Have you ever dreamed of owning a racehorse? In the run up to Cheltenham’s Gold Cup we take a closer look at the numbers to see whether or not it could be a good investment.

The pinnacle of the National Hunt calendar

When it comes to jump racing, nothing can compete with the spectacle of the Cheltenham Festival. The high-point of the four-day event is the Gold Cup, the most valuable non-handicap chase in Britain, with £625,000 up for grabs for the winner.

In the stands of Cheltenham Racecourse, you’ll find a number of owners and trainers nervously watching as their respective horses’ race over a distance of 3.3 miles, while tackling 22 obstacles.

The stakes are high for all concerned. Getting to this point on race day is more than a labour of love – it’s also a pricey endeavour.

But what are the realities of joining this unique community of approximately 8,000 racehorse owners in UK?

Here at William Hill we have crunched some numbers – looking at the odds, purchase cost and winnings of the most popular horses in this year’s Gold Cup to see if their respective owners are likely to have a winner in 2019.

Cheltenham horse racing infographic

Is owning a Gold Cup racehorse worth the investment?

Realistically, when it comes to earning a decent return on a racehorse you own, it can be difficult. What is guaranteed, however, is a lot of fun and a potentially a modest return.

There are exceptions. A classic example is Best Mate. In 1995 the thoroughbred legend was sold for just £10,000. However, it would go on to win the Gold Cup three years on the trot (2002, 2003, 2004), earning over £1 million in prize money. He remains one of the UK’s most beloved racehorses.

Fast forward to today and we have another possible Best Mate story in the making with the Irish-bred, British-trained steeplechaser Native River. Native River is one of the favourite for this year’s Gold Cup, having won the race in 2018. Purchased back in 2010 for close to £5,220 (€6,000), he won over half a million pounds on that race alone.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, you have Elegant Escape, winner of the Welsh Grand National in 2018. Despite his impressive win, he only has a reasonably low win rate of 33% – quite startling when you realise that he was purchased for approximately £130,000 (€150,000) in 2016, after originally selling in 2012 for £4,335 (€5,000). Still, he is very much one of the favourites for the big race.

Similar to Elegant Escape, Definitely Red is one of the more expensive horses in this year’s Gold Cup. The 10-year-old Gelding has been sold four times in his lifetime – most recently for £110,000 – .

The reality of racehorse ownership

Beyond the cost of purchasing a racehorse, there are ongoing expenses to contend with. The Racehorse Association (ROA) has reported that the average annual cost of a jumps horse is £16,325 and £22,595 for a flat horse.

Although it sounds like a large amount, when you break it down it begins to make sense. As a racehorse owner you’ll be responsible for paying for, among other things, training fees, farrier services, for supplements, clipping and visits to the vet. You get the picture – racehorses cost money.

However, through shared ownership, you can spread the financial burden. In fact, many already do as according to the ROA, more than 60% of racehorses that are currently trained in Britain are in a joint ownership, syndicate or partnership.

The wonderful thing about racehorse ownership is that it’s open for everyone to take part in – you really don’t have to come from a privileged background of have a huge pot of cash to play around with.

So, if you love the sport, are up for a challenge and keen to be part of a brilliant community, then by all means, you can give it a go. Who knows, you may just find yourself owner of a Gold Cup winner.

See the odds of all of this year’s Cheltenham Festival runners.


– All of the Gold Cup odds are from William Hill 25/02/2019.

– Horses used in the infographic are runners in which the sale price has been disclosed.

– Purchase prices of horse all sourced from racingpost.com.

– Winnings of all horses sourced from racingpost.com.

– Any horses that were sold in euros have been exchanged to pounds based on the exchange rate in February 2019.