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ATTENTION: The AQHA office will be closed Thursday, November 27, and Friday, November 28, in observance of Thanksgiving. We look forward to serving you again Monday, December 1. 

Chapter Three

How do I Buy a Racehorse?

<< Chapter Two: What Does it Cost to Own a Racehorse?

Introduction | Printable New Owner Guide | Contact a Professional | New Owner Video

Racehorses are most commonly sold in one of three ways:

  • at an auction,
  • in a claiming race or
  • from one owner to another.

At auction:

New owner guide photoThousands of race-bred Quarter Horses are sold at auction each year. If you’re new to the industry, your first step should be to consult the advice of experts. That’s what this list of AQHA affiliates and professional trainers is for. While they might not end up being your source of advice on what horse to purchase, they’re good at putting you in contact with people who are ready and wiling to help you with this part of the process. There are plenty of lifelong horsemen and -women who would be happy to help you make your decision.

If you’ve decided to make your own choice of which horse to buy, you first should attend an auction to observe and learn, not to buy – yet. You need to make yourself familiar with auction terms and conditions. You’ll probably be surprised by the bargains that are available at auction. Also, learn how to read a sale catalogue. A sample page is available in our Guide to Owning Racing American Quarter Horses, which you should read when you’re done with this brief online guide.

Then start doing your homework. You need to learn about various sale companies to ensure you’re attending a reputable auction, and you’ll need to make yourself familiar with a number of legal and tax issues. This whole process might suddenly sound much more complicated, but remember that AQHA is here to help you, and so are our professional trainers. They can help walk you through every step.

New owner guide photoKeep in mind that the vast majority of auctions feature yearlings, or 1-year-olds. That means your new purchase won’t be able to race for six months to a year.

In a claiming race:

A claiming race is a race in which every horse is for sale and can be purchased (“claimed”) right there at the track, up to about 15 minutes before race time. Generally, each horse in a race can be claimed for the same price, and that price will vary from $2,500 to $50,000 or more. The claiming price is clearly listed in the track’s racing program.

These “claimers” can be inexperienced 2-year-olds in their first season or 8-year-old veterans with miles of track under their hooves. If you think this sounds a bit like buying a used car, you’re not far off. The key is finding the right horse for the right price. Claiming races are very common, and are a popular way to purchase and sell horses. Some of the richest runners ever were bought in claiming races.

New owner guide photoYou’ll first need to register with the track and state racing commission as a licensed owner, which involves some paperwork and a cash deposit; you don’t have to actually own a horse to be a licensed owner. Then your trainer (yes, you need to have a licensed trainer to do this) submits a claim form. After that, the horse is yours the moment the race begins. The old owner does get to keep any winnings from that race, however. If more than one person makes a claim on the same horse, a random drawing determines who gets to buy it.

Obviously, studying the horses available in a claiming race is just as important as doing the same for horses in an auction, so you’ll want to talk to a professional about it.

From another owner:

Sometimes called a private treaty, this is simply buying a horse directly from another owner. As with many things, your trainer will likely be a big part of this process. You might ask for an opinion on a horse you want to buy, or he or she may volunteer suggestions from time to time.

Listen to your trainer – this is your horse’s coach, career manager, strength and conditioning expert, and psychiatrist all in one. Experienced trainers are very good at analyzing potential talent.

Next you’ll learn how to make sure your athlete has the right coach...

Chapter Four: Finding a Trainer >>