Horses for courses, trainers advised

August 23, 2002

Having a horse first past the post is not the ultimate goal of most racehorse owners. Many more are interested in the social cachet the sport of kings bestows, according to researchers at London Metropolitan University.

Jeremy Baker, senior lecturer in marketing at the institution led a team of researchers investigating why people become racehorse owners. They then developed marketing courses for racehorse trainers to help them sell their services more effectively.

The team held focus groups and interviews with owners and trainers at horse-racing centres Lambourn and Newmarket, asking why owners bought horses, what they wanted from trainers and what was rewarding about being an owner.

The researchers found that what trainers should not be trying to sell is winning. "The trainers get very despondent," said Mr Baker. "But there are other things for trainers to sell besides winning. The owner is buying a piece of nature, the countryside and a day out at a special event. Owning a racehorse is viewed as a step up in the British system, like becoming the director of a football club," said Mr Baker. Keeping a horse, he was told, cost "the same as keeping a boy at Eton for a year".

Trainers were told that there were three types of owner besides the racing professional. The first, the socialiser, wants to invite friends to the track to see the horse racing and might enjoy Sunday brunch at the stables.

The second, the horse lover, sees the horse as a pet. Such owners might want to get up at dawn, for "first lot" out on the gallops.

The third type, the corporate owner, wants to entertain clients. This type is keen to offer an impressive venue for businessmen.

The research was funded by the soon-to-be-abolished Horserace Betting Levy Board, a government body set up in 1963 to collect money from bookmakers and the Tote to encourage the improvement of horseracing, breeding research and veterinary research and education.

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