For Those of You Who’ve Always Wanted a Pony: You Can Crowdfund a Racehorse Now

For $250 you can be the proud owner of 1/300th of a thoroughbred—and feel like a total baller at the track.

When Merlot, a four-year-old thoroughbred, charged to victory at Hastings Racecourse on Canada Day, its owners celebrated—all 300 of them. The roan gelding belongs to Hastings Racing Club 2, a group of 300 people who each ponied up $250 to buy a tiny share in two horses purchased by a couple of local horse industry associations at a cost of $30,000 each. The modest fee—used for stable, veterinary, blacksmith and training fees and other expenses—gets members reserved grandstand seating, accompanied paddock and backstretch access and free live racing programs. If they’re lucky, they’ll also walk away with a few ducats in prize money at season’s end. Club members can visit to the paddock before races and chat with the trainers and jockeys.The novel gambit was launched in 2015 with the aim of promoting interest in horse ownership and it has since paid off. According to Richard Yates, who manages the racing club’s affairs, 31 club members have since taken on a larger portion of ownership, and one bought a horse outright. But there are other benefits. “It’s generated publicity and boosted attendance, food and beverage numbers,” Yates says, noting the program is so popular all 200 slots were filled in 2015. A second club of 300 members was added in 2016.Fate has also lent a hand in the program’s success. Square Dancer, one of the 2015 club’s two thoroughbreds, won three races that year, including the $100,000 Redekop Classic and the $75,000 S.W. Randall Plate. The horse was also voted Horse of the Year at the 2015 BC Thoroughbreds Awards. Each of Square Dancer’s owners received a cheque for $375 for the gelding’s efforts. “It was quite a sight watching 200 people trying to get their picture taken in the winner’s circle,” recalls club member Mark Freeman, who got hooked on the sport as a child. “It was always my dad’s dream to own a racehorse, but he didn’t have that type of money, so in a way with this, I’m honouring my father’s dream,” says Freeman, 58, who sells orthopedic equipment. Buying a racehorse is often a losing proposition—the average return is only about 40 cents on a dollar. But at Hastings Racecourse you can own a thoroughbred without incurring any risk.Topping the list of perks for members is admittance into that secret world behind the stable doors on the backstretch. “There’s an eclectic mix of individuals who work there and it’s been great getting to know them,” says Freeman, who found the experience so captivating that he and nine others have formed a syndicate that has purchased five thoroughbreds. “This year our group traveled to Kentucky and bought a two-year-old filly. She’s in training and we hope to run her this summer.”Not all club members can afford that extra investment, but they all love the thrill of the stretch run. When those pounding hooves flash past, the excitement is real. “You never hear anyone yelling, ‘C’mon, my one percent,’” says Yates. “It’s their horse all the way.”