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Day at the Races: Ever dreamt of owning a racehorse? Here's how to do it

Your guide to getting the most out of the Races.

EVER LET YOUR daydreams run wild and thought about buying a racehorse? It’s not unusual to go along to the races of a weekend, check out the Parade Ring and see those gussied-up, magnificent horses – elegant, groomed, in prime condition – and think: “Yep. I want one.” It’s a pipe dream for a lot of us. But does it have to stay in your daydreams? Is there any chance you have what it takes to own your own bit of Irish horse racing? Let’s find out.

Where’s the best place to start?

Well, you could start by picking from one of the 700 or so licensed trainers in Ireland. Some specialise in training flat horses, some specialise in National Hunt (jumps to you and me), some do both. Not everyone can have their horse trained by Willie Mullins, of course, but there’s plenty of choice out there.

How much does it cost?

Here’s the bad news. It averages at €15-20,000 a year in training fees, though this varies. But, before you get ahead of yourself, you also have to factor in race entry fees, travel fees, vet fees and so on – it’s not cheap, unfortunately! If it’s all sounding a bit expensive, then never fear. You can get involved with a syndicate to share all of the costs (and prizes, of course).

Presseye / Kelvin Boyes/INPHO Presseye / Kelvin Boyes/INPHO / Kelvin Boyes/INPHO

How do I buy the horse?

There are a few different options here. If you want to own it yourself, you can buy it from a trainer (some have young horses for sale), a bloodstock agent (the experts on pedigree), or at auction. If you don’t necessarily want to own the horse, in some cases you can lease it.

What should I be looking for in a horse?

The 3 Ps: performance, pedigree, physical attributes. A horse that scores well on all of those will have a fourth P = price. Yep, there’s that bad news again.

Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Then you register as an owner

This allows the authorities to process all expenses and winnings. And one of the most fun parts is picking your colours – as we’ve said, they’re unique to every owner, you can choose from 18 colours with 27 jacket and nine cap designs. You don’t have to stick with them for life, mind you, but some colours have become synonymous with their owners over the years. (More of that anon.)

Then the fun part: choose your horse’s name

We’ve talked about this before here at Day at the Races. Horses’ funny names are down to a number of factors – the strict 18 character limit, tradition, history, and good old-fashioned puns too. You can’t change the name once your horse has raced, either, so owners have to be careful with their picks.

Who are the most famous owners in Irish racing at the moment?

First off, there’s JP McManus beside his famous gold and green hoops.

Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

And a familiar face – that’s Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary with the starred silks he’s become associated with.

Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

And last but not least: Rich Ricci, former chief executive of Barclays Corporate and Investment Bank.

Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

And, big owners aside, one of the most famous racing syndicates was the Goat Racing Syndicate, headed up by publican Charlie Chawke.

The summer of racing isn’t over yet – in fact, it’s just getting going. The world-famous Galway Race Week takes the West by storm starting this Monday the 28th of July, continuing on until the 3rd of August. But don’t worry, there’s more.  Killarney, Tramore, the Champions Weekend and many, many more great race meets are yet to come. Find out more at

Want to know the stories behind the mad horses’ names, jockeys’ colours, racing lingo, Ladies’ Day and loads more? Look no further>

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