14 March 2009

The Cost Of Owning A Thoroughbred In Ontario

Since Fort Erie has survived for at least one more year, and there is bound to be quite a few empty stalls at the Fort thanks to the late start, I think it is important to inform owners in Ontario and perhaps in the United States what the real costs are to own a thoroughbred.

I did a post last year comparing the difference between training a race horse at Woodbine versus training one at Fort Erie. Prices haven't gone up very much to my knowledge over the past year, so the numbers quoted are most likely very close if not right on. If I'm way off on anything please leave a comment and I will correct it.

Keep in mind that I'm quoting in Canadian dollars, so if you are an American, you can multiply all dollars quoted by .8 in order to put things in a US perspective:


I'm going to make some assumptions here. Your horse trains for 8 months in the year and races 12 times, for 4 months is your horse is resting at a farm. Also, your horse is Woodbine caliber and runs 11 times at Woodbine and once at Fort Erie.

Training a race horse at Fort Erie could be a lot cheaper for an owner than training the horse at Woodbine. I'm going to go through the pluses and minuses.

Cost of training:

At Woodbine, trainers charge between $60 - $110 per day. 60 bucks and 110 are very rare. The bulk of trainers charge $70-75 a day.

At Fort Erie, trainers charge between $40 - $60 per day. The bulk of trainers charge $50 a day. At Fort Erie, some trainers will offer "the deal." The typical deal is where the owner buys the horse, and the trainer is responsible for all or most of the bills in return for half the purses, and half the equity in the horse once the owner gets his or her purchase price back. For a trainer, this deal is a killer for them unless the horse makes at least $30,000 for the year. Trainers who take deals on cheap horses are usually desperate, and you have to wonder about their foresight. The only way a deal makes sense for a trainer today is if the horse is competitive at a claiming price of $16,000 or greater.

The actual cost to a hands off trainer who does nothing in the way of grooming or walking a horse can be broken down like this:

Groom $23 Hot Walker $8 Food and Bedding $15 Exercise Boy (4-5 times a week@$15 per day) $10 Total Cost=$56 per day

For Erie
Groom $18 Hot Walker $5 Food and Bedding $14 Exercise Boy (4-5 times a week@$12 per day) $8 Total Cost=$45 per day

Remember, these are estimates. Trainers also bring capital investments to the table, some bring a lot more than others. That being said, they could save money by using a hot walker machine, for example, but it cost the trainer to buy the machine. Some have "magical" blankets too. The trainer can also save on feed by buying it off the track in bulk, but they could also add supplements which may or may not appear on your bill as well as over the counter meds.
Trainers also incur Workers Comp charges.

I have always contended that the 10% is what the trainer is entitled to. If he or she wants to make money in the morning, then they should rub a horse or two.

Shoeing Charges
8 months of training and 12 races will mean about 8 pairs of shoes. At Fort Erie, the usual cost is $100 a change. At Woodbine it is around $120-$125.

Shipping Charges
If stabled at Woodbine, shipping once to Fort Erie from Woodbine would cost $200 for the year.
If stabled at Fort Erie, shipping eleven times to Woodbine from Fort Erie would cost $2200 for the year.
Shipping to and from your layoff farm total around $200 a year no matter if you have a Woodbine or Fort Erie trainer.

Layoff Period
Most farms charge between $15-$25 per day. So lets say the typical owner pays around $600 X 4 months per year.

Stake Monies
Many trainers will charge an additional 1% for at least a win on a training bill so that at least the groom will get a stake. Typically, many trainers pay $50-$150 for a second as well to the groom (the owner is usually charged). So a typical owner of a Woodbine horse with a 12 starts a year (lets say 2 wins and a second), will pay an additional $700 in stakes.
Stake money differs dramatically from barn to barn.

Vet Bills
Expect to pay around $200-$300 per start per horse on average regardless of the track.

Miscellaneous Bills
Some trainers will add on tack charges or over-the-counter meds onto your bill. Most don't charge for this.

Some trainers will say that Fort Erie is a much more calming track, especially for a high strung horse. Lots of grass to graze on, and no airplanes coming and going every 2 minutes. But if you are at Woodbine, you have the option to train on the Poly, sort of a home field advantage.

Lets add it all up:

Training (@$70 per day): $70 X 240 = $16800
Shoes : $125 X 8 = $ 1000
Layoff Charges : $20 X 125 = $ 2500
Shipping = $ 400
Stake Money = $ 700
Vet Bills = $ 3000

Total = $24400
This means your horse needs to make around $30500 a year just to break even. And at $75 a day, the owner needs to make $32,000 a year to break even.

Fort Erie:
Training (@50 per day): $50 X 240 = $12000
Shoes : $100 X 8 = $ 800
Layoff Charges : $20 X 125 = $ 2500
Shipping = $ 2400
Stake Money = $ 700
Vet Bills = $ 3000

Total = $21400
This means your horse needs to make $26750 a year to break even.

If you own a horse that only runs at Fort Erie, the horse may have a few more layoff days because the season is a little shorter, and of course, less shipping charges, so the total that needs to be earned to break even may be $3,000-$4,000 lower than the amount of $26,700.

Many Fort Erie trainers are just as talented as Woodbine trainers, but they may just like the small track/small town feel. Either way, the owner needs to have a trainer they can trust, and one who doesn't intimidate them. If the owner wants to have a big say, they should have it. It is their horse, and they are the one who is most at risk.
Remember, you are the owner, you are doing the trainer a favour by choosing to do business with him or her. Don't forget it.

If any trainers want to quote their exact prices, feel free to email me at cangambleblog@gmail.com and I will add the information on this blog post with your permission.


Anonymous said...

You make some cogent statements that quantify and qualify reasons for racing a horse at Fort Erie versus Woodbine. Your recognition of the difference in the dollar points out an immediate reason and benefit for racing in Ontario. But of even more importance is the fact that Fort Erie will have the available stalls and the desire by the racetrack to create a healthy horse population to ensure the requisite number of numbers to fill races.

Anonymous said...

You have hit the nail right on the head but you forgot to mention the age of the horse take woodbine look at any program and see how much any three year old makes . By your estimate it costs $64,000 to train a three year old . The only horses that make that much are allowance races, lower these purses and put more into the claming races then maybe it may help to attract more Canadian owners( noticed i said Canadian not American) I hear that there will be an influx of American trainers , owners and horses at woodbine( piss on the Canadian trainers that did not get any stalls at woodbine this must help Fort Erie).Ask Smitherman if these Americans will put any of their winnings back into the Canadian economy

Steve Zorn said...

Very nice, detailed breakdown. According to some other studies I've seen, 90% of horses don't cover their expenses. Owners are always oping that the "big horse" will make up for all the losses. But it's never going to be true that the average horse will be profitable.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:41
Food,housing,transportation,vet bills,etc not part of your economy? I would bet the handle over there is higher when there are a few non Fort Erie/Woodbine regulars racing. The Fort Erie horses running at Mountaineer this past winter have made their programs more interesting.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:41
Stop the knee jerk anti americanism. What about all the canadian trainers that winter in the states, giving their owners a chance to pay some bills and have fit horses ready to run in the spring at woodbine etc.
If the shoe was on the other foot, with your "thinking", horses should only run in the country of their owner? I respectfully must disagree.

Anonymous said...

How many american trainers are deprived of their stalls in the states to fit in canadian trainers .
I quess i am annoyed with the people who run Woodbine if i offended you i apologise. If we had as many racetracks as you there would be no problem. God bless Wilmott and all his dork executives (glorified trainers who never made it), maybe someday they will elect someone with vision to run WEG