Ownership

However, owning a horse is becoming a lot more popular with the Joe Paychecks of the world than ever. Horse lovers from all areas of society are involved in what people describe as 'buying into optimism', and budding 'Aga Khans' can join the world of horse ownership at differing levels.

But why do it at all? The ownership marketing spokesman for the UK's leading racing authority, the British Horse racing Board (BHB) is in no doubt.

'The fact is, being involved in racehorse ownership is a brilliant pastime and gives fans of the sport a whole extra perspective on the game,' he says. 'Owners of all types get to rub shoulders in the parade ring and that's all part of the occasion,' he adds.

'There are plenty of peripheral benefits too. You will get to know a stable and, of course, see your horse out on the gallops. Then there are the extra pluses, such as the free entry badges and dedicated owners' facilities once you get to the racecourse to see your horse run.'

What though, are the chances of making a financial gain from owning a horse? The costs, after all, can easily run into tens of thousands of pounds.

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If you decide you want to participate in other areas of leisure, the chances are you won't be looking for a monetary return. The same should apply to owning a racehorse. Those who have most fun are probably those who regard any prize money they earn as a bonus.

Look before you leap (or run on the flat)

This may well be sage advice. It has been estimated that the chances of an owner making his or her racing pay are slim - about a 20/1 shot, if you want to brings odds into the equation. When you look at the list of running costs in the box on p108, you will see why. If you could divide up equally all the prize money in racing between all the horses in training, the average amount each would win would not cover half a year's average training fee.

Of course, in reality, some horses win far more prize money than average, while others will never earn a penny.

Provided such a statistic does not put you off - and you are happy to go against the old adage that says you shouldn't invest in anything that eats while you're asleep - the BHB's website is a useful starting off point for newcomers looking to join the stallion set.

Before making a financial commitment, it's worth taking the time to consider several key questions. Probably the most important factor is establishing the sort of ownership structure in which you want to participate. In all likelihood this will be dictated by how deep you want to dig into your wallet.

Another consideration that is usually linked to cost is whether you want your horse to run on the flat or over the jumps.

To get the most from its racing career, many horses graduate from the flat to the jumps over time and plenty of racing stables up and down the UK are dual purpose to accommodate this trend.

Jumps-bred racehorses tend to cost less than more regal, flat-racing stock, but injury over the sticks is usually more likely. That means your charge could be sidelined for months on end and might, in a worst case scenario, not ever even get to see a racecourse. Is that a risk you're willing to run?

There are three main ways to buy a horse: privately, through an advert in the racing press; from one of the dozens of claiming or selling races at UK racecourses; or at auction. There are two major bloodstock auction houses - Tattersalls, at Newmarket and the Bloodstock Sales, at Doncaster. Each sells different types of horses including foals, yearlings and horses that are already in training.

Owners with little or no experience can ask a trainer or bloodstock agent to act on their behalf in the purchase. The latter is an independent professional who can advise on all aspects of the transaction and will charge a client around 5% of the purchase price as a commission fee. A trainer may not charge a client to buy a horse, on the understanding that he or she gets to train the animal instead.

Ways in: sole ownership

For the seriously well heeled, sole ownership of a racehorse still retains the most kudos. Purchasing, say, a yearling or an unraced two-year-old will provide you with the chance to name your horse. The colours in which it runs will be down to you too.

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Your choice of trainer will also provide you with some say as to the sorts of contest your horse competes in and at which racecourse.

Co-ownership

While sole ownership has remained at much the same levels in the UK in recent years, the sphere of co-ownership - where several parties share the costs of buying and running racehorses - has seen a big boom.

There are five main types of co-ownership and these are outlined in the box to the left. It's worth getting to know how the various structures work and the BHB publishes a free guide on the subject to enable you to do just that.

At the top end of the co-ownership scale, racing partnerships are an ideal way for a group of people to pool their resources to buy a horse which has a chance of accruing some prize money.

A far cheaper way to obtain an insight into ownership - and perhaps set you on the path to greater things - is to join one of the UK's many racing clubs. At €100 or so, the subscription charge to join a racing club is comparatively low. This reflects the fact that as a member you are not a true owner - you will have to share your equine interest in league with hundreds or even thousands of other club members.

You need to understand whether you are forking out some kind of capital outlay or whether there is a regular subscription payment involved. Make sure you see a contract and be aware of how long the agreement lasts, and what happens when it ends.

What are you waiting for? The winners' enclosure awaits!

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