWinner.
Rooney and O’Shea were unable to attend but the OnToAWinner syndicate members were proud as punch to be in the Winners’ Enclosure, says Niall, 38.
“They said it was absolutely brilliant and I understand John O’Shea rang Karl [husband of trainer Elaine Burke] to say how delighted he was with his buy,” he adds. “Can you imagine how fantastic it is to know you’re a co-owner with two top Premier League football players? It’s a dream come true!”
Niall’s syndicate members typically take a five per cent share in a horse, paying £400 to £1,000 or more for the initial share, then £100-£125 a month, making it, he says, a very affordable hobby: “It’s no different to someone buying a football season ticket or being a member of a golf club. Thousands of people go racing but being an owner – even in a small way – is so much better,” he adds.
“Our syndicate members are all nice people on limited budgets, from taxi drivers to production line workers, to company directors. There are 10 to 12 people per horse, and they all get owners’ badges when the horse runs. They can’t believe they’re in the owners’ areas rubbing shoulders with their racing and football heroes.”
For Niall, horse racing is “an absolute drug – so addictive.” He adds: “At first there’s the thrill of having a runner. Then there’s having a runner placed. Then there’s the first winner; I remember mine as if it was yesterday. After that you’re chasing your next winner and setting new goals.”
Niall, whose syndicate is based near Malton, North Yorks, says starting small, learning from mistakes and doing lots of research is the winning formula.“Go into it with your eyes wide open,” he advises. “Don’t do it to make money but for entertainment. And be clear about your budget. The last thing you want is to get involved and then find you can’t pay the bills.”
He adds: “I know an untried two-year-old is the dream but if I was starting out again, I’d begin with a tried and tested handicapped horse. Our success came when we started buying second hand horses with previous form we thought we could improve on.
"Also, you have to research your trainer. Word of mouth is the best recommendation, and certainly people need to go and see the yard and have several conversations with the trainer before going with them.
“I’ve had the time of my life these last 15 years and the emails and the delighted feedback I get from syndicate members shows they’ve had an amazing journey, too. I’ve shown racehorse ownership can be accessible to ordinary working people on a budget.”