What Does it Cost to Buy a Thoroughbred?
More than any other horse breed, the cost to acquire a Thoroughbred will vary greatly, depending on what you seek. While best known as racehorses, Thoroughbreds excel across Western and English riding disciplines. Some of the most expensive horses ever sold were top-notch racing Thoroughbreds; however, you may be surprised to learn that these horses can often be found reasonably priced.
How much does a Thoroughbred horse cost? If you are looking for a quality racing prospect, you should expect to pay six digits for a Thoroughbred. If you are looking for a Thoroughbred but are not planning to race, you can purchase an “OTTB” (off-the-track Thoroughbred) for as little as $1,500. These horses require significant re-training but can excel in various disciplines, including fox hunting, eventing, and pleasure riding.
Thoroughbreds are often sensitive, athletic, and competitive horses. I’ve seen people buy a Thoroughbred for a few hundred bucks straight off the racetrack and turn the horse into a force to be reckoned with in the jumper arena. You can also find older, trustworthy Thoroughbred mounts for junior riders or adult amateurs who want a safe ride. To learn more about how to buy a Thoroughbred, keep reading!
Purchasing An Off-Track Thoroughbred
An OTTB is a Thoroughbred that has been bred and trained to race but is, for one reason or another, not currently racing. An OTTB may have retired from racing because of an injury, may have retired from racing due to a lack of drive or ability, or may have never raced.
If purchasing an OTTB directly from a racing facility, you should expect to pay between $2,500 and $3,000. Remember that many of these deals do not consider the horse’s temperament or soundness. I have seen many OTTBs come off the track with bowed tendons and other injuries that require rest and vet attention.
One of the obstacles most equestrians face when considering an OTTB is the training that will be required. A “trained” OTTB will have been trained to race, not to ride. They will have been asked to travel at one speed – a gallop. Racetrack trainers are also not going to focus on correcting behavioral problems. If you are interested in purchasing an OTTB, be prepared to pay extra money for vet attention and training fees. If you are not an experienced or brave rider, I would not recommend purchasing an OTTB.
Purchasing A “Broke” Thoroughbred
Many resourceful and confident equestrians understand how daunting it can be to train an OTTB and will use that as an opportunity to profit. OTTBs are often sold to trainers who will take on the task of re-training the horse before selling them. These horses will go for a higher asking price to compensate for the time and money spent working with them. A re-trained OTTB may be sold for anywhere from $4,500 to $6,000 or higher, depending on the horse’s training, qualifications, and temperament.
Not every Thoroughbred will come from off the track; there are many Thoroughbreds bred as hunter and fox hunting rides. In the hunter ring, Thoroughbreds must be graceful, steady, and attentive to their riders. Purchasing a Thoroughbred competing in these areas can cost well into the five digits.
Thoroughbreds tend to get a bad rap for being hot-headed and temperamental; however, that is not the case for every horse out there. These horses are used in lesson programs and competitions for junior, amateur, and professional riders. If you want to purchase a Thoroughbred, ensure the horse can serve your riding ability. Take along your instructor or experienced horse friends to give thoughts and opinions when trying out horses.
Purchasing A Racing Prospect
If you are serious about investing in a quality racehorse, you should expect to find a prospect of good bloodlines in the $100,000 – $300,000 range. If that causes you a double-take, consider that this same horse will cost you an additional $40,000 – $60,000 in annual fees when considering a training facility can charge up to $120 per day to care for and train a racehorse. However, you can make a lot of money with a successful racehorse by winning races and charging stud fees, so it may be worth it in the end!
Don’t have a spare hundred thousand to spend on a horse but still want to invest? Many choose to purchase a Thoroughbred using a syndicate, a group of people who share in a horse’s up-front and maintenance cost and the winnings the horse brings in. When using a syndicate, the percentage of your expenses will translate to the percentage of the winnings you acquire. This is a way to afford a Thoroughbred that would otherwise be out of your price range.
The Most Expensive Thoroughbreds In History
Horse racing is a serious business. The industry is estimated to bring in $122 billion annually in the United States alone. It should come as no surprise then to learn that as of 2023, six of the ten priciest horses sold were Thoroughbreds. They were:
- Justify, a chestnut Thoroughbred stallion who broke the record for the most expensive horse ever sold in 2018 when he was purchased for $75 million. Justify was the 2018 Triple Crown winner and retired shortly after that to live the rest of his life as a (very) high-earning stud.
- Before Justify, Fusaichi Pegasus held the record for the most expensive horse in the world for almost twenty years. Fusaichi Pegasus is a bay Thoroughbred stallion who won the Kentucky Derby and came in second in the Preakness Stakes in 2000. He was sold that year for $70 million. Even more impressive is that both Fusaichi Pegasus and Justify were purchased by the same buyer – Coolmore Stud. Coolmore Stud is headquartered in Ireland and is the largest racehorse breeding operation in the world.
- In 1983, a bay Thoroughbred stallion named Shareef Dancer sold for $40 million. If you accounted for inflation, that would equal $123,610,040 (and 16 cents) today! Shareef Dancer could attribute a portion of his tall asking price to his famous sire, Northern Dancer.
- The Green Monkey made headlines in 2006 when he was sold for the highest auction price ever recorded for a two-year-old at $16 million. While this bay Thoroughbred stallion broke auction records, he didn’t perform as well in his racing or stud career.
- Another descendant from Northern Dancer, Seattle Dancer was sold as a yearling in 1985 for $13.1 million, making him the 5th most expensive Thoroughbred ever sold. He is not alone in his family tree; Northern Dancer sired all ten of the most expensive yearlings ever sold.
- Meydan City is the 9th most expensive horse ever sold since he was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed in 2006 for $11.7 million. He is a descendant of the famous racehorse Kingmamba.
These are six of the ten most expensive horses ever sold; the other four consisted of an Arabian, a Selle Francais, an Irish Sporthorse, and a Dutch Warmblood, most excelling in either dressage or jumping. While these are certainly eye-watering prices, they are not exactly typical of Thoroughbreds from even the most elite lines.
Justify, who sold for an unfathomable $75 million, was previously sold to a syndicate as a yearling for $500,000. His original purchase price was only 1/150th of his later record-breaking sales price. Think about the person who potentially put down a 5% investment onto Justify’s original yearling price; that person could have made over $3.5 million from an initial investment of $25,000.
Purchasing A Thoroughbred In 2023
No matter your budget, a Thoroughbred is likely attainable for you. It depends on how confident of a rider you are and how much time you are willing to spend on training. When I recently looked at local ads for Thoroughbreds in my area, all but one noted that the horse required an intermediate-to-advanced rider.
So, while an OTTB is attainable for most equestrian budgets, I would still advise proceeding with caution if you are looking for your first horse. Instead, I would recommend looking at an OTTB that has been re-trained or a Thoroughbred that has been brought up in a different discipline altogether. Best wishes!
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