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Crowdfunding campaign lets anyone in on a racehorse

If you've ever dreamed of owning a racehorse, this may be the next best thing. A crowdfunding campaign called "The People's Horse" is letting just about anyone back a horse that may one day compete in races.

A pop-up promotion for True.Ink at a bar in lower Manhattan.
Source: Meg Stacker | True.Ink
A pop-up promotion for True.Ink at a bar in lower Manhattan.

"We want this to be available at a price point for everyone," said Geoff Gray, founder of True.Ink, the adventure magazine behind the campaign.

Using an Indiegogo crowdfunding site, Gray has raised more than $21,000 of his $35,000 goal in just nine days (as of Thursday).

"We have almost 200 people who have found us, and they liked the idea of being a part of this," he said.

With minimum donations beginning at $5, investors will help decide on a name for the future horse. For $100, they can check in on The People's Horse 24 hours a day via webcam, attend Derby parties and get full stable perks. The more donors give, the more access to events they get.

Horsing syndicates have been around for years, letting multiple parties come together to purchase shares in the animal. The practice is even featured in the movie "Dark Horse," where an English town bands together to take on "the sport of kings" and breed its own racehorse.

Gray says what he's doing is different from a syndicate — while backers will learn what it's like to be a racehorse owner, it isn't so much an investment vehicle as a way for people to connect with others with similar interests.

Each step of the process will be documented and debated among stable mates, with that process essentially functioning as a club with members. From interviews with a bloodstock agent who will advise them on what to look for when buying a horse, to picking the right jockey, members will be included in the entire process.

Thirty-year-old attorney Jesse Kirsch was lured by the access to parties and events. He contributed $200 after learning about The People's Horse at a pop-up shop in Lower Manhattan.

Kirsch said his contribution gives him access to barbecues on the back stretch of the Belmont, along with access to stables and race-day parties. In addition, he'll have voting rights on the stable matters.

"I'm viewing it as an investment in potential entertainment for me and my friends," he said.

The motivations of 26-year-old Laura Nizlek were a little more personal. Nizlek heard about the campaign online, and it immediately resonated. Her grandfather owned horses in the 1950s, and being part of a community that is passionate about horse racing was an immediate draw to her.

"I think this is exciting to let so many people take part in this," she said. Nizlek said she believes it could bring more popularity to the sport.

Of course, there are practical considerations as well. The $35,000 funding goal is just a drop in the bucket of what will be needed to care for a horse and train it.

According to Thoroughbred OwnerView, a website for prospective and current thoroughbred owners, the average expense of owning a racehorse is about $40,000 per year, depending on location.

Gray said the campaign would sell in a worst-case scenario, but he's optimistic.

"If we have the horse and the funding runs out, this is a danger that a lot of new horse owners face," he said.