What it’s like going to the ‘Super Bowl of horse sales,’ where royals and millionaires bid on horses they hope might be the next Kentucky Derby winner

keeneland sale

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Every September, wealthy horse-racing fans, buyers, and sellers converge on Kentucky’s second-largest city, Lexington, known as “the horse capital of the world.”

Lexington is surrounded by hundreds of horse farms and is home to the world’s largest thoroughbred horse auction house, Keeneland, which also hosts races. At Keeneland’s September yearling sale, buyers drop millions on one-year-old horses that have never even been ridden. In 2019, buyers spent more than $360 million on 2,855 of these horses (also called “yearlings”) at the September sale.

This year’s sale, which kicks off on September 13, is moving forward with some significant changes due to the coronavirus pandemic. All Keeneland staff are required to be tested for the virus within 10 days of their entry to the sales grounds. Buyers, owners, and agents are not required to be tested, but they will all be asked to complete a health questionnaire ahead of the sale and testing will be available to buyers upon request. Everyone who sets foot on the sales grounds must pass a daily health screening that includes a temperature check. Bidding will be available online for those who don’t want to attend in person.

Last fall, however, I got to experience Keeneland’s September yearling sale in a typical year. Here’s what it was like.

SEE ALSO: I spent 4 days in the ‘horse capital of the world,’ where the barns look more like estates and billionaires convene for the world’s largest horse sale. Here’s what life looks like in Kentucky’s second-biggest city.

DON’T MISS: Inside the glitzy kickoff party for the world’s biggest horse sale, where 300 of the industry’s elite sipped on rare bourbons ahead of dropping millions on horses

Keeneland is the world’s largest thoroughbred auction house. Throughout 2018, it sold more than $600 million worth of horses — $377 million during its September sale alone.

The Lexington, Kentucky-based auction house holds four thoroughbred sales annually in January, April, September, and November.

Its September sale, which has been called the “Super Bowl” of horse sales, is for yearlings only, meaning year-old horses who have never even been ridden.

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“We talk about [Lexington] being the horse capital of the world, and it really is the place that’s acknowledged around the world,” Bill Thomason, president and CEO of Keeneland, told me in an interview during last year’s sale.

More than half of all horses born in the US are born within 30 miles of Keeneland, and the top stallions in the country are all within this 30-mile radius, according to Thomason.

“It’s a concentration of an industry that’s in this town with people whose livelihoods depend on this crop that they’re producing, which are the yearlings,” he said.

Keeneland is also a horse racing company.

Keeneland hosts races on approximately 32 days per year, with eight to 10 races per day.

The auction house throws lavish parties for its VIP buyers and sponsors.

I got into the kickoff party for last year’s September sale, which took place at an opulent venue in Lexington and included electric violin and …read more

Source:: Business Insider – Life

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