So you Want to Buy a Racehorse: A Guide to Avoiding Misery and Financial Ruin
Too many first-time horse owners select a racehorse that isn't right for them. Eventually, they get frustrated and embarrassed (yes embarrassed) and give up on horses altogether, forever missing out on the joy of racehorse ownership and the unique thrills.
At Australian Bloodstock, our whole lives are about racehorses. To many people sadly though enter our industry and get burnt and sadly leave without ever being on a true playing field when they start. We want to do everything we can to encourage new horse owners and help them enjoy horses as much as we do and hopefully this guide will help them choose the right horse, trainer and people to race with.
Buying a racehorse is a lot like buying a home or a car. Both take a lot of research, plus some experience and smart buying strategies, to make a purchase you'll be happy with. Like used car salesmen, some horse sellers have earned a reputation as somewhat shady characters who often downplay flaws and enhance attributes. These people amazingly survive in the industry but only do so via new people entering the industry rather than via repeat business with their existing client’s with creatures as beautiful and majestic as horses are, it's easy to let our hearts rule our heads and too often on goes the Pumpkin and off comes the head and brain along with it.
Therefore we hope this guide will help you if you are considering entering our terrific industry.
As much as we love racehorses, we know that not everyone should own one. Surprisingly for some its very important to do some basic psychology on yourself to determine what type of personality you are.
Are you a Patient person?
If so could you wait 6 months,12 months , 18 months and be happy to keep paying bills on your horse before it even before it got to the training Track
Are you Impatient person?
Do you want to go the races now or within the very short term < under 10 weeks
Once you have determined what type of person you are the next stage should be to access- what do you want out of your horse ownership? Consider the following:
- Do you want to just have a social day and not really care the result of your horse?
- Is it a business networking option?
- Do you want the horse to pay for itself and try and win money through the ownership of it. Do you not care either way?
- Are you prepared for the inevitable losses you will suffer – ie. you cant win all the time unless you own the freak Black Caviar- therefore if you’re a bad loser its going to be not much fun.
- Would you be happy if your horse raced in the bush or do you want city class type horses?
- Are you a control freak and want to control the horses future?
- Is ownership a ‘ego' thing for you and you want to spruik to your friends about your horse?
- Do you want to back your horse heavily and try to win money on the punt?
These are just but a few of the questions that you should be honest with yourself about before proceeding into horse ownership. The more honest you are with yourself the better experience you will have .
As you can see from the above questions not even every horse lover should actually own a racehorse. Horses are a huge emotional and financial commitment. Horse ownership is certainly not for the faint of heart .
Horse Buying Budgets - What Do I Spend?
We the used car salesman type of dealers will tell you the more you spend the more chance you have - which really isn’t the case and studies have been done that show that the most expensive horses sold in any sale are nine out of ten the biggest flops. There is a number of reasons for this and we will explain this at another date.
Getting back to the question though the answer really depends upon what you want to achieve with that horse? If you just want to go out and have fun, and maybe race in the local tracks in your area- then you can buy a whole horse that will win a race for $6000 or so. If you have more serious competitive aspirations then you will need to spend nine times out of ten much more than this. Keep in mind that your first horse can be a 'starter horse' - a horse that is safe for you and will help you learn basic’s to determine if racehorse ownership is right for you. Even if you eventually want to compete on world stage level, your first horse doesn’t have to be the horse that will take you to the top. In fact for some people this is the worst thing at could happen as these horses are rare as hens teeth and there is usually only one way but down after experiencing this thrill.
Ongoing Expenses and Choosing A Trainer
Now, one important thing to know is that the initial purchase price of the horse is normally not the most expensive part of your investment. Remember that a $500 horse will cost the same to feed and train as a $5m horse.Ongoing expenses you can expect to incur are what you should focus and budget on. Here are some of the items you should budget for on a monthly basis, in the approximate order of magnitude:
- Big Race Entries
Just about all racehorse trainers though will take care of the day to day running of the horse including feed, transport, race entries etc. If you have a city trainer with a big name and stable you can expect to pay up to $8000 per month whilst in training. If you elect to go into a horse with a Provincial based trainer then this can be back to $3000. A country Trainer will be $2000. Don’t forget the best way to see if you enjoy the experience is to join a partnership of other like minded people and perhaps buy a small share in that horse. Lets say 5% - so for a 5% share the Big name city trainer will cost you $400 p/m. The Provincial Trainer $150 p/m and the Country Trainer $100 p/m.
However, its important to remember just because a trainer is based in the city doesn’t mean they are a better trainer than the guy in the country. In fact we know many country and provincial trainers who would embarrass and run rings around some of their city counterparts if they got the same opportunity.
Whats The Difference?
In a lot of cases the city boys have much larger over heads and expenses and their “reputations” some times demand a premium. Most feed the same feed and all get the same type of care in most cases- but again it gets back to peoples ego’s- do they want a “big Name” trainer to train the horse to big note with their mates or do you not care as long as the trainer is competent and gets one with the business of training horses ? Of Course trainers cant make the horses run faster – but they can get the horse “cherry ripe fitness wise” and ensure the horse is happy and feeling well and then the rest is up to the horse and therefore the trainer is only as good as his stock he has to work with.
What Type of Race Horse Should I Buy?
Again it gets down to the owner. Do you want to try and win the Melbourne Cup or the Golden Slipper? If you want to win the Golden Slipper its no good buying slow maturing horses as most unlikely they will be mature enough.
Stallion, Filly or Gelding?
If you trying to win the jackpot and make yourself a millionaire from racing horses then the hardest but quickest way is to have a horse who is a Stallion. If they win the right races you will have the Oil Sheiks knocking on your door to offer you millions. However sometimes the horses with his 'equipment in place' will never focus and concentrate and as a result they need to be gelded. There is many stories of horses who were just average and when gelded they came back to be champions. Fillies if they win or even place in certain races will be in much demand when their racing is finished as they can go to stud. Sometimes these can be extremely lucrative investments.
Where Can I Find the Right Horse?
Again it comes down to what you want from your horse and what you personality is . But you will have a few options. You can buy a horse at public auction, or you can buy them privately . There is a number of “yearling” sales each year and prices can vary from $500 to $5m.The other option is to buy a horse privately through a broker. In our other article Yearling vs Tried Horse ill explain the pros and cons of both.
Do NOT Buy a Horse without a Vet Check.
Once you have your horse identified you should make arrangements with the seller to have the horse checked by a veterinarian. Choose a veterinarian who has not seen the horse before. Rarely will a vet outright “pass” or “fail” a horse on a vet check. Instead, they will relate their observations to you and you will be responsible for making a decision based upon those observations. Your vet will check the horse’s soundness and general health, and may recommend further testing or X-rays for a more complete evaluation. Because it is fairly common for sellers to administer painkillers, sedatives and other drugs that can mask lameness or enhance performance, we highly recommend having your vet draw blood at the time of the exam. Your vet can store that blood back at the clinic and test it for various substances if the horse’s behaviour or soundness changes abruptly after your purchase. A typical vet check will cost $500-2500 (more if X-rays or further tests are recommended), but it is the best way to make sure that you do not buy expensive or heartbreaking health or soundness problems, so well worth the price even if it costs more than the purchase price of the horse.
Get it in Writing!
After you have negotiated the purchase price, enter into a contract with the seller. Your purchase contract should clearly state the terms of your purchase, including any representations and warranties that the seller has made about the horse.
We wish you the very best of luck in finding a horse to become a member of your family and with the right advice and research they can be a wonderful source of entertainment and joy - plus being financially rewarding!