This article first appeared on the Dynamic Syndications website at this link:–DOG-or-RACEHORSE–Comparing-costs-may-surprise-you- 


Cat, dog or a racehorse? Comparing costs may surprise you

When I tell family and friends that I own a share in a couple of race horses, they are often aghast – “how much does that cost?” and “You must have heaps of spare cash” or words to that effect.

Being an economist, I know pretty much exactly how much it will cost me each month to have a high quality racehorse spelled, trained, vetted, raced and looked after as it goes through the racing cycle. And I note at the outset that the costs include the horses being trained by the wonderfully marvelous Gai Waterhouse, the Hall of Fame Champion trainer who has more accolades than I have had hot dinners – and that’s a lot!

The funny thing is that most of my friends own a cat or two, a dog or two or both cats and dogs and an array of other pets. Funny because it costs about as much to look after a cat or dog as it does owning a 5% share in a racehorse. My family own two cats and I know how much they cost to look after.

I must note and emphasise that the references below refer to the maintenance costs of horses, cats and dogs after they have been purchased. Most horses are undeniably expensive to buy into (commonly $5,000 to $10,000 or even a little more for a 5% share) which is clearly a lot more than a furry pet that sits on your lap or you take for a walk.

But read on and you’ll see what I am getting at.

According to the PETstock Pet Parent Survey, the average cost of owning a pet is $2,638 a year. This is for food, vet bills, kitty litter and all related expenses.

Owning a 5% share in an Exceed and Excel, Snitzel or Pierro filly or colt is … wait for it … about $3,000 a year which includes all costs – training, spelling, shoes, vet, racing fees – you name it.

This means that it is about $30 extra a month or about $360 a year to own a 5% share in a racehorse than it is to own a cat or a dog.

I will leave it to others to work out their non-financial preferences. It is rewarding and heart warming to have your cat curl up on the lounge next to you or for you to throw a stick for you dog to chase and chase and chase. But it is also quite exhilarating to have the horse in which you a part owner charging down the straight at Randwick or Gosford or even Queanbeyan. It is also thoroughly exciting to track the horses progress to the racetrack, talk to Gai and her team, engage with world class jockeys before the race as they work out the tactics for the race ahead.

The costs that I noted above – the extra $360 a year to own a horse versus a cat or dog – assumes that the horse doesn’t win a cracker. Zero. Nothing. Not a brass razoo.

If, however, your horse happens to get a second in a Gosford maiden and a third in a Kembla Grange maiden, it earns about $9,000 in prize money which after costs means you get around $350 for your share after costs. If it happens to do any better at all, you are financially better off than owning the horse than that sweet little cat or yappy big dog.

By the way, prize money for running first at an average mid-week Gosford race is $16,800, a Saturday race in town in Sydney has minimum prize money of $54,000 for first, $19,000 for second and a still welcome $9,000 for third. Snag a couple of these each year and you are clearly ahead. Then there are all the bonus prize money schemes available on top of the prizemoney.

You don’t have to have a champion to ensure it’s cheaper to own a share in a horse than a family pet. Yes – cheaper.

Given that the upkeep costs are clearly not an issue, it’s a question of whether you’d prefer to go to the races to see your horse run or have a cute little puppy or a fluffy kitten.