Thoroughbred Racing Syndicates poised for ‘transformational’ deal

Horseracing venture with US investor would enable access to high-end bloodstock market

A horseracing venture set up by former professional rugby player Johne Murphy with trainer Joseph O'Brien is attracting international interest.

Mr Murphy started Thoroughbred Racing Syndicates in 2021 with €550,000 backing from investors looking to cash in on a dip in bloodstock prices that left well-bred horses selling at a discount to previous years.

The business sold five of the six horses bought to race on the flat last season for “close to seven figures”, giving backers a 27 per cent return on their cash.

His original investors took their profit and have re-invested their principal in a fresh crop of horses expected to race during the current flat season, which began last week.


Meanwhile, Mr Murphy has confirmed he is in talks with a possible US investor interested in buying horses at September’s bloodstock sales to race next season. A deal would be “transformational” should it happen, allowing Thoroughbred Syndicates to buy at the very high end of the bloodstock market, Mr Murphy says.

Breeding stock

Returns at that end of the market can be lucrative as those horses race at the highest level and have potentially high residual value as breeding stock once their careers end.

Mr Murphy did not name his possible US investor, as a deal has not been done. “We’re moving down the line of due diligence with them at the moment,” he said. “It would be a tech company; they’re looking at moving into this sphere in the next two to three years.”

Mr Murphy explained that the business is interested in racing as it believes off-course betting in the US is poised to open up and expand, boosting that country’s already substantial bloodstock industry.

However, legislators have to update laws governing horse welfare in the US. In the meantime, the business is considering following other American and overseas owners and investing in Irish racing and bloodstock.

A former Munster and Leicester Tigers star, Mr Murphy inherited his love of racing from his father, John.

Race for season

He teamed up with Mr O’Brien in 2016, running syndicates “more for fun”. The trainer suggested he step up his investment to take advantage of a fall in bloodstock prices during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The syndicate aims to buy horses to race for a season before selling them on, hopefully earning a profit in the process.

This year, the syndicate will race four colts and four fillies, some of which are at the start of their careers. Others have experience under their belts.

Among those that have raced is a filly, Red Wasp, which will run over shorter sprint distances this year. “We would be very confident that she would step up the ranks,” said Mr Murphy.

The string includes two year olds, horses at the start of their careers, with good pedigrees, key to their value when they are sold. Those horses' sires include proven and upcoming stallions such as Zoffany and Churchill.

Mr O'Brien began training in 2016 following six years in the saddle during which he rode two Epsom Derby winners.

A son of Aidan O'Brien, who trains for world-leading Tipperary-based breeding partnership Coolmore, his victories as a trainer include two Irish Derbies, a Melbourne Cup and numerous wins at the highest level in racing.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas