Fancy a flutter?

8th June 2007 at 01:00
Take a chance by getting yourself on to the horse and dog racing circuit and you could gallop home with a profit. Alison Brace reports.

Do you like a bit of a flutter on the horses or at the dog track? Does the excitement generated in the stands as the runners head for the finishing line keep you coming back time and again?

Well, how about taking a different perspective and securing yourself a place in the owners' enclosure? If you have already made your millions, like Fergus and Judith Wilson, former maths teachers turned property tycoons, then you can afford to take a chance on a couple of colts. Or in their case, 10.

What if you have no immediate plans to turn yourself into a property millionaire, and yet still fancy owning a racehorse or a world-beating greyhound? Buying a dog is the least costly of the two and, according to the Investors Chronicle, you have a greater chance of making some money in the process. But Peter Laurie, welfare officer and spokesman for the British Greyhound Racing Board, says: "Only a minority of greyhound owners make a profit from the greyhound they own. You have to go in to it because you love greyhounds and you love racing."

What you pay out at the beginning can determine your chances of being in the winning circle, says Peter. A 15-month-old greyhound, ready to race, can cost about pound;1,000. A 12-week pup costs a few hund-red, but a dog with proven track record can cost as much as pound;100,000. Then there are training fees at about pound;50 a week.

As the four-week greyhound Derby unfolds at Wimbledon Stadium this month all eyes will be on Westmead Hawk, who has taken the pound;100,000 prize for the past two years and, fitness permitting, will attempt a hat-trick.

If Westmead Hawk and his ilk are out of your league, then there are also greyhound co-ownership schemes. See the British Greyhound Racing Board's website at for more details.

When it comes to racehorses, this is a costly business. Firstly, there's buying the horse - even Cockney Rebel, winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May, was nicknamed "cheap" because he only cost pound;30,000.

Then, according to the Racehorse Owners Association, there are annual training fees of at least pound;16,000 a year and entry fees for races - pound;100 for an average race. To get a runner in the Derby would set you back by about pound;13,000.

There is a cheaper way of becoming a racehorse owner: you simply join or form a syndicate. The British Horseracing Board - - promotes joint ownership schemes to open up the world of racing to more people. Visit

There is a also a list of syndicates at They range from Elite, which has thousands of members who pay pound;169 a year, to the Royal Ascot Racing Club, whose members pay between pound;5,000 and pound;10,000 a year and include Simon Cowell, Baron Lloyd Webber and Sir Clement Freud.

Hereford Cathedral Junior School had a syndicate until last year made up of teachers, governors and parents. "It was great fun," says Tim Lowe, headteacher. "You can wander around thinking you're important in the paddock."

But he cautions that if you think about setting up a syndicate, get as many people together as possible - and as many horses. The school reluctantly disbanded the syndicate last autumn after its one horse, Mrs Higham, had a run of being balloted out of races, where too many horses had entered the race and it didn't make the starting line-up You only get your great days out if your horse runs. But Tim isn't ruling out another syndicate in the future.

James Oldring of the British Horseracing Board says that if you set up a syndicate with 10 or 12 people, it will cost about pound;2,000 each. "You have to regard the money as spent," he says. "If you happen to win your money back in prize money then you've done very well."

So why do it? Wouldn't it be better to spend your money on the lottery and hope your number comes up?

"You might get 30 seconds of hope or enjoyment with a lottery ticket," says James. "But with a racehorse you get that for six months. You buy the experience of watching your horse train and run - not just the opportunity to make money. And having done it myself, there is nothing better."

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