The ROA – Racehorse Ownership guide and support

Racehorse ownership has become an inclusive opportunity for the masses, rather than an exclusive privilege of the elite.

Ownership can take numerous forms to suit varying bank-balances. Sole Ownership does what it says on the tin. A 100% share in a thoroughbred, racing in your colours, and providing prize money solely for you, sounds quite a thrill. Sole responsibility for the fees, numerous as they are, is maybe less of a thrill.

Companies can be registered as an owner, with the shareholders benefitting from any winnings. The company appoints an agent to act on its behalf (must speak to the boss). A Partnership is another ownership option. Two or more may wish to share the ownership, and decide on the percentage split, sharing the costs and any prize-money.

Syndicates have become increasingly popular, appealing to people with limited disposable income. A group are managed by a syndicator who registers as the owner. People pay a fee, often for a limited time period, to lease or own a share in a horse or horses. The fee covers outgoings and the member sits back waiting for the prize-money to flood in. This can be a very sociable way of owning a horse, with gatherings at the racecourse and mornings at the trainer’s stables.

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A Racing Club is not dissimilar, with people paying a subscription to own part of a leg or a hoof. The fee covers outgoings and again the club member will be due a share of prize-money. As with the syndicate, this is a great opportunity for those with a smaller bank-balance to get involved in racehorse ownership. It’s a terrific way of meeting like-minded racing fans, whether at the racecourse or on the gallops.

Once your finances are in order, and you’ve signed on the dotted line, the Racehorse Owners Association are on hand with advice, support and numerous benefits, to make the racehorse ownership journey that much more comfortable.

The ROA has more than 8,000 members (yes sorry, there is a fee), who not only benefit hugely from being involved, but also back the ROA’s continual effort to make an owners’ experience the best it can possibly be.

A group of racehorse owners established the organisation in 1945. Sir Harold Werneher of Market Harborough, Newmarket’s Cecil Boyd Rochford (step-father to Sir Henry Cecil), Henry Persse of Stockbridge, Sir Malcolm McAlpine, Chairman of the Engineering and Construction firm, James Rank of Godstone, York’s John Hetherton and Jack Olding of Hatfield, who’s company in London were the sole dealers of the Aston Martin in the 1930s, were the magnificent seven that got the ball rolling.

In the early years, the relatively small membership of around 700 lacked clout, and the ROA were pretty much ignored by the Jockey Club. The 1960s saw greater pressure exerted as the association sought better prize-money for its members. A fair amount of cooperation was reached with the Racecourse Association, including free parking for owners and improved luncheon facilities. They also set about collating information on prize-money against costs, applying pressure on the Levy Board to spread prize-money across fixtures rather than targeting just the prestigious events.

In the 1970s, greater marketing ensured a rapid rise in membership, passing 3,000 in 1976. More members equated to more power, and ongoing battles with both the Levy Board and the Jockey Club. The ROA produced a report in the mid-70s, showing that British racing was among the world leaders for betting turnover, yet gave so little back to the racing industry. This information was passed far and wide in the hope of sparking change.

In 1993 the British Horseracing Board was formed, and supported by the ROA sought to build a long-term financial plan for racing, in the interests of all involved. Pressure was applied to governments of the day for a greater return from the betting industry. Such battles are ongoing to this day.

In 2009 membership rose to 7,600, and as shareholders in the BHA, the association now play a more influential role in helping shape the industry. As numbers rose, so did the benefits acquired by those paying members. Owners receive third party insurance to cover against their horse causing injury or damage. There is free admission to over a thousand fixtures each year. The VAT on ownership can be reclaimed through an ROA sponsorship scheme. There is also a free subscription to the informative Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder magazine. Trainers’ Open Days along with ROA racecourse events are another perk, giving owners the opportunity of maximising their racing experience.

Though not essential, there’s no doubting that anyone taking the plunge into racehorse ownership, at whatever level of commitment, would gain considerably from membership of the ROA. Along with benefits, support and guidance, the association continue to push for a better deal for the owners they represent. Their website is a terrific source of information, and can be reached at

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