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Off to the Racehorse Syndicates

Elsewhere, people can buy into syndicates at reputable outfits like Centennial Farms and Class Racing Stable . Bob Feld, a California-based bloodstock agent (one who seeks out horses to buy for clients), recently started forming syndicates with his brothers under the name Bongo Racing Stable . So far, Bongo has syndicated a dozen horses and has about 80 clients. People can buy into one of its horses for as little as $3,000.

"This is a business that is very ripe for taking advantage of people, so you have to be careful and make sure you're investing with a reputable group with a good track record," says Feld. "There have been instances of fraud in the industry."

He recommends calling state racing commissions to make sure syndication groups are properly licensed and have a clean record. Also, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association recently formed a blue-ribbon panel that published guidelines for new owners, laying out what they should look for when entering the racing industry.

"There is a certain amount of responsibility to do some research if you're a horse owner or a prospective horse owner," Cain points out. "The nice thing about these partnerships is that they have a lot of people who have gone through them, and you can find out about their experiences. Just do your homework. Find out about all the fees and costs that will be involved, and get as many people to comment as possible on any group you're considering working with."

She also recommends as an unbiased source of information about the thoroughbred industry.

And They're Off

After a buyer does the research and finds the right horse with the right syndicate, it's off to the track.

"Our owners can go visit their horse, feed it and watch it train in the morning," says Feld. "They get owner's passes to the track and free admission for the year -- there are a lot of perks like that which makes it fun."

Of course, there's no guarantee that some new filly or colt won't fall prey to injury. Maybe they'll be valuable for breeding instead of racing. Then again, there's always a chance of catching lightning in a Kentucky bourbon bottle and winding up in the owner's box at Churchill Downs. Whatever happens, horse ownership can be a fine thing for someone who enjoys a day at the races, even if it means sharing the rewards with others.

"No matter how small a part of a horse a guy owns, as far as he's concerned, that's his horse," says Irwin. "You can own 5% or you can own 50%. The experience of racing is the same."

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