Fun isn’t a word one customarily sees in a prospectus, but share-owners in Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s syndicates get exactly that: the thrills and spills that come with the proverbial ticket to ride.
‘It’s as close to as you can get to owning a racehorse outright – but without the hassle and the major capital outlay,’ says the Hon Harry Herbert, the managing director of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing (HTR), Europe’s premier racehorse-ownership company.
The firm was the first to offer racehorse syndicates, 24 years ago, and is now the largest manager of syndicates in Europe. Owners range from teenagers to retirees, with most in their fifties. They include everyone from chairs of blue-chip companies to celebrities. The common denominator? A passion for racing. HTR puts together small groups of people to share in a number of top-quality racehorses in a syndicate that allows owners to experience racing at the highest level.
‘There is no greater way to experience the joy of ownership,’ says Herbert. Share-owners join a syndicate to part-own the horse, with no worry about buying, selling, training or race preparation. Highclere employs top trainers across the country, who are responsible for of the horses’ upkeep and training, as well as updating their owners on their progress.
Participating in a Highclere syndicate makes racehorse ownership infinitely more affordable than it would be as an independent sole owner.
For a fraction of the price it costs to own a horse outright, Highclere provides share-owners with the same type of experience enjoyed by the Queen and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Highclere’s owners also get a rare bonus: an entrée to the inner circle of thoroughbred racing. It organises regular stable visits to Newmarket, where owners stay in the exclusive and historic Jockey Club Rooms.
While the typical racehorse syndicate tends to be a rather sterile venture, being a Highclere shareowner is more like being a parent with a child at an exclusive school. Owners are kept up to date on everything from training yard to racetrack. ‘We treat each owner as if he or she owns their horse outright,’ says Herbert.
Julia Budd, founder of an executive-search firm in London, joined one of Highclere’s first syndicates when the company opened its doors in 1992 and has remained a share-owner ever since. Although she had neither an equestrian background nor a deep knowledge of racing, she was quickly bitten by the bug.
Now, while her colleagues at work are enjoying a coffee break, Budd likes to hole up in her office and watch Highclere’s latest video update of her horse galloping. Her very first syndicate steed was Distinction – a remarkable campaigner and a multiple winner of the Ascot Gold Cup, the Melbourne Cup and the Goodwood Cup.
Such credentials are not uncommon with Highclere horses. The company has raced seven champions and has consistently been the leading syndicate firm since 1994, with 10 winners at Royal Ascot – more than any other multi-ownership concern.
Budd, who has served for nearly a decade on the board of the prestigious Jockey Club, is quick to point out that, while basking in the winners’ circle is exciting, the accolades are not the be-all and end-all of racehorse ownership. ‘Racing is not just about what happens on the racetrack; an equally special moment can simply be watching the horses work out in the early morning,’ she says, adding that there are many ups and downs for owners. With a smile, she describes horse racing as ‘a sport that suits optimists better than pessimists’.
Highclere makes clear that participation in its syndicates is for the purpose of sharing in the enjoyment of the horses and not for investment, but some of its steeds have sold for handsome amounts after their racing careers. Harbinger was sold in 2010 to stand at stud in Japan for a multi-million-dollar figure, and Petrushka was bought by Sheikh Mohammed in 2001 for a then world-record US$5,250,000.
Highclere’s highly respected bloodstock agent, John Warren, who serves as adviser to the Queen in that regard, selects the syndicate’s horses in conjunction with Herbert. Thereafter, they are put through their paces by leading trainers, including Sir Michael Stoute, Richard Hannon and William Haggas.
Simon Scupham, a Bermuda resident and a share-owner who has been with Highclere for 20 years, has just enjoyed his 200th winner with the company. ‘The memories you get when you watch your own horse racing become a part of you,’ he says. ‘Unlike money, which is soon gone, ownership of a Highclere horse is something that stays with you forever.’ highclereracing.co.uk
Darlene Ricker provides editorial services to businesses and professionals throughout the equine industry