Horse racing syndicates in Ireland have jumped by almost 44 per cent in just the last 12 months, but the number of groups owning runners remains a long way off the boom days.
In 2007 there were 1,493 syndicates. So far this year, 87 new syndicates were registered, up by 43.7 per cent on the same period last year, bringing the total number of groups to 456.
One in six racehorses in Ireland is owned by a syndicate. In all, there are 2,997 owners, or owner-groups. Currently, there are 6,960 horses in training – 4,775 of them ran since January. Nearly 2,960 have collected some prize money.
Increasing prize money is attracting new owners, said Brian Kavanagh of Horse Racing Ireland. Last year, €61.1 million was available, and this will rise again this year.
It is a fantastic sport. A syndicate is a great chance to have a shared experience with people who you already know and have had good times with
“Horse Racing Ireland is actively involved in encouraging new owners and retaining our existing ownership base,” said Kavanagh. “We are determined to both attract new owners and retain existing owners.”
Shares can be sub-divided
Each syndicate is limited to 20 shares, though each share can be sub-divided.
One of the more high-profile syndicates to emerge this year is headed up by former Ireland, Munster and Leicester Tigers rugby player Johne Murphy.
From a Kildare farming family with strong horse racing ties, Murphy set up the Rugby and Racing Syndicate which owns two horses, Chateau Conti and Apparition, trained by Joseph O'Brien.
So far, the two have netted between €10,000 and €15,000 in prize money .
Fifteen shares in the syndicate have been sold at €10,000 each to Irish internationals Conor Murray, Keith Earls, Andrew Conway, Damien Varley, Fergus McFadden and Sean Cronin, and others.
“I have a background in the sport, some of the other lads don’t but it allows us have a crossover, rugby players coming racing and then horse people having an involvement with rugby,” said Murphy.
“I suppose it is a hobby investment. But we are all competitive, we want to win. In an ideal world you would want to at least break even, but the unpredictability of it is also an appealing aspect. We can’t keep playing rugby for ever.
"This allows us to continue to be part of competitive sport. It is a fantastic sport. A syndicate is a great chance to have a shared experience with people who you already know and have had good times with.
“But the key thing is that you are enjoying this experience without carrying all the burden, the financial exposure is spread out. We are hoping to build it up bit by bit and see where it takes us,” said Murphy.
However, the frailties of racing were all too apparent in Galway on Tuesday evening when Chateau Conti came a cropper in the 5.55pm the Latin Quarter Beginners Chase – he had already dislodged his jockey JJ Slevin by the very first fence.