There will never be a day like it. The thrills of race-day soar to new heights when you’re there for the first time as an owner. From the warm welcome of the owners’ lounge, to the heady atmosphere of your reserved viewing area, to the pride in seeing your horse thunder by – and the prospect of entering the Winner’s Enclosure.
For a racehorse owner, it’s simply a day like no other – but you’ll be hooked on living it all over again.
From the moment your car sweeps into the owners’ car park, you know your day at the races as a racehorse owner will be extra special.
You’ll collect your owners' badges from the Owners’ and Trainers’ entrance, perhaps picking up a racecard and the latest going report on the way, and then make your way to the Owners’ and Trainers’ area.
Some racecourses have a restaurant, others a bar and viewing terrace and some serve complementary food and drinks. All the facilities are open only to the privileged few who are close to the horses racing on that day.
You can find out more about the specific Owners’ facilities offered at each of the 60 British racecourses in the ROA/RCA Owners’ Guide to Racecourses.
The Owners’ and Trainers’ bar provides the ideal environment to mingle with other owners while soaking up the pre-race atmosphere. There’s a special sense of camaraderie as the tension and excitement rise; all are wondering whether today will bring the triumph they’ve dreamed about.
Your horse is likely to have already arrived at the racecourse with a stable lad/lass from the trainer's yard. You will be able to greet the horse in the pre-parade ring, where it will be walked 30 minutes before the race.
The horse is then saddled and moves to the main paddock to be paraded before the race. Here you can meet the jockey and trainer to discuss tactics - and hide your nerves - before the bell rings, the jockeys mount and head towards the start.
Some owners watch races from the relative calm of the stands, binoculars in hand; others prefer to be close to the track, in the dedicated viewing area close to all the action and noise.
Don’t forget to breathe as the pre-race adrenaline surge kicks in. Your heart will thud with anticipation as the starter’s flag drops and your powerful steed bursts from the stalls.
Watch for your colours as the horses thunder along - perhaps going out of sight, leaving you hanging on to the commentator’s words. By the time they round the finishing straight, you’ll be straining to pick out your horse in the melee.
Perhaps yours is already ahead - or still in the thick of it. Either way, the last furlong or so is likely to pass in slow motion or be a bit of a blur. You’ll be screaming encouragement, perhaps gripping a neighbouring arm, swept away in the tide of emotion.
If all goes to plan, your horse will cross the winning post first. If not, did it run to the best of its ability, picking up valuable experience for its next outing?
Make your way to the unsaddling area, where your jockey will debrief you and - disappointed or not - you’ll give your horse a congratulatory pat.
After the race you may meet your trainer for a drink back in the Owners’ and Trainers’ bar. They’ll share their considered insight into your horse’s performance, any lessons learned and preparations for the next race day. You’ll probably be emotionally and physically drained. But the chances are you’ll already be hooked - and desperate to go through the whole gamut of emotions once again.
In 2006 the Racehorse Owners Association created the Gold Standard Award to recognise racecourses that deliver excellence in the raceday experience for owners, their horses and stable staff. To date there are 18 British racecourses which have been awarded the ROA Gold Standard, to find out more please click here.
Trainers – and most owners – will tell you the main reason to go into racehorse ownership is to experience the thrill of a passion like no other.
But it does bring many practical benefits:
More than £93million was handed out in 2011-12, at 1,416 Flat and Jumps fixtures up and down the UK. Some races offer prize money to the first six placed horses, others to the first three or four. Winning owners are often also presented with a trophy.
Race day privileges
When your horse runs, you’re given special treatment at the course, from complimentary owner entry badges to use of exclusive facilities, such as bars and restaurants. You have owners' access to paddocks and enclosures and special viewing areas.
Racecourse Badge Scheme for Owners
Run by the Racehorse Owners Association, with kind permission from the Racecourse Association (RCA), this scheme allows a maximum of 5,000 eligible owners free entry to more than 1,200 race fixtures a year. The annual ROA membership fee is £210 and other cost-saving benefits can include 20% discount on BHA registration fees and free third party liability insurance cover. See the ROA website or call the ROA office on 020 7152 0200 for further information.
The Horserace Betting Levy Board currently pays £100 to all runners on Sundays. The annually-reviewed scheme is to encourage racehorse owners to run their horses on specified days of the week and in particular race categories.
The VAT Scheme
Racehorse owners can register for Value Added Tax and reclaim some VAT outlay. Eligible costs include: racehorse purchase, training fees, veterinary and blacksmith fees, horse transport, livery fees, upkeep costs whilst the horse is at the owner’s premises, gallop fees, jockeys’ riding fees and retainers. To reclaim VAT owners will need to secure sponsorship for their racing activities. To find out more about registering for VAT go to Weatherbys website or call the VAT helpdesk at Weatherbys on 01933 440077.
Owners can find sponsorship for their racing activities. Sponsors can place their logos on a number of available logo sites for financial reward. The ROA runs an owner-sponsorship scheme as a benefit of membership. To find out more go to the ROA website.
It’s a fantastic sport, this. You’ve got tens of thousands of people here today, from all walks of life, enjoying it … a glorious celebration of everything that’s good about sport, not just horse racing.
The moment your horse crosses the winning line could well be the best of your life. Cricketers say it’s more thrilling than scoring a century, footballers say it tops a winning goal. Some forget to lower their voice when they confess it beats their wedding day!
There you’ll meet your horse, jockey and trainer, still bursting with the thrill and delight of achieving what you’ve all been working towards. The horse will be steaming, quick-eyed and majestic, basking in its achievement.
You’ll be presented with the winner’s cup and pose for photographs, before the victorious horse is led away for a well-deserved rub-down.
You may meet the race sponsor for a celebratory drink and - at some courses - to watch the race again. Some winners receive a digital photograph and race DVD. More drinks with the trainer could follow - or maybe you’ll meet friends to relive the unique high of watching your horse win at the races.
However you choose to celebrate, it’s certain to be a day you will never forget.