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The social network: you can own part of a horse as top trainer includes fans on Facebook

Henry de Bromhead tells Mark Hobbs about his innovative plan to use Facebook to include racing fans in horse ownership and training.

Henry de Bromhead has developed an online strategy.
Henry de Bromhead has developed an online strategy.
Image: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

WHILE MOST SPORTS on these shores have been badly affected by economic events in the last couple of years, this is especially true of horse racing.

Funding for the sport is at its lowest ebb in sometime; in 2011 forecast prize money will be £44 million, down from £58m in 2007. Aside from this, the costs of horse ownership are becoming increasingly difficult to bear for many, and trainers are having problems finding people to invest horses in their care.

With rich businessmen and wealthy syndicates now not as numerous or as willing to gamble their money on a pricey colt, trainers most find novel ways to keep an influx of talent and finance into their yards.

And this is just what Waterford-based Henry de Bromhead has done.

New Plan

De Bromhead is a relatively young and successful trainer and last year was responsible for the Arkle winner at Cheltenham through the supremely talented Sizing Europe. Now he is showing that his skills don’t just lie in his handling of horses.

His idea is simple: if people are keen to get involved in ownership but can’t afford a big share, why not offer interested parties small shares with less expense but equal thrill?

The idea was put to the test with a reasonably large syndicate of 18 members, whose horse Marshall Dillon ran second on debut in Tramore.

The idea was well received by the owners, so much so that de Bromhead proposed what would usually seem like a headache waiting to happen – a 100-member syndicate, with each member purchasing a 1% share of a new horse.

The Knockeen handler is aware of the importance of maintaining contact with the public in the sport, and has run a Facebook page that provides details of his notable runners. His use of this medium will now extend further, with a private page for the syndicate giving them the resources to make decisions for the future of the horse.

So how will the varying opinions and preferences of 100 members be managed?

“Essentially any decision that a sole owner would get – we will put the same decisions to a group format vote via our members (facebook page) and everyone can have their say, debate it and as a group make the decision”, de Bromhead told TheScore.

For example I can nominate say three races that I feel are right for the horse and get feedback from members.

Facebook and Twitter will be used to provide members with weekly gallop reports, video footage of the horse; and a means to vote on everything from the horse’s name to his next port of call.

Individual shares will be £300, with a further £25 a month paid to keep the horse in training and to maintain a contingency fund. The initiative makes ownership truly affordable, and most be commended considering the masses’ current financial difficulties.

The “Facebook 2000” club are currently finalising members in the syndicate, and hope to buy in the spring or summer sales.

Members will be cautiously optimistic about their chances of success, but will find it difficult to resist day-dreaming of Grade One glory considering their budget in the recent past would have been more than enough to buy such top-level performers such as Diamond Harry, Imperial Commander and Peddler’s Cross.

About the author:

Mark Hobbs

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