Clubbing together to give horse lovers a share of the glory
County Louth horse breeder Seán Maguire has come up with a novel idea to beat the recession, as Marie Crowe discovers
H AVING a passion for horses and trying to make a living out of that passion are two entirely separate matters. But one man is determined to give it a go, despite the economic climate.
Seán Maguire, from the village of Collon in Co Louth, has transformed his horse breeding enterprise into a racing club which he hopes will capture the imagination of others like him -- people who want to have an involvement in horses but for whom getting involved in a full-blown syndicate is out of the question at the moment.
Whereas the cost of being in a syndicate can run well into the thousands, membership in Maguire's racing club costs €250 a year and an opportunity to share in all of the excitement of a day at the races. Maguire will also encourage members to visit the horses.
Maguire, who has had a lifelong interest in horses, hopes to attract people who want to have more than just a passing involvement in the sport. He wants to get to know his members, interact with them and provide a constant flow of information to those who sign up.
"I want the members to feel like it's their horse racing, like they are part of the team and give them an insight into the way of life at the stables," he says. "I want them to experience the journey of getting a horse from foal to racing."
Weekly videos will be posted onto the club's website which will document the development of the horses and give members an insight into the upkeep and training that is provided by the club. A webcam will broadcast live coverage of foals being born, while the website will have individual profiles of all the horses and keep members updated on the horse's form.
"We aim to capture the thrills involved in the incredible journey as the horses progress from foaling to the racecourse and back to stud."
These videos allow members to become familiar with the horses owned by the club. A weekly news bulletin will have important updates on upcoming meetings and events. The club won't provide tips but there will be enough information on offer for all members to make their own well-informed decisions on whether to have a punt on the day or not.
Stud and stable visits will be open to members and their families and will include watching the horses on the gallops and observing the day-to-day living and training of the horses. Trainers will often be on hand to talk the members through all the horses in the string, and offer opinion on their chances for the next outing.
Maguire plans to organise special hospitality events for the members; the idea is to see people enjoy the company of others through racing. The families of members are also encouraged to be involved and share the facilities that the racing club offers.
"I envisage long-standing friendships being formed through the club," he says. "The members will have something in common from the word go and the events and meetings will cement these friendships."
But the core element of Maguire's club is breeding. He plans to give members the opportunity to be involved in a successful breeding establishment from the grassroots up.
"I hope that the fillies purchased will have the potential to be top class, both as racehorses and brood mares. We aim to compete at the highest level on the racetrack."
The Maguire family first became involved in this business in 1992 when they invested in their first brood mare, Rebecca's Girl. In 1996, their first runner was Be A Good Horse, which went on to race in Macau, winning 13 times and earning over €200,000 in prize money. With the club up and running, if a horse wins, the prize money will go back to the members through an open draw system. The money will be divided in three with a first, second and third prize.
Maguire believes in quality, and all mares so far have been covered by Coolmore stallions. Although Maguire has been successful to date he believes the club will provide a way for him to accelerate to the next level.
"It's my dream to breed a Derby or Guineas winner or Gold Cup or Champion Hurdle winner -- it's every breeder's dream."
He believes that for many people who became involved in syndicates, it proved to be more hassle than it was worth. The racing club offers access to a number of horses without the hassle and costs that come with ownership. "The problem with syndicating is trying to satisfy a large group of people who get impatient if the success isn't instantaneous. If an injury occurs, some of those involved don't want to pay the vet fees and the syndicate usually dissolves."
The racing club is more than a business for Maguire, it's a passion and the pleasure is derived from seeing home-bred horses grow into winners.
"It's now or never for me. The idea of a club has been in my head for three years and if I don't move it forward I will regret it for the rest of my life."
Seán Maguire hopes to turn his new venture into a household name, to make it a club that people will want to be part of. If he can transfer his passion for horses into his business, then it won't be long before The Racing Club is exactly that.