I’m usually not one to “tell tales out of school”, but this one I think I can share. My father always wanted to own horses. Just before he fell ill, he was making plans to return to Canada, purchase some land, and fulfill his dream of being a horse owner. There have been many things I’ve been able to do as his daughter that would lend themselves to experiences he never got to have. However, I never thought that fulfilling his dream of horse ownership could actually be within reach. Well, I was wrong, and what I was able to experience while researching this article has created a new dream for me, one that’s not that far away.
For a few amazing hours, I was able to experience what it’s like to be an owner of a Thoroughbred race horse, spending an incredible day at Woodbine Racetrack with a very special lady, who’s love of the industry reaches straight back to her family roots. Stacie Roberts is an “Ownership Specialist” with the HBPA of Ontario, and assists “want-to-be” horse owners in finding the perfect match for their own personal dream. “The general public typically feels that owning a race horse is an untouchable reality. However, people have so many options available, should they truly want to be part of this very special community”, explains Stacie. For someone like me, the best option would be the “syndicate” program. This is an excellent way for people to get involved in horse ownership at an entry level price point. With a syndicate, you’ll share ownership of one or more horses, for either a set annual or monthly fee, a fee which is shared by all members of the syndicate. The syndicate is managed and administered by one managing partner or experienced horse person. The syndicate members each own a share of the horse(s) and share the fees, costs, and the profits as pre-determined by the syndicate manager.
Before I share some other ownership options available let me take you through a day experienced as an owner.On this day we were first treated to a lovely lunch in “The Favourites” dining lounge. Your experience begins with the host and staff who greet you with warm enthusiasm, and treat you to personalized service, making you feel like you are definitely somebody special. The dining room is flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows, and set up on multiple levels so every table has a wonderful clear view of the track. Each table also has its own flat-screen TV broadcasting the in-house Woodbine Racing feed; so you’ll never miss a moment of the on-track action, and are kept informed between races by the on-screen hosts. On your table, you’ll find copies of that day’s racing program. You will also be introduced to your personal wagering ambassador who will come to your table before each race, and will place your bet if you’ve made your choice. If you’re new to race wagering like I was, they will clearly guide you through the betting process and options, to help you decide the best way to wager that toonie or loonie burning a hole in your pocket! Our Ambassador, Roma, provided an answer to a question that rang true throughout our entire day. When I asked Roma what she liked best about her job, she replied “It’s the people who come here. The excitement on their faces, the thrill they get from cheering on the horses, the joy when they win, and the laughter when they don’t. It’s never an unhappy experience; it’s just a whole lot of fun!”
Roma – you were right on. This is a sentiment that was evident everywhere we went.
Let’s get back to the dining room for a moment. Lunch was served buffet style, but this was not your typical buffet. I will let the pictures do the talking on this one, but one suggestion I’ll give should you decide to spend a day at the races is be sure to bring your appetite! – Trust me; you’ll thank me for this advice…
After lunch, as I’m starting to fall in love with the idea of owning a horse, we’re really starting to feel a little “owner-like” as Stacie takes us down to the “paddock area”. Here in the paddock, an owner can be with their horse before they leave for the race. The groom brings the horse in; the valet (the jockey’s personal assistant) and the trainer get the horse saddled and ready, then in comes the jockey, dressed in their ownership’s personally designed and custom “silks”. Yes, you can have your jockey wear your very own uniform or “colours”. As we were standing there it was exciting to think I could own a horse such as these should I enter this very enchanting world. These majestic creatures are the very essence of athleticism, beauty, and grace. “I’ll take one in each colour please!” The experience is thrilling just to watch, and to be so close to these lovely animals inspires a sense of integrity, respect, and a little competition. This is where it becomes evident there exists a strong sense of community. “Stacie explains, “What you’re feeling is a sense of family. We all want to win and we are all competing against one another but at the end of the day we are a community that cares and stands together.”
While the races are happening, I am like a little girl; on edge, cheering my horse on, and of course relishing in the one race I picked the winner for. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the one race I chose not to bet on! Oh well, the excitement level was the same regardless. “It’s one thing to win on a horse you picked, but it’s an entirely different feeling when your very own horse wins a race”, shares Stacie. “The sense of pride and pure joy is indescribable!” In order to get that kind of feel, Stacie brings me down to the winner’s circle, and the owner of the winning horse, the very one I picked to win, invites me to take part in the media process of pictures, interviews, and a tiny stint on TV. Simply exhilarating!
I think the most telling part of this incredible experience was touring through the many rooms and sections of the racetrack with Stacie herself. It’s clear that this dynamic woman is well respected not only here, but throughout the industry, as that sense of community that she refers to came through time and time again. Stacie and her family come by this world honestly, with her father being the leader when it comes to this family’s involvement in horses, ownership and racing, and a brother who currently works as a Jockey Agent. Everywhere we went, we were treated like VIPs. The excitement of the staff, the media, the stewards, the jockeys, and the other owners made a real impression on my soul. While the syndicate program may turn out to be the best option for me, here is a peek at some other options available.
You are the only person involved in the ownership of the horse. Any fees, costs or profits will be yours alone. The horse will run with your name as the owner, and you will have your own colours (silks) worn by the jockey.
A partnership would consist of two or more people sharing the ownership of one or more horses, and all members of the partnership are registered owners. Members of the partnership would decide the percentage of each horse they own and split fees, costs, and profits according to the share percentage.
CORPORATION OR RACING STABLE
A registered corporation can register as an Owner, with 100% ownership. The horse will be in the sole ownership of the corporation and the corporation’s shareholders. All fees, costs, and profits will be directed to the corporation. Depending on the size of the corporation, specific directors, officers, employees, and/or shareholders may need to be individually licensed. Refer to Chapter 32 of the Thoroughbred Rules for specific requirements in this respect.
Horses can be owned by a registered racing stable name. The stable name, including a list of the persons included in the stable must be registered with The Jockey Club Registry Service before obtaining a license with the AGCO.
Racing Clubs offer a terrific way to experience racehorse ownership. For a set annual subscription fee, a Club subscription takes the risk out of racehorse ownership while experiencing all of the thrills and excitement of owning a racehorse. A Racing Club is managed and administered by the Club manager(s) as is the Club itself, and the Club owns the horses. Some Clubs will also share profits with the Club Members.
Members pay a fee to be part of the Club, and to enjoy some of the benefits of racehorse ownership. It isn’t necessary for members of a Racing Club to register as owners, as the Club itself is the registered owner of the horse(s).
Leasing is a less common option which involves ownership of a racehorse for a set period of time. Costs that the horse incurs become the responsibility of the lessee for the lease period, and in return the horse will run under the ownership of the lessee.
At the end of the lease agreement the ownership of the horse returns to the lessor / the legal owner. It’s important that an agreement is made between the lessor and lessee with regard to the lease period, prize money split if any, and any exceptional costs that may remain the lessor’s during the period.
The reality is, is that this truly is a wonderful lifestyle option. While some may choose to go to the cottage as their getaway, others can spend a beautiful afternoon or evening watching their horse race, enjoying 5-star food and beverages, having fun with friends, and engaging in all of the opportunities that a day at the races, from an ownership perspective, becomes a day like no other.
Written by: Kelli M Maddocks | Photography: Cory Bruyea