Points to ponder before you tell your wife you’re buying her a racehorse.

So you want to own the next Triple Crown or Durban July winner? It’s certainly not impossible but is very difficult to achieve and requires a certain level of understanding of the “nature of the beast” that is horseracing, and sometimes a lot of patience.

While the ownership experience is exciting and an unsurpassed thrill, one should consider it a lifestyle experience rather than a financial investment. In other words, don’t expect to make money but rather consider it an entertainment expense and hobby. Going into ownership with this mind set will ensure that you are not disappointed. However, one can get very lucky and own a horse that does prove to be hugely successful and the winner of stakes races, giving you an experience of lifetime with a financial return!

Imagine Racing owners lead in Final Score (Solskjaer x Tribute)

Imagine Racing owners lead in Final Score (Solskjaer x Tribute)


Your level of involvement in the racing lifestyle

We all tend to enjoy sports more if we have a vested interest and an emotional attachment. Owning your own racehorse allows you to be a participant rather than just a spectator. Depending on your chosen level of involvement and what you want out of the ownership experience you can decide to own a horse individually, in partnership with a few others or in a syndicate or managed group. Consider what you are comfortable spending as your initial outlay and for your recurring monthly training fees, bearing in mind that most horses will be in training for two to three years. Sharing a horse with other partners via a managed group or syndicate spreads the cost while you share all the fun.

One should always bear in mind that a horse bought at a yearling sale (at around 18 months old) is not going to race for at least a year, so you need to be prepared to be patient before expecting to see your runner make its debut at the race-course.

Buying a horse through an agent or a trainer who may have horses or shares available for sale is a good option too. If the horses are already in training, having been bought off previous sales, your wait until the first race may be shorter.


Buying your future champion

Purchasing a horse on a sale should be treated as any business transaction and one should try not to get caught up in the excitement of the auction and then overspend.

We prefer to short-list our top horses, go back to view the ones we really like and then narrow it down from there. For each individual horse, we set what we believe to be fair value for each and stick within that ball-park when bidding. This ensures that one stays within the budgeted value and doesn’t get carried away.

Buying horses to race requires experience and a degree of expertise when judging a horse’s pedigree and conformation and if choosing to do this as a first time owner, you would be well advised to go with a trainer or agent that you trust and have the horse vetted and scoped before making your bid. An endoscope will show any potential problems with the upper respiratory tract and associated soft tissue that could create breathing difficulties when the horse races.


The best trainer for the horse

It is usually advisable to start with a trainer in your vicinity so that you are closer to the horses and local race courses to stay more closely involved, get to see your horse at the training yard, from time to time and, most importantly, attend race meetings as an owner.

South Africa has a depth of very good trainers, many of whom compete at the highest level. The size and strength of a racing yard may also influence your choice of trainer. Do you want to part of a big yard of a potential champion trainer (some of these have 160 –odd horses, with stables in more than one centre) or would you prefer a smaller yard that has 30 – 60 horses?

Communication and inclusive involvement are key, so that you are kept regularly informed of your horse’s progress and feel part of the whole experience. After all, you can’t get too excited about something that you never see or hear of. You get way more enjoyment if you see your horses regularly and get to know their personalities.


New owners meet their filly.


Horses are flesh and blood athletes

As horsemen, we all understand that horses are not machines. In as much as breeders and trainers give every horse the best chance of success from the outset, we need to accept that circumstances beyond even the most experienced professional’s control can set us back. Horses can become sick or get hurt in training, thereby delaying their racing appearances or, even worse, suffer a career ending injury. As an owner, it is important to understand this and to be patient during a set-back – the next victory will be even sweeter!


Horse Racing gets bad press

Racing, as an industry, is highly regulated and all Thoroughbred horses need to be registered to breed, foals are micro-chipped and must subsequently be registered to race. Trainers and assistants have to be licensed to run a racing yard and any new owner needs to apply for the privilege of holding colours, which is renewable annually. Rules and regulations of, and for, racing are all managed and administered by the National Horse Racing Authority (NHRA) to the strictest levels and with the focus on maintaining the integrity of the sport and all participants involved.

Horses and jockeys are regularly tested for drugs and any transgressions are treated accordingly with fines and suspensions.


Other costs that may not have been mentioned

Once you have bought into your horse and agreed on your trainer, you need to register as the owner or one of the shareholders of a particular horse and you also need to sign an Authority to Act giving the trainer the right to act on your behalf in the care and racing of your horse.

Basic registrations with the NHRA for the 2015 – 2016 season are as follows:https://www.imagineracing.co.za/costs/owning-a-race-horse-made-simple-what-are-the-costs-involved/

Colour Application – R3300.00. This is your application to be an owner and to hold colours. This is an annually renewable fee, at a lesser cost.

Syndicate or company colours – R8035.00

Registration of horse in ownership – R745.00. This is a once off fee for each horse.

Authority to Act – R745. This allows the trainer to make all the decisions for the horse, on your behalf for the colours that the horse races in. This is a once off fee per owner/syndicate and trainer.

Having your set of colours made up R950 – R1000 (once-off). These are your selected jockey silks, syndicate colours or the colours of one of the other partners.

Choosing your own silks is exciting and great fun as you can choose your preferred colours and pattern. The NHRA will confirm if they are available or offer a similar alternative. They also maintain a file of available options should you prefer to select from “ready-made” options. Silks are personal and distinctive and each set has a confirmed number. Well known silks clearly identify the owner of a particular horse in the parade ring and on the track.

Jockey Silks




Leading in your first winner is a once in a lifetime experience only surpassed by the next. Every winner is a thrill and shouting your very own horse home in the final stages of a race is exhilarating. A day out at the races, with friends, is a day well spent and when your own horse is running on the day, there really is little to beat the experience.

How many other competitive sports allow you to wear high heels, a hat and sip champagne to celebrate your win?

With the right guidance, getting involved in racing and becoming an owner need not be daunting or confusing but rather great excitement and fun.

Imagine Racing manages horse and race ownership for individuals but our forte is putting together groups to share in a horse thus spreading the cost. This enables you to enjoy the excitement of owning your own horse while sharing the cost and the lifestyle experience.

The personal inclusive service allows people to enjoy ownership without having to deal with the complexities of getting involved. Administration, communication and trainer liaison are taken care of while regular progress reports and visits to the training stables are arranged.

Even if you have never thought about owning a race-horse, perhaps you should.

Imagine the possibilities – Imagine Racing!