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Cost of Owning A Thoroughbred

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JP asked, so JP shall receive. Owning a race horse is very expensive. Mainly it's due to the fact that you have to keep a large staff around in order to care for and when you train the animals. The math ATJ.

So let's start with the purchase price. You can pay the stud fee, or purchase a foal. So let's just say you buy decently bred 2 year old filly in training for $15,000 at the Ocala 2yo in Training Sale.

So you send it to a trainer. Now different "circuits" of tracks cost different daily rates. For instance, the Churchill-Keeneland-Arlington-Indiana-Oaklawn circuit is around 75-100 per day for training alone. Lower levels of racing, say Prairie Meadows-Columbus might be around 50. So let's roll with 85/day. If you want a premium trainer like Asmussen, Pletcher, et al, expect to pay a significant premium on top of all of that. Trainers will also typically take 10% of the gross winnings.

Normally you'd expect a 6-8 week train-up for the horse once it reaches the track before it ever starts. And that's assuming no setbacks. So that's 85*56=$4,750.

Once racing, a typical horse can expect to start a few times before breaking its maiden based in order to get comfortable with starting, running in a crowd, and getting dirt kicked in their face. So that's another 6 weeks of training fees: 85*42=$3,570.

Hooray! the filly broke her maiden. But let's worry about winnings later.

So we have a well bred (well, well bred enough) filly, who is a winner. She's competitive at the high claiming level and runs for 4 full years from late 2yo (after breaking her maiden) to late 6yo. That's a total of $124,100 in training fees. Then we decide to retire her to breed (having her claimed would offset the purchase price).

You can guess on vet fees at being around 100/week (we'll round and say $10/day.) That would cover basic vaccinations, pre-race medications (Lasix, etc) and other basic treatment. So that's $14,700 over the racing lifetime of the horse.

So we are at:

  • $15,000 - purchase price
  • $7,830 - Training fees before first win
  • $124,100 - Training fees after first win for duration of career
  • $14,700 - Veterinary fees for basic care

We'll omit any major injuries that require serious treatment or surgery, since you never have any idea what those will be.  But in reality, one significant injury is likely.

This also doesn't include van rides to and from tracks and training facilities, but you can imagine that it is about 400 per ride, so we'll leave that out for now too.

So we are at $161,630 in basic fees over a 4+ year racing career. That is footed completely by the owner. So in order just to break even she would need to win $41k per year. But wait, the trainer and jock each take 10% from the gross. so you really need to win 51k per year.

But wait! Uncle Sam takes his taxes too. So really you need to win $70,000 year just to break even if she runs and/or trains continuously. You can offset some of those costs by owning a horse in partnership with a trainer. But it really is damn expensive. You can also move the horse back to a layup farm during any programmed breaks in training or needed rest. That would be around 25 dollars a day. So in reality you would probably need to pull in 50-60k a year to break even if the filly rests for part of the year.

No matter which way you cut it, it is very very expensive (and this is admittedly a complete estimation of the total costs.) But it is outweighed by the fact that it is very very addicting.