Getting started

Owners GuideWhile ITM can assist during the initial stages, it is an industry expert, in this case a licensed racehorse trainer, who will guide you on the next step to ownership. Like all specialist subjects, expert advice is essential and your trainer can advise and assist you with all aspects, from the purchase of your horse, through the various stages of training and hopefully into the winners’ enclosure!

When it comes to racehorse trainers, there is a wealth of choice for the racehorse owner in Ireland, with over 700 licensed trainers (Search for a trainer) in Ireland today. Renowned as a nation of horsemen, the exceptionally high standard of Irish trainers is the envy of racing nations around the world. ITM suggests that you consider the following points when choosing your trainer:

As a rough guide, on average, an owner can expect to pay between €15,000-€20,000 in training fees, per year, however, like all services, these rates can vary from trainer to trainer.

The Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA) state that training fees can range from approximately €800 to €1,400, and beyond, per month. We recommend that you enquire as to exactly what is included in this fee and what extras you may expect to pay along the way.

Remember, your horse will not be in training for twelve months of the year, and perhaps you should discuss where the horse will spend its time out of training, if you do not have facilities to care for it. Most trainers will be happy to organize grazing for horses out of training and this will cost a nominal fee.

Pre-arranged visits to the yard to watch your horse on the gallops can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of ownership and therefore location may be an important factor in your decision. The Search for a Trainer section on this website will assist you in finding a trainer in your area.

The trainer is ultimately responsible for caring for your horse and therefore it is important that you respect and trust his/her decision and advice. Some owners choose larger more established trainers because of their proven track record, while others choose up and coming trainers with smaller yards who can dedicate more time and energy to you and your horse. Although a majority of trainers in Ireland hold “dual purpose” licenses (meaning they train both flat and national hunt) most tend to specialise in one discipline.

Personal Choice

At this early stage, it would be worthwhile discussing what type of horse you would like, the budget you have and what timescale you are working to. We suggest you create a shortlist of trainers and contact them to arrange a yard visit. Although you may not consider yourself an expert, your opinion of the setting and facilities on offer is valid. Nowadays, almost all yards have an all-weather gallop, or at least access to one locally.

Automated horse walkers have also become a constant feature and some yards go as far as swimming pools, hydrotherapy units and drying rooms for the horses. Again, you need to use your discretion and common sense, because even the most modern state of the art equipment is useless unless the proper training knowledge is applied.

When you meet a potential trainer you should discuss what expenses are likely to arise throughout the year. Many of these costs will be standard, others non-applicable and the remainder unforeseeable. However, you should always be prepared should these additional costs arise. Once you have appointed a trainer, we recommend drawing up a written document to establish the terms and conditions of the training agreement. We suggest that you discuss the following –

  • Details of basic training fees per horse, per day/week/month;
  • Additional costs, such as transport (to and from the races or training/schooling grounds), travel expenses for trainer and groom if the horse is travelling overnight or a significant distance;
  • Additional veterinary expenses;
  • Clipping fees during the winter season and any additional feed supplements;
  • Retaining fee for yard jockey (if applicable);
  • Commission on the sale or purchase of the horse;
  • Curragh training fees (if applicable);
  • Method of invoicing;
  • Policy regarding non-payment of accounts.

Every owner with a horse in training with a Curragh based trainer shall be charged a Curragh training fee of €350 per quarter. This charge gives the horse free access to the Curragh training facilities for the relevant period. Please note that there are additional “per use” charges for trial grass, trial peat and the schooling grounds due to the high level of maintenance involved. The Curragh training facilities are also open to all non-Curragh based trainers who use the gallops on a fee per gallop basis. For more information, please visit the Curragh Training Grounds website.

Authority To Act - In addition to the day to day care involved such as feeding, stabling and exercising your horse, the trainer is also responsible for the administration aspect of the role. Section 3 of the Owner Registration Form, known as the Authority to Act, requires the owner to appoint a trainer to carry out significant administration procedures on their behalf. The appointment of an authority to act is one of the most important documents within the owner registration process. This document is charged annually and is only cancelled upon request by the owner. Trainers have daily contact with the registrations and entries departments in HRI to carry out the following:

Entries and declarations

  • HRI operate an entry system incorporating three stages: Entries, weights and declarations.
  • Generally horses are entered 5 days in advance of a fixture.
  • At 11.30, the day after entries have closed the “weights” are released. At this stage you can determine whether your horse is liable in this race and, if it is, what ballot number has been allocated. The higher the ballot number, the less chance of the horse getting a run.

    BALLOTING: At certain times of the year and in particular types of races, the number of horses entered in a race may exceed the imposed safety limit. In this case there is a ballot. Horses are balloted from races according to a sequence of protection levels. If your horse is balloted from a race, you will not be charged. Your trainer can provide further information.
  • Declarations close at 10am the day before the race or on Friday, should the fixture fall on a Sunday. Your trainer will make the declaration by phone, fax or on the RAS system.

Usually the trainer decides what jockey will ride the horse. In general, most yards have a stable jockey attached to the yard who will ride a majority of the horses. However, please do not hesitate to discuss the jockey bookings with your trainer. The jockeys riding fee will automatically be deducted from your HRI account and transferred into the jockeys HRI account.

This is basically notifying HRI that the horse is in training in his/her yard and entries will be made in the future. Returning out means that the horse has left the yard because the horse is either sold, in foal, injured, dead or perhaps is out on grass and therefore entries will not be made in the near future.

Prior to applying for a name, all horses should be checked against markings given in their passport to verify their identity. Owners should supply the trainer, in writing, with at least three possible names and they can do the rest of the application on their behalf.

Whereby a horse holding an entry or “engagement” is sold, a trainer can sign a Sale with Engagements Form transferring the animal and its engagement from the original owner to the current owner. The trainer must have authority from all parties involved.

RAS is a computerised system that links licensed trainers to HRI. This allows trainers to return horses in and out of training, make entries and declarations, book jockeys and carry out other amendments to horses records.

All horses are individuals and may not show great capability straight away. Some will have immediate potential, but others may take time and unfortunately some will never have race standard ability. Your trainer should be able to indicate a horse’s potential after a couple of months. Although you may not get the feedback you hope for, it is important that you take your trainer’s advice on board, as this is what they are being paid to do. The harsh reality of racing is that some horses will never make the track due to injury. Although extremely disappointing for all connections, it is a possibility to bear in mind.

Most trainers are delighted to welcome you to the yard to see the horses exercising, provided the visit is pre-arranged. Owners should receive regular updates from the trainer and in the case of syndicates, it is extremely important that the agent passes this information on to the other members. Remember, trainers will make every effort and take every precaution to keep your horse safe and healthy but unfortunately some cases of injury or disease are unavoidable.

Step 2 - Choose your horse