Horse racing auctions offer a plethora of choices

Jan 21, 2018 Jennifer Caldwell/

Thus far, breeding, foaling, handling and weaning have been discussed. But what’s next for the foal hoping to become a Kentucky Derby champion?

Well, at this point there are a number of paths he can take, but one of the most common is the auction house.

Horses have been passing through auction rings for centuries. In fact, Tattersalls in Newmarket, England, opened in 1766 and is the oldest bloodstock auction house in the world. Domestically, Fasig-Tipton is the oldest in North America, opening its doors in Madison Square Garden in 1898 and moving its headquarters to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1972.

Lexington-based Keeneland, which conducted its first auction in 1938 and established annual sales in 1943, is an industry leader attracting buyers from around the world.

These auction houses host different sales throughout the year. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Mixed sales – A variety of horses can be found, including horses of racing age, stallions, mares in foal, mares with foals by their sides, weanlings and yearlings.

Age specific sales – Comprised of horses of a specific age, such as the Keeneland September Yearling Sale which only catalogs yearlings, or any of the two-year-old in training sales which feature juveniles ready to begin their careers on track.

Breeding stock sales – Focus is on the breeding side of the industry, and can include mares retired from racing and ready to be bred, mares in foal, mares with foals by their side and stallions.

There are also sales companies that cater to certain regions or states. Some sales focus on horses bred in a particular state, such as the New York Bred Yearlings Sale which takes place in August at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga Springs venue.

Altogether, auctions have proven a reliable place to pick up a future Kentucky Derby winner. In fact, since 1960 a total of 29 Kentucky Derby champions passed through the sales ring at some point before winning the Run for the Roses. Of those, 2000 hero Fusaichi Pegasus fetched the highest price of $4 million, which came in the 1998 Keeneland July Yearling Sale.

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