Although group ownership has long been a very popular way to own racehorses in this country, it is now being seen as a significant way to grow the fan-base of our sport.
The ROA is at the forefront of racing’s efforts to broaden ownership through syndication, while the BHA is on the point of introducing initiatives to improve and simplify the administration tasks facing owners within this area.
It is surprising to find that the number of registered owners involved in partnerships and syndicates is greater than all other ownership types put together
Even though you can see the popularity of syndicate-owned horses in racecards every day, it is still slightly surprising to find that the number of registered owners involved in partnerships and syndicates is greater than all other ownership types put together.
Cost is, of course, a huge factor in people choosing to opt for group ownership. It brings both the initial outlay and training costs down to manageable proportions. But, in most cases, there is also a great attraction in being part of a group of people who share a mutual interest and experience.
Of course, everyone wants to win prize-money – and, for many, the extent to which they do dictates their level of involvement – but of equal importance is having a good time.
Racing is nothing if not a social activity. What better illustration of this than the pleasure gained from meeting up with a group of fellow owners on the racecourse when you have a runner? To talk about the horse’s chances with the trainer and to cheer at the top of your voice when there’s the slightest chance of victory.
The same sense of camaraderie is there when you visit the yard, when you watch your horse on morning gallops and when you start to develop a sense of involvement that allows you to appreciate the thoroughbred horse as the beautiful animal that it is. And, of course, you dream of what might be.
It is the job of racing generally – and the ROA specifically – not only to explain the practicalities of ownership but to convey this sense of excitement with the aim of fuelling the popularity of our sport. Indeed, any new owner should become a member of the ROA.
Clearly, racecourses and trainers have an enormous role to play in this. Trainers are increasingly dependent on having syndicate-owned horses in their yards and many have set up syndicates themselves. To embrace this new world, trainers need to develop marketing and organisational skills that go way outside the ambit of caring for racehorses.
For racecourses, the growth of multi-ownership groups has also required them to look at the treatment of owners on racedays in a very different way. Whereas a runner once meant looking after a small group of connections, it can now mean 20 people or more expecting a decent level of racecourse service.
It is against this background that the BHA is about to press the button on the initiatives affecting group ownerships. Key to this is the setting up of an online service that allows the person or people running the syndicate to go through a much-simplified registration process. As the ‘syndicator’, it will be their responsibility to manage the syndicate under the Rules of Racing and ensure all dues are met.
Not only does this mean owners will achieve overall savings because of an alignment of certain fees, but it will much reduce the administrative burden that has hitherto been a bane for those running syndicates.
The fact that the new system follows the setting up of a Syndicate Code of Conduct – now underpinned by the Rules of Racing – shows how seriously racing’s administrators are taking the growth of group ownership.
It is recognition that, as much as we want more and more people to enjoy the unique delights of owning a share in a racehorse, there is an absolute need in today’s world to create the right regulatory structures so people feel protected when taking their first, often tentative, steps into ownership.