How Much Does Racehorse Ownership Cost?

How Much Does Racehorse Ownership Cost?

The thrill of racehorse ownership is priceless, but there are some specific costs involved.

Dynasty Dinamo and his connections stand in the winner's circle at Rillito Park after he won the fifth running of the Rulon Goodman Maiden Stakes. PHOTO by Coady Photography

text size

There is nothing like the thrill of owning your own racehorse – watching your horse walk to the starting gate with your own silks on his back, standing in the winner’s circle with your family and friends, and hanging that win photo on your wall as a forever memory. 

But it is important for a new owner to understand the costs that are associated with racehorse ownership.

“I think one of the biggest downfalls for new owners is surprises, especially financial surprises,” says champion and Grade 1-winning trainer Ed Ross Hardy. “I try to lay it out on the line and give them a high number of what to expect so they are completely aware about what the investment is.”

Initial Cost

The first step is acquiring a horse. This price varies wildly depending on what kind of horse you wish to purchase. 

  • Dipping your toes into racehorse ownership via purchasing a claiming horse can be a good way to start. The upfront cost to claim a horse can be as little as $2,500, and you can often run the horse back and have a chance to earn some purse money in two or three weeks after making the claim.

    “If you are new to the business, then claiming a horse is a great way to start,” advises All American Futurity-winning trainer John Buchanan. “And if you get in on a partnership and have five or 10 people go in on a horse, that’s also a good way to keep the expenses down.”
     
  • A horse sale is also a great way to purchase a horse, with lots of options available. You can purchase a yearling that will be able to race the following year, or even purchase breeding stock if you’re interested in a long-term setup. 
     
  • Purchase a horse privately. It’s best to do this with the assistance of a professional advisor. 

Regular Expenses

  • Day Rate – This is the amount you will pay the trainer, which covers all the basic care, feeding and race preparation for your horse. The rate varies by trainer and by region but generally will be in the range of $30-50 per day. 
  • Race Fees - The trainer and jockey will earn 10 percent of any earnings the horse records for finishing first, second or third in overnight (maiden, claiming and allowance) races, and 10 percent for any finishing position in a stakes race. 
  • Layoff Board - All racehorses will require rest at a farm for a portion of the year. This rate depends on the location and services offered, but can be estimated at $10-20 per day. 
  • Vet Bill – Horses will need regular medical care, from vaccinations and deworming to maintenance to keep the horse comfortable and healthy. This cost varies depending on what the horse needs, but as a starting average, estimate $300-800 per month. 
  • Farrier - Generally a horse that is in training will need a new pair of shoes about once a month, and that will run about $125 each time. 

Other Expenses

  • Challenge Enrollment - Once a horse is enrolled in the Bank of America Racing Challenge, it is eligible to race in these races for the duration of its lifetime. Enrollment of a weanling is a mere $300.
  • Futurity Payments – While overnight races generally have no entry fee, if you want your horse to compete in futurity races, it requires making futurity payments. This money will go into the final purse. Keeping up with these payments is generally the responsibility of the owner; these fees vary, but complete payments for one futurity could cost $3,000-4,000.
  • Transportation Fees - If your horse needs to be moved to another track, expect to pay at least .50 per mile for hauling fees.
  • Insurance – Mortality and theft insurance are optional expenses. The rates vary depending on the age and sex of the racehorse, but expect a policy to cost 3-8.5 percent of the horse’s price. 

Those who have been bitten by the racing bug will tell you that nothing compares to campaigning your own racehorse. And most of those who hit it big with a Grade 1 winner will tell you that although the money is great, it’s only part of the attraction. 

“There’s no greater thrill than watching a Quarter Horse run, especially when you have a good one,” says John. “If you stay in this long enough, you are going to get a good horse sooner or later.”

“These horses are animals, they are not machines,” says Juan. “To get that one big horse is tough, and it’s really the luck of the draw. But I tell people if you want to have fun and excitement and you love horses, then you are going to love racing.”