A racehorse syndicate is an inexpensive way to join the ranks of racehorse owners - This interview with Deva Racing Mike Foster gives valuable insights into owning a horse via a partnership or syndicate.
More Than Owning A Racehorse The Mike Foster InterviewDeva Racing oﬀer Managed Syndicates and Racing Partnerships with twoof the best young trainers in Britain - Tom Dascombe and DonaldMcCain. I recently interviewed Mike Foster, the Racing Manager, at DevaRacing about his love of racing and racehorse ownership.How did you get interested in horse racing?My grandparents were always interested in racing. They took me to Chesterraces at a very young age and I remember just being fascinated by the wholething.
So you re not speciﬁcally from a racing backgroundthen?No, but my granddad wrote a racing tips column in the local paper and fromthe age of ﬁve I was helping my granddad on Saturday morning with hisracing selections. I d go down on a Saturday morning with the Sporting Life,it s the Racing Post now, and we d study the form giving points to the runnersbased on a system devised by my granddad.From that I got a fascination for the stats & ﬁgures and when I was about 14or 15 I started running a book in school, I remember one particular horsecalled Pulse Rate, which was also the name of our school band, everyone wasbacking it - this horse had no chance, but of course it won at 12/1 (laughs) Icouldn t go back to school for about 3 months!How did Deva Racing get started?I ve always been a keen racegoer and one day I saw an advert in the RacingPost for a syndicate - I never ever thought that people from my backgroundcould own horses. I bought a 100th share in a horse and it was useless! Itcame last in it s one race but I was absolutely bitten by the bug. I didn t wanta go out on a low and I was determined to have another go, which I did.Eventually I had a very good horse with Brian Smart called Aegean Dancerwho landed a big champion race and he won about £100k.When I heard that Michael Owen was opening up Manor House stables Icontacted him about the possibility of setting up a syndicate and at that stageit wasn t going to be a business, I just wanted a horse in training with them,local to me (Cheshire) and that s all I was aiming do.
I met with Michael and Nicky Vaughan and we seemed to get on quite well. Isyndicated my ﬁrst horse with them and that went really well. Then Nicky satme down one day and said why don t you do this full time?Since that ﬁrst horse Deva Racing has just grown and grown. A mutual friendlet me know that Donald McCain was interested in syndicates. I arranged ameeting with him at Bankhouse Stables, I didn t know him very well at thetime, but we hit it oﬀ straight away. I remember thinking we can worktogether and that s how we got started with National Hunt horses atBankhouse.Is it diﬃcult to ﬁnd owners for the syndicate horses?Marketing is important and it gets easier when you have runners andwinners. Bangor-On-Dee racecourse is also a big help. Our ﬁrst winner thereraised our proﬁle and we attracted people we may not have reached throughour normal marketing channels. We also advertise in the Racing Post andwe re featured in local magazines but I would say that 95% of enquiries aregenerated from the internet.What type of people are showing an interest in horseownership?Most of them are keen racegoers who are looking for the next step. Themajority of our owners over the last couple of years are people who ve takenearly retirement, their families have grown up and they re spoiling themselvesnow. Many have had an ambition to own a horse for a very long time.So people who in past may have spent money on golffee membership - are now thinking of horseownership?
Exactly, it s a hobby. In the jumps game it s about the horses, you have themfor longer, you re more emotionally invested. Unlike Flat racing where it canbe more business oriented. There s not the opportunity to make moneyimmediately unless you ve got something that s absolutely ﬂying. And in thatcase the owners will want to keep the horse anyway, it could take them toCheltenham or the Aintree Grand National.With the ﬂat horses it tends to be more of a business. We have them forabout a year - we buy inexpensive horses, hopefully they win and their valueincreases. Financially this has been very good for a number of our ownersand they ve enjoyed their experience of racing as well. Normally owners thenreinvest, if we return them a proﬁt they can buy two or three shares - it s notbecause they re not in it for the money, but rather what the money allowsthem to do which is buy more shares in more horses.Do you think owners with National Hunt horses aremore likely to stay with them for a much longerperiod of time?It s more of an emotional attachment to the horse. If you re on the ﬂat thenyou know you re only going to have them a year, maybe two and you aregoing to get oﬀers and they are going to get sold. Whereas there isn t that sortof pressure on the jump horses and people invest a lot in the horsethemselves because you are going to hopefully have them for ﬁve or sixyears. You ll have the times when they re injured and the times when they rewinning - it s a roller coaster ride.Does the perception of racing as a rich man s sportprevent people from getting involved?
It s no longer the sport of Kings. Look at what Harry Herbert and HighclereThoroughbred Racing have done. People have their view on Harry but onething I will say about Harry, as somebody within our industry, is when he sinterviewed on prime time television he will promote syndicates - normallyhis own! But that opens people s eyes and generates interest in all syndicates.Deva Racing will be at Bangor-On-Dee racecourse on May 18th with a displaystand, our goal is to promote the beneﬁts of syndicates and let people knowthey can get involved in racehorse ownership. Whatever your budget, there isa syndicate for you and I think that s important. However, It s never going tobe a cheap past time, keeping a race horse, particularly at a big stable likeDonald McCain s.Is it possible for a syndicate owners to compete withthe big boys?It depends on what you mean by syndicates. There are certain partnerships/syndicates where wealthy guys are owning four or ﬁve horses between them -they re partnerships but they re diﬀerent to us at Deva Racing because we reProfessionally Managed Partnerships. That means we re more likely to getpeople who are new to racehorse ownership. We take care of all the formﬁlling and admin side that goes with owning a horse.We are buying at a certain level, to buy a Kauto Star you d need hundreds ofthousands and that would push the syndicate costs out of the reach of mostpeople. Having said that our spend on horses has quadrupled since westarted. We ve got a proven track record which has allowed us to be braverwith our budget. We re buying better horses and our agreement with trainerDonald McCain is that we will increase our quality of horses because for himto achieve his goal to be Champion trainer we ve got to buy better horses.It s a partnership between us and Donald. The way syndicates work is thatwe re at the entry level of ownership and many of our owners will go on tosole ownership with either Tom or Donald - the fact that I m losing them as a
customer to Donald or Tom is part of it. We re using their name andreputation but we re also bring new owners to them.Is it diﬃcult to manage the expectations of owners?It s the hardest part of the job - managing people s expectations, but it comesdown to communication - it s all about communication. The owners page onour website is crucial to this as it allows us to give daily updates on all ourhorses. Were always looking at ways to involve owners more - for instance,as part of our owners weekend an Equine Vet will be giving a talk, hopefullythis will not only be very interesting but also help owners develop a deeperunderstanding about their horse.Do owner s expectations change over time?If that happens that s not the owners fault. That would be our fault for notcommunicating properly. This year for instance has been totally unique, bynow I would have expected two or three of our newer horses to have hadtheir debut races but the weather has been exceptionally bad this winter. Thehorse just can t work on this ground. These are young horses and you run therisk of serious injury working them on very poor ground. You could end upmissing a year rather than just having a couple of quiet months.There has been more low grade injuries and weakness in the horses thisseason because it s taking more out of them. The ground has been so soft andit s been the same for everybody. I ve never experienced this sort of year andneither has Donald. The gallops have ﬂooded in places that haven t ﬂoodedin 20 years. Talking to local farmers, this kind of ﬂooding hasn t happened in90 years.Donald wants the horses out running and winning. Racing works onpercentages and he knows that the more runners he has the more winnershe ll have, the more chance he has of being a Champion. The incentive is torun the horses and as owners we want to see them run so the goal is the
same. I get an easy life when the horses are running but I understand thatsometimes that s the wrong thing for the horse.Has the economic downturn made Syndicateownership a more attractive prospect?The biggest growth in ownership is syndicates. The super wealthy will alwayskeep and maintain horses because they re not really eﬀected by theeconomics. It s the middle owners, the local businessperson who s probablyhad two or three horses, they re the guys feeling the squeeze, it s diﬃcult tolay staﬀ oﬀ and justify owning a couple of horses.Traditionally most of our owners would be new to the game, people dippingtheir toe into the water or it was budget limitations that brought them tosyndicates. However, recently trainers has been sending us sole owners whoare now moving to syndicates. For Deva Racing that s our biggest growth areathis year, it s worth remembering that if you re a sole owner and your horsewins you ve got no one to celebrate with. A syndicate gives you all thebeneﬁts of ownership and there s a social side too - it s more than just owningthe horse.If you re interested in learning more about Mike, Deva Racing and howyou can join in the thrill of racehorse ownership visit DevaRacing.comThis interview ﬁrst appeared on http://www.grand-national.me.uk on the8th March 2013.