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Off to the Racehorse Syndicates

Horse syndicates are nothing new. In the U.S., they originated in the late 1960s when Cot Campbell started his first limited partnership to sell shares of ownership in racehorses.

His company, Dogwood Stable , remains one of the most popular syndication outfits in the sport. But these days, with prices in the thoroughbred market rising astronomically, syndication groups are springing up all over the country.

In the past three years, syndicates owned two top Derby finishers -- the 2003 winner, Funny Cide, and last year's third-place horse, Afleet Alex, who went on to win the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes .

While many syndicates won't see the spotlight of the Triple Crown, some of them are still enjoying the kind of racing and financial successes that are the stuff of dreams.

"There are syndicates that cater to every level of the game and every aspect, depending on what you want to get into," notes Cain.

Barry Irwin, a former horseracing writer, got into the game in 1987 when he formed Team Valor , another well-known stable of syndicated horses, with his partner, Jeff Siegel.

His average clients put down around $12,000 to $16,000 to go in on a horse. Steve Karlin of Merrick, N.Y., president of Karlin Sales & Associates LLC, has been buying into horses with Team Valor for about eight years. In that time, his horses have raced in two Belmont Stakes, a Kentucky Derby and three Breeder's Cups.

"These are races that a lot of people who are spending millions and millions of dollars on horses every year never get a chance to participate in," says Karlin, who grew up riding at a summer camp in New Hampshire. "I got to do it for a lot less than that."

Most recently, Karlin bought a 2.5% stake in a filly named Irridescence for just over $9,000, plus extra charges for travel and upkeep expenses.

The Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup

The horse has since won five out of six races. In late April, it was Karlin's turn as a part-owner to travel expense-free with his wife to Hong Kong and watch Irridescence run the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup at the Sha Tin racecourse. She took first-place in a nail-biting three-way finish for a $1.8-million purse.

"Irridescence is probably one of the top fillies in the world now," says Karlin. "She's worth a fortune."

A top filly in the industry is worth around $10 million: Team Valor bought Irridescence for $365,000. A winning colt commands anywhere from $15 million to $25 million.

But for every success story in horseracing, there are many more flops.

"If you're going into this thing as an investment, you're crazy," says Irwin. "If you're doing it with money that you're afraid to lose, this is the craziest thing in the world you could possibly do. I don't want impulse buyers. They never work out, and they're never happy. I want guys who have been thinking about doing this for a long time, and they finally make up their mind one day and decide to do it for fun."
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