JOHNNY Maher and I founded the Galaxy Horse Racing syndicate back in 2017, and within a year we fulfilled our lifetime ambition of owning a winner.

Mokhalad won a Dundalk handicap in December that year and it was incredible. You never forget your first winner!

The syndicate also encompassed some great days racing in 2022, with particular reference to Seddon ending the year with two wins on the bounce, at Cheltenham and Leopardstown respectively.

The horses involved in our Galaxy syndicate provide us with a great sense of pride and it’s always a monumental day when one makes their syndicate debut.

Ownership drawbacks

Injuries to the horses are obviously devastating, and trying to manage the recovery process within the syndicate is difficult. It’s more than just managing the horses; you’re managing the expectations and emotions of every syndicate member as well.

Ownership is also a discretionary spend and with the current economic crisis increasing equine feed, forage and fuel, trainers are forced to pass the increased bills onto owners’ shoulders.

Retirement is another issue and one that needs more advocating. When the time came to retire our first horse Mokhalad we were completely in the dark.

After a lot of research, we utilised the HRI services available and managed to find him a suitable retirement home. It’s a home he loves and a place where he continues to give people as much joy as he gave us on the track.

We still pay him regular visits and get enjoyment from owning him in his new career path.

June Burgess talks more about Mokhalad’s post-racing adventures and of her Horses For People retirement programme below. Galaxy can’t recommend the programme enough.

Flat or jumps racing?

When starting the syndicate, our hearts were very flat dominated and we’ve enjoyed 16 winners over the years in this sphere.

Seddon was the first National Hunt horse the syndicates been associated with, and we only purchased him towards the latter-end of 2022. He’s set the bar exceptionally high by winning two of his four races for us, and these wins have both come at some of the biggest stages in the National Hunt game, Cheltenham and Leopardstown.

Seddon has definitely pushed the syndicate to a 50:50 tie.

Trainer traits

As we’re a syndicate, our horses need to be with trainers who can grant us access and who’ll accommodate our larger number.

We also value honesty and openness and appreciate the trainers who are prepared to give us realistic targets and expectations. It’s all about good communication.

John McConnell is doing a brilliant job training the syndicate horses at the moment and his team have made all of us in Galaxy feel part of the yard.

Staying in the game

In order to keep owners in the game, HRI should make prize money redistributions. By this I mean taking a small percentage of prize money from top-tier Group/Grade 1s and filtering it down into the lower graded races.

This will help make ownership more economic for participants at all levels.

Implementing a second all-weather track in Ireland is also a matter of urgency.

As a fun and light-hearted idea, the introduction of a syndicate race series could go down well.

Racing in Ireland is competitive and we have some of the best horses in the world. It can often be hard for smaller syndicates to compete, and more people may be attracted to ownership if incentive schemes like this got brought to life.

Targets and tips

Seddon will target the Cheltenham Festival next where he has plenty of options. The Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown next month is another possibility. We still need to smooth plans over with John (McConnell).

Numoor has been knocking on the door at Dundalk and he’ll hopefully be out on the all-weather in the next week or two. Our final two horses, Fastman and Stanhope, both had brilliant 2022 seasonal campaigns on the flat and are now enjoying their holidays. They’ll be brought back into action in the coming months.

Our pockets are not overly big when it comes to purchasing horses and we’ve realistic budgets when going for new recruits. We tend to focus on sire power, discuss the individual in depth with the trainer, and go from there.

Not every horse works out on the track but we’ve enjoyed 18 winners collectively, so it’s a strategy that’s working!

Ownership advice

Do your homework, understand that what you’re shooting for isn’t easy.

When you get to the races, enjoy it. Go with the attitude of you and the horse having a positive experience. Safe return of the horse and jockey is always the priority and everything else is an added bonus.

If you can adopt this pragmatic approach then you won’t go too far wrong. Good luck!


IN 2013, former event rider June Burgess set up her profit for purpose organisation, Horses For People, an equine therapeutic centre at her Ballygraffan Stables in Co Down.

The focus of the organisation was retraining and calming June’s ex-eventing mounts to be suitable for use in equine assisted therapy.

In 2020. Horses For People then engaged with a research programme called Thoroughbred Assisted, carried out by international charity Racing To Relate. Funded in collaboration with Down Royal Corporation of Horsebreeders, Horses For People and Racing To Relate were able to assess the suitability and transitional life of recently off-track thoroughbreds for a career in equine therapy.

This was the first pilot of its kind and its early success has led the programme into a second stage.


The reactive nature of thoroughbreds is so disparate to the traditional breeds used in equine therapy, that a large proportion of the six-month programme is used to transition and relax the racehorses into a new pace of life.

Burgess refers to their work: “At first, we let them be horses again, we focus on the horses’ gradual escape from racing routines and help them adapt to a more asymmetric one.

“Once the horses show signs of settling, they are turned out in a herd, and once comfortable again, we help them establish independence. It’s simple things like putting them out first or bringing them in last, helping them to feel comfortable in a variety of situations.

“We also focus on addressing any physical issues the horses may have from their athletic careers and we engage them in chiropractic work.”

Over the course of the research, Burgess has found the thoroughbred brain to be more responsive, curious, sensitive and engaged to her trauma survivors than traditional horse breeds partaking in equine therapy.


“Our equine-assisted workshops are open to any adults struggling with life issues big or small, veterans suffering with PTSD, addicts and the bereaved are just some examples.

“Participants usually have limited equine skills and they learn about their equine companions as the horses simultaneously learn new exercises.

“Exercises can include long-reining, lunging and simple tasks like being tied up on the head collar, something not particularly common in racing yards.

“After the horses graduate from the six-month programme, our workshops have given them such adaptably that they can enjoy and excel in their next stage of life, whatever it may be,” concludes Burgess.

Advice to thoroughbred owners

The Galaxy Horse Racing Syndicate has been exceptional in acknowledging racehorse ownership as a life-long process. It doesn’t automatically cease with racing retirement.

June Burgess encourages thoroughbred racing owners to research retirement options. Get in contact with HRI and utilise their rehoming services available.

The Galaxy Horse Racing Syndicate get just as much enjoyment watching ex-racehorse Mokhalad helping trauma survivors, as they did when watching him win on the track.

Ballygraffan is always open to visitors!