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Owning a Racehorse: Risks Rewards and Making Money

Owning a Racehorse: A Guide to Potential Profits and Challenges

Owning a racehorse can be an exciting and rewarding venture, but it is also one that requires a significant financial investment. Many people wonder whether it is possible to make money owning a racehorse, and the answer is yes.

However, there are challenges involved, and there are no guarantees of success. In this article, we’ll explore the different ways racehorse owners can make money and the challenges they may face along the way.

Ways to Make Money Owning a Racehorse

Racehorse owners can earn money through several means, including:

  • Purse money
  • Breeding
  • Selling
  • Pinhooking
  • Support services

Purse Money

One of the most common ways racehorse owners make money is through purse money. Purse money is a cash prize awarded to the top finishers of a race.

The amount of prize money varies depending on the race’s prestige, location, and the number of participants. Owners earn a percentage of the purse money based on how their horse placed in the race.

For example, the owner of the first-place horse may receive 60 percent of the purse money, while the owner of the second-place horse may receive 20 percent, and so on.

Jockey and Training Fees

Racehorse owners also make money by paying jockeys and trainers. Jockeys receive a percentage of the purse money they win for the horse’s owner, and trainers charge a fee to train and supervise the horse.

The amount of these fees can vary widely.


Racehorse owners can also make money through breeding. If a horse has a successful racing career, it may become a valuable sire or broodmare.

The owners can then charge a stud fee for breeding the horse. Broodmares, on the other hand, can produce multiple offspring, and their owners can earn money by selling those offspring.

Breeders’ Awards

Horse breeding is a long-term investment, but it can pay off in the long run. In addition to stud fees, breeders can earn money through breeders’ awards.

These awards are cash prizes given to breeders of horses that win accredited races. The amount of these awards varies depending on the state and the race’s prestige.

Pinhooking and Selling Racehorses

Racehorse owners can also make money through pinhooking and selling racehorses. Pinhooking involves buying a young horse and selling it at a later time for a profit.

This requires careful selection of young horses with a high potential for success and careful management to ensure they reach their potential.

Owners can also sell their horses after they’ve had a successful racing career. They can sell them at auction to other owners or breeders, earning a profit for their investment.

Support Services

Racehorse owners can also earn money by providing support services to other owners. For example, owners can board horses on their property for a fee.

They can also provide management services, such as overseeing the horse’s training and health care. Additionally, owners can lease their facilities to other owners for training or breeding purposes.

Challenges in Making Money Owning a Racehorse

While there are certainly ways to make money owning a racehorse, there are also significant risks and challenges involved. The following are some of the most significant challenges owners face.

Financial Risk

The biggest challenge in owning a racehorse is the financial risk. Racehorse ownership is expensive, with initial costs for buying a horse, as well as ongoing expenses such as training, veterinarian care, food, and boarding.

Even when the horse begins racing, there are no guarantees of success. Owners can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars without making any profit, as success in horse racing is greatly impacted by luck and chance.

Tax Write-Off

Another challenge for horse owners is the complicated nature of tax write-offs. Owners can only deduct certain expenses from their taxes, and they must keep accurate records to prove those expenses.

Monthly Expenses

Owners must also be prepared for the ongoing expense of owning a racehorse. The monthly expenses can add up quickly, including food, medicine, veterinarian visits, and boarding.

Additionally, owners must pay for trainers and jockeys, plus travel expenses for the horse to get to races. These expenses can quickly become overwhelming for new owners who aren’t prepared for the long-term financial commitment.


Owning a racehorse can be a thrilling and lucrative experience, with potential for making money through purse money, breeding, sale of racehorses, and support services. However, the financial risks and ongoing expenses are intense, making it important for owners to be fully committed to the investment.

With careful planning, knowledge, and luck, owning a racehorse can be a profitable and rewarding endeavor.

What is a Horse Racing Syndicate?

A horse racing syndicate is a group of individuals who pool their finances and resources to purchase a racehorse. The syndicate owners share ownership of the horse and responsibility for its care, training, and racing, and they share in any winnings or profits from the horse’s success.


Syndicate members own a share of the racehorse rather than owning the horse outright. The size of a member’s ownership share depends on the amount of money they invest in the syndicate.

Typically, syndicates are managed by an agent who handles the day-to-day aspects of horse care, such as training, feeding, and veterinary care.


Syndicates can have a large number of shareholders, commonly ranging from ten to twenty, but can have as many as fifty or more depending on the size of the investment needed to buy a horse. Syndicates provide the opportunity for individuals to join in the excitement of horse racing without the significant financial investment required to own a racehorse outright.

Costs and Responsibilities of Joining a Horse Racing Syndicate

Membership in a horse racing syndicate comes with a number of costs and responsibilities, which must be considered before joining:

Monthly Costs

Syndicate members typically pay a monthly fee to cover the ongoing expenses of horse care, training, and racing. These costs can vary depending on the level of participation and investment, and can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands per month.

Management Fee

Horse racing syndicates also charge a management fee to cover the cost of managing the syndicate. This fee can vary from 5% to 10% of the monthly fee, depending on the syndicate’s structure.

Administration Expenses

Additional administrative expenses may also be levied by the syndicate to cover legal fees, accounting fees, and other miscellaneous expenses that are incurred in the management of a racing syndicate.

Tax and Insurance Considerations for Horse Racing Syndicate Members

Horse racing syndicate members must also be aware of tax and insurance implications.


Under certain circumstances, horse racing syndicate members can depreciate their share in the horse for tax purposes. However, to qualify for depreciation, the syndicate must be considered an active business, with the owners meeting participation requirements and demonstrating a profit motive.

Additionally, the horse must be used for specific business purposes, such as racing or breeding.

Mortality Insurance

Mortality insurance is a type of insurance that pays out if a racehorse dies or is declared medically unfit to race. It is important to note that mortality insurance does not cover losses due to injury that does not meet the medical guidelines for euthanasia.

Tax Liability

Horse racing syndicate members must also be aware of their tax liability. Members are required to pay taxes on any winnings earned by the horse, and these taxes can be significant.

Owners can offset some of the tax liability by deducting expenses, such as training fees, veterinary care, and management fees.

Can You Depreciate a Racehorse?

Depreciation is the process of spreading the cost of a long-term asset over its useful life. Horse racing syndicate members can depreciate their share in a racehorse if certain requirements are met.

Participation Requirements

To qualify for depreciation, the horse racing syndicate must be considered an active business, and the member must meet specific participation requirements. To be considered an active owner, the member must actively participate in the management of the syndicate, monitor the horse’s progress, and participate in key decision-making processes.

Additionally, they must demonstrate a profit motive, meaning they must be in the business of racing or breeding horses with the intention of making a profit.

Business Activity

Syndicate members can only depreciate their share in the horse if they use the horse for specific business purposes. This includes racing or breeding the horse.

Members must also use the horse at a particular site that is used principally for the care, training, and development of racehorses.

Guidelines for Depreciating a Racehorse

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has specific guidelines for depreciating a racehorse. The horse must be a capital expenditure, not a regular operating expense.

The horse must also have a useful life that is greater than one year and can have a depreciable life of up to seven years.


Horse racing syndicates provide individuals with the opportunity to experience the excitement of horse racing without the significant financial investment required to own a racehorse outright. Joining a syndicate comes with costs and responsibilities, including monthly fees, management fees, and administration expenses.

Members must also be aware of their tax and insurance liability when joining a syndicate. Syndicate members can also depreciate their share in a horse for tax purposes, but must meet specific requirements and follow IRS guidelines.

Can You Insure a Racehorse?

Racehorse owners can protect their investment by purchasing mortality insurance, which is a type of insurance that pays out in the event that the horse is lost, killed, or destroyed.

Mortality insurance is essential for horse owners as it provides protection against unforeseeable events that could result in significant financial losses.

Importance of Mortality Insurance for Racehorse Owners

Mortality insurance premium costs are in proportion to the fair market value of the horse. So, the cost of insuring a premier, expensive racehorse would be higher than that of an average racehorse. However, racehorse owners are aware of the importance of having insurance in place to prevent significant financial setbacks in case of any unforeseeable tragic events happening to their racehorse.

Types of Incidents Covered by Mortality Insurance

Mortality insurance covers a variety of situations, including death due to illness, injury, or natural causes. The insurance policy typically covers the entire value of the horse, with the payout being available to the horse owner in case of death.

The insurance policies also cover horses presumed dead or never recovered due to the horse lost in transit or stolen.

Do Horse Owners Pay Tax on Winnings?

Horse owners must pay taxes on their winnings, and they are required to file taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States.

IRS Requirements for Reporting Racehorse Winnings

For horse owners that have an ownership stake in more than one racehorse but don’t own any single horse outright, their tax-filing requirements might become complicated. However, the racing and breeding industry comes under a different set of rules than other professional sports.

Owners will typically report their winnings as (other) income on Schedule C.

Tax Liability for Racehorse Owners

Racehorse owners’ tax liability for their winnings depends on their level of ownership and partnership agreement in the horse racing syndicate. For active racehorse owners, the earnings from their investments are taxed as ordinary income.

Agreed Percentage of Ownership

The agreed percentage of ownership reflects the respective shares each party invested in the syndicate’s purchase. All owners report tax on their percentage based on their ownership and not the total earnings made.

Passive Owners

Passive owners get taxed differently than active owners, with tax laws classifying them as passive investors. In the case of passive investors, the winnings they earn will incur self-employment tax if their winnings surpass the deductible expenses.

Net Losses

Moreover, not all horse racing winnings might incur the same tax liability. In the case of a racehorse that incurs net losses, owners can deduct the losses reported on Schedule C against future earnings or other sources of income they might have to help offset the losses.


Racehorse owners must file taxes for their winnings reported based on IRS regulations. Horse racing syndicates may have multiple owners, each paying taxes on their proportionate ownership interest.

All Horse racing participants should understand the tax liabilities involved with winning races, to manage their finances effectively. In addition, mortality insurance is highly recommended to provide financial protection against a horse’s unexpected death, leading to financial losses.

In summary, owning a racehorse can be a lucrative venture. To make money from owning a racehorse, owners can earn through purse money, breeding, selling, pinhooking, and support services.

However, owning a racehorse can also be costly and comes with financial risks such as tax liabilities, monthly costs, and administration expenses. In addition, owners must have mortality insurance in place to protect their investments in case of unforeseeable events.

Lastly, horse owners must report taxes on their winnings, and the tax liability depends on their level of ownership and ownership agreement. The key takeaway is to carefully consider the costs, benefits, and responsibilities involved in owning a racehorse before investing in it.


1. What is a Horse Racing Syndicate?

A horse racing syndicate is a group of individuals who pool their finances and resources to purchase a racehorse.

2. Can you insure a racehorse?

Yes, racehorse owners can purchase mortality insurance to protect their investments in case of unforeseeable events.

3. Do horse owners pay tax on winnings?

Yes, horse owners must pay taxes on their winnings and file taxes with the Internal Revenue Service based on their level of ownership and partnership agreement.

4. What incidents are covered by mortality insurance?

Mortality insurance typically covers death due to illness, injury, or natural causes, with the payout being available to the horse owner in case of death.

5. What are the challenges of making money owning a racehorse?

The challenges of owning a racehorse may include financial risk, high monthly expenses, tax liability, and administration expenses, among others.

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