Cost Of Horse Racing
( Originally Published 1898 )
The cost of racing may, of course, be anything. It may result in an annual profit or loss of many thousands of pounds, according to the scale on which it is followed and the luck which befalls an owner. The word " luck " is not carelessly employed ; for much, very much, as judgment may achieve, the element of luck supervenes and practically governs well nigh everything. When the Duke of Westminster was mating his mares in 1882, it was surely to a great extent luck or chance that made him send Lily Agnes to Bend Or, with the result that Ormonde was born to show himself invincible, and to become the sire of Orme and Goldfinch. Chance had much to do with the fact that the Duke of Portland became possessed of St. Simon ; an accident prevented the purchase of the colt after Prince Batthyany's death, before he was sold to his ,present owner ; and, similarly, it was luck which induced the Duke, who seldom buys at an auction, to go to Bushey the day Memoir was put up, thereby securing an Oaks and Leger winner. Without examining the matter too closely, it must be acknowledged that luck enormously influences victory or defeat. But, returning to the cost of racing, there are certain inevitable expenses, and some light may be thrown on the subject by a little consideration of them. A thoroughbred horse may cost from five guineas up to at least six thousand times that sumet meetings towards the end of the season runners in selling races have been knocked down for the small amount named, and the larger sum is understood to have been offered and declined for Ormonde. Horses, therefore, go at all prices. Often, moreover, the dearest prove worthless, and the cheapest gallop their way to glory.
When an animal has been acquired, training and running have to come into consideration. The usual fee per horse is 50s. a week, though some trainers have of late years raised this to three guineas, and in certain cases the trainer also has a salary, or a percentage on the stakes won by the horses in his charge. After the weekly payment the question of entries arises ; and this is a very important one. A specially well-bred, good-looking animal will be, as a rule, freely entered in weight-for-age races, and the cost here may be anything from a minor forfeit of a sovereign to a hard-and-fast sum—" p.p." as it is called, meaning "play or pay,"—of 200 guineas. The sum named is the price of entrance, for example, to the Prince of Wales's Stake at Goodwood. It is not at all an unusual thing for a young horse to have a thousand pounds worth of engagements made for him ; and if he is no good for racing, as so often happens, the money is lost at once. Having shown inability to win important stakes an animal may be entered for little handicaps, and being beaten in them so add to the total of loss. In order to run he must be ridden, and here the payment of jockey comes in. The set fee is three guineas for a losing mount on the flat, five guineas for a win ; but, in addition to this, special terms have to be made in order to secure the services of particularly accomplished horse-men, either by agreement for a sum per mount, or in the way of a retainer for first, second, or, in the case of riders who are much sought after, even a third call on the jockey's services. The writer of this article has been commissioned by a friend to offer as much as 4,000 guineas a year for first call on a popular jockey—who was compelled to refuse. It will be perceived that when an owner is anxious that the fullest justice Duke of Portland shall be done to his horses, the jockey's payment is an important item. Travelling is an other expense. Most of the leading owners have their own vans on the railway, which is not only a convenience, as the van is always ready when wanted, but also to a great extent a safeguard against disease, as in a public horse-box an animal affected by some infectious ailment may have left mischief behind for the next user. Stabling at the place where the meeting is being held is a further detail, though of late the managers of a few courses, in order to attract horses to run, have offered stabling and forage free. There are some few additional expenses. For every horse trained at Newmarket a Heath Tax of seven guineas is charged ; owners almost invariably provide their horses with distinctive clothing some have two suits, one for general use on the training ground, the other, which frequently reproduces or suggests the colours, for use on the racecourse. Caps and jackets have also to be bought for the jockeys; there are saddlers' bills, and, not seldom, accounts for veterinary attendance. If an owner breeds his own animals, there is the cost of paddocks, of men to look after the mares, and fees for the services of sires, which may be anything downwards from 500 guineas—the primary cost of a possible St. Simon foal. As for the rewards, the Duke of Portland in 1889 headed the list of winning. owners with £73,858. That sum stands out by itself, most nearly approached by Mr. H. B. McCalmont's £37,674 in 1894. From the winning totals entries and forfeits have to be deducted. If an owner bets, the cost of racing may be reduced or enhanced ; as a general rule he will, at any rate in the long run, find himself a loser by taking the odds.