In the history of British horse racing, the most successful owner is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. In 1992, Sheikh Mohammed founded Godolphin, the Al Maktoum family-owned horse racing stable, which has since won over 5,000 races worldwide and has won the Flat Owners’ Championship in Britain thirteen times since its inception. In 2018, for example, Godolphin accrued over £4.4 million in prize money in Britain, thanks in no small part to a first victory in the Derby with Masar, trained by Charlie Appleby.
However, Sheikh Mohammed recorded his first winner, as an owner, in Britain in June, 1977 and he and his brother, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, were highly successful owners in their own right throughout the Eighties, long before the foundation of Godolphin. Indeed, between 1985 and 1993, Sheikh Mohammed was Champion Owner in every year bar one, 1990, in which Sheikh Hamdan took the title. In fact, the year after Godolphin won the Flat Owners’ Championship for the first time, in 1996, Sheikh Mohammed won it again in his own right.
Depending on its pedigree, physique and, if it has raced, its performance on the racecourse, a racehorse can cost anything from several thousand to hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of pounds. The typical initial purchase price is around £15,000. Of course, the initial purchase price is just the start; thereafter racehorse owners incur annual costs for training, insurance, veterinary care, registration, entry and transport. According to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), the annual cost of owning a racehorse is, on average, approximately £23,000 for a horse that races on the Flat and approximately £17,000 for a horse that races under National Hunt Rules.
The prohibitive cost of outright, or sole, ownership is one reason why many British racehorses are owned by syndicates or, in other words, groups of people who band together, under the auspices of a licensed trainer, or syndicate manager, to share the cost of owning one or more horses. Each member of the syndicate owns a small share – typically 2.5%, 5% or 10% – in the syndicated horse(s) and either pays a one-off fee, or an upfront fee, plus ongoing monthly training fees.