BHB steps up the hunt for owners

The latest attempt to lure more people in pursuit of a dream
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The Independent Online
One of the more memorable moments in the relatively short history of racehorse ownership by racing clubs with hundreds of members came at Cheltenham in the early 1990s. Muse, owned by the White Horse Racing Club, had just won a Grade One hurdle race at the epicentre of National Hunt, and dozen upon dozen of the very ordinary people who each owned a tiny share of him burst into the winners' enclosure in raucous celebration.

To one side, a racecourse official in a bowler hat studied the scene in silent but undisguised horror. Good God, you could see him thinking. The heathens have scaled the walls. First the Empire, now this.

If the gentleman in question has not yet retired to Bournemouth or Worthing, the latest initiative from the British Horseracing Board's ownership marketing group is unlikely to improve his mood. "Tips To Build a Dream On" is a 20-minute video, produced at a cost of pounds 25,000, which aims to explain the costs and rewards of owning horses to anyone who likes the idea but has always been afraid to ask.

One tape will be sent free of charge to every owner and bloodstock agent in the country, with more copies available from the BHB at pounds 5 each, while a two-minute taster with a catchy sound-track will be played on closed- circuit television at racecourses throughout Britain.

The video is arguably worth pounds 5 just for the brief clip of Ian Balding, whose normal manner is somewhere between laid-back and asleep, going berserk as one of his horses gets up on the line, but those with a serious interest in ownership will also find much to consider.

There is no getting away from the fact that owning your own horse is likely to cost between pounds 12,000 and pounds 15,000 each year - and this is money which should be seen as for entertainment, not investment - but syndicates have now opened up a route into ownership for those with rather less disposable income.

The claim in the film by Richard Phillips, a trainer, that it is now "affordable to literally every person in Britain with a job" is as laughable as one of Phillips's famous racing impersonations. For a group of perhaps 20 people with reasonable incomes, though, a meaningful experience of ownership is more achievable than they might think, while the promotional opportunities of corporate ownership are succinctly set out by Mark Johnston.

For Jim Furlong, chairman of the BHB's ownership marketing group, the video is a strong response to the frequent question by trainers, "what is the BHB doing for me?"

The task of attracting owners into the sport is never-ending, with between 15 and 30 per cent of all owners giving up the pursuit of their personal dream each year, while many trainers are worryingly dependent either on one or two owners, or a collection whose fortunes are tied to such imponderables as the movement of the stock market.

"It is a very tough job to be a racehorse trainer," Furlong says. "You have to spend a great deal of time on marketing to keep your customer base intact, and we will do anything we can to help them do that."

Forthcoming projects include, for the really serious would-be owner, a two-day seminar at Newmarket on 29 and 30 September to coincide with the Houghton meeting, which will include stable visits and a trip to the sales, at a cost of pounds 225 (+VAT) per person, which is refundable in full to anyone who becomes involved in ownership within 12 months.

Those who still need a little more persuading can order their video on 01753 897 211.