How To Buy A Racehorse

Features | 6th October 2022

It's a tradition that's been going on for centuries but there are bargains to be had!

There is no better thrill than leading your own racehorse into the winners’ enclosure. Whether it’s outright ownership, in a partnership or one of the many increasingly-popular syndicates, it all starts at the sales. 

Those dreaming of buying a future superstar will be flocking to the bloodstock auctions this autumn hoping to grab themselves a bargain but there are several other ways of purchasing a potential champion. Here we look at what is involved in buying a racehorse.

Decisions, Decisions 

First you need to decide what type of horse you want to buy. It’s not just whether you want a jumps or Flat horse. You need to consider whether you’re looking for a sprinter, miler, middle-distance horse or stayer on the Flat. 

When you’re deciding on a jumps horse it could be a young ‘store’ horse, where patience is required as they need time to mature and develop. A lot of National Hunt horses start off in point-to-points – especially in Ireland – before being sold, while others come from Flat racing. Owners, trainers and bloodstock experts will scour the sales catalogues examining pedigrees and inspecting the horses before deciding on what to buy.

Stud stuff with a yearling (one year old horse) pre-sales

Going, Going, Gone 

Once you’ve decided what type of horse you want there are several ways you can go about buying one. There are plenty of bloodstock sales throughout the year and autumn is one of the busiest seasons. Tattersalls holds its yearling sales at Newmarket in the coming weeks. There are also important sales at Goffs in Ireland, Ascot, Cheltenham, Doncaster and Deauville in France. 

The emergence of online bloodstock auction house Thoroughbid promises to change the dynamic of how people buy racehorses. Many horses are also bought privately. 

Big-money offers are made after races on the Flat, over jumps and in point-to-points. Those on a lower budget can pick horses up in ‘claiming’ and ‘selling’ races. All the horses in these types of race are for sale. Syndicates and racing clubs often lease horses, especially fillies and mares, from breeders before returning them after their racing careers have finished.

Experts running their eye over potential purchases

Expert Knowledge 

The bloodstock world is not for the feint-hearted so even the most seasoned of owners use experts. These professionals are known as bloodstock agents and they can be found at the sales inspecting the hundreds of horses up for auction and pouring over the catalogues.

Many trainers will use their own judgement at the sales, cutting out the agents. Afterall, they are the people who will have to try to turn the raw material into a champion racehorse. Some owners will also buy horses straight from the breeders. These relationships are often built up over many years and can lead to owners buying into the same families as their favourite horses.

Flooring Porter was bought for just 6000 Euros

How Deep Are Your Pockets? 

When racing’s superpowers go head-to-head at the top sales the numbers can be eye-popping. 

The atmosphere in the auction rooms is electric but you don’t need to have a lottery-winner’s budget to buy yourself a champion racehorse. In fact, while spending millions on beautifully-bred horses increases your chances, it is certainly no guarantee of success on the track. 

Sheikh Fahad paid £2.6million for a three-parts brother to Derby winner Authorized just over ten years ago. Named Hydrogen, he only ran twice, without success, before stumps were drawn. That was a hefty price tag for such a disappointing racehorse but it pales into insignificance against The Green Monkey. 

With Coolmore and Sheikh Mohammed getting into a bidding war, the hammer finally went down on $16million at Fasig-Tipton’s sale in America in 2006. Unfortunately for Coolmore, they made the winning bid as The Green Monkey failed to win in three starts and only repaid $10,400 of the purchase price in prizemoney. 

At the other end of the scale there have been some incredible bargains. Flooring Porter, winner of the last two Stayers’ Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival, cost just 6,000 euros, while Grand National winners Hedgehunter (£3,200) and Many Clouds (6,000 Euros) were also bargain buys. 

In the 1990s, star jumps mare Lady Rebecca cost just £400 before winning 13 hurdle races, including the Grade 1 Cleeve Hurdle on three occasions. 

On the Flat, Oaks winner Snow Fairy won nearly £4million in prizemoney during her globetrotting career having cost just 1,800 Euros. Top sprinter Slade Power cost just £5,000 before going on to win the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Qipco British Champions Sprint. 

So, however small your budget when you buy a racehorse, your dreams might just come true.