A Day in My Life at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale

For this year’s Keeneland September yearling sale, I was asked to help our bloodstock editor, Dede Biles with sending out breaking news alerts and writing mini features on the top priced horses going through the ring.

While working at the sale can sometimes leave me utterly exhausted by the end of the day, the atmosphere's continuous energy and the excitement generated from the millions of dollars being thrown around the building by the some of the most prominent horsemen in the world manages to keep my adrenaline flowing throughout the long hours.

During the second select night session Sept. 13, I could barely keep up with all the $900,000-plus horses that were selling. To make matters worse, I forgot my headphones and kept having to borrow some from other reporters—definitely a press box faux paux. Each time a big horse sold, reporters would shuffle through the crowd in a conga-like line, trying to seek out the person that had signed the ticket for the yearling.

The look on the buyers’ faces as they are bombarded by our tape recorders is usually never pleasant. I stick my tape recorder as close as I can to each person’s lips, trying not to be too invasive, but at the same time praying that it will pick up the person’s voice, and not just the auctioneer in the background. I also pray for well-spoken, coherent soundbytes, which are also hit and miss.

Listening back over the recording and writing a coherent story is even more challenging. Straining to hear and dictate accurate quotes with the auctioneer rattling off prices in the background of the tape and horses whinnying is never an easy task.

But once the story is written, I can rest easy…that is until the next big horse sells and there’s another free-for-all.

It’s interesting to see all the different personalities of the yearlings as they are walked in the back rings, and are then brought out for display in the sales pavilion. Some horses stand in the ring calmly with their ears pricked, feeling comfortable enough to relieve themselves as they lazily chew on their bits, while others look panicked, anxious, and annoyed.

A variety of whinnies are heard throughout each day—sometimes it’s more of a soft nickering, while other horses let out very high pitched and concerned neighs, their bodies quivering from nerves in front of the crowd. I always wonder what’s going through their minds as they stand in the spotlighted auction ring.

My favorite horse of the day so far was hip No. 221, a massive, gray colt by Unbridled’s Song. He had such a kind looking face—different shades of gray, with a thick, strip of white on his nose. He seemed to have a calm demeanor in spite of his huge body, and I gathered that he had quite the personality as well as he tried to nibble the sleeve of the person handling him in the ring.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have $100,000 to spend on a racehorse prospect, though, and an operation called Pebble Beach Farm wound up buying him. Maybe someday…

Have any of you been out to the Keeneland sales? What did you think? If you’ve been watching the sale on Keeneland’s live stream the last couple days, tell me about which horse you’d like to buy if money were no object.


Leave a Comment:

Juan Escobedo

Hip. 47, one of the last colts by storm cat, what a beautiful colt

14 Sep 2010 7:20 PM
Big Lou

The one that impress me more through the screen oif my computer was hip#94 by Unbridle Song and sold for $685,000.00.Very impressive.Ihave been lucky to have been in Keeneland several times for the sales.Nothing gets even close.Best aqnywhere

14 Sep 2010 7:21 PM

I have been watching the Keeneland sales online. I did look at the videos available online at the Keeneland sales website, to study horses in advance and see if my favorites sold well. My favorite horse from the available videos was pulled out of the sale(hip #180). Since you were at the sale perhaps you could answer my question(or know somone who can)? From what I could see on the live feed Hip#490 looked like a handsome colt. I couldn't see his legs.. Why was he sold for $1,000.00?

14 Sep 2010 8:14 PM

I am not a big Unbridled's Song fan but I really liked 221 too.

There was something about him that caught my attention.

14 Sep 2010 10:48 PM

If money were no object, I absolutely loved the A.P. Indy-Private Gift filly (185) that RNAd for $1.25 million. Watching the live stream, she looked worth every dollar being thrown for her. My second favorite was the A.P. Indy-Fleet Indian filly (37). The Balance colt was another eye catcher with that huge blaze. I also really liked the Arch-Spice Island colt (198). I love them all. I can't help it! lol

14 Sep 2010 11:22 PM
Carole Hemingway

If money were no object, I'd like to buy "The Last Meow"...that horse is going to go places and she's a beauty, Storm Cat never made ugly horses, in fact come to think of it there are NO ugly horses!

Carole Hemingway

Freeport, Maine

15 Sep 2010 8:49 AM
Zen's Auntie

If money was no object?? wow I never even thought of that, but if I had 30 or 40 K I'd have bought hip #155 puny or not you just dont get Giants Causeway for that kinda dough... In fact if I had any spare change Id be watching for another Adena bargain colt to come live in Idaho with me and be a stud.  we could use some decent blood out here thats for sure.

Im not a buyer or a seller at Keenland but I have been following it a bit lately and was surprized to see that a the Smart Strike Ridgeling that sold for 1M was being touted as a future stallion prospect. Hmmm. Really?

15 Sep 2010 8:56 AM

Arch-Spice Island; a half-brother to Icebox, no?

15 Sep 2010 10:39 AM
Jon Fowler

Great to read about your sales experience. I viewed some horses on Saturday and saw HIP 94 from afar. At first glance I thought she was a colt from her size. She walked great and has a good family line. Definitely one I will keep up with. $685,000 was a great price for her.

15 Sep 2010 11:12 AM

i'd buy the half sister to the top sire harlan's holiday as well as the yearling out of take charge lady by ap indy that rna'd at 80k and i'd also try for the fullbrother to into mischief

15 Sep 2010 1:41 PM

I liked the looks of 191.  Sure, I've got a weakness for greys, but he was gorgeous.   I also like the "puny" ones who actually look like yearlings, not 3 year olds.  I used to go to the Keenland July sale in the 1970's and the horses look much different now - carrying much more weight and more mature looking.  Kinda sad that these babies are expected to look like they could run tomorrow.

15 Sep 2010 3:42 PM

Oh, Hip 9, out of them all. Giant's Causeway-Alidiva. What a princess, what a beauty. Tall blonde with stockings and a beautiful structure. Yeah, her full sister Alioonagh was another one I liked and she has done nothing in four starts in GB -- but Oonagh McCool was also a full to this filly, so I still give her a big chance of success.

Also, poor little Hip 155, first son of one of my favorite mares, Honey Ryder. He looked about 13 hands and is a ridgeling who cribs -- but I liked the look in his eye. He could be the underdog success story.

Hip 49, Empire Maker-Henderson Band, looks ready to go out and win the Derby tomorrow.

I could go on...

15 Sep 2010 5:54 PM

Ridglings can be rather successful as stallions.  AP Indy, anyone?  In fact, the bronze statue of him at Lanes End is anatomically correct in this matter.

15 Sep 2010 6:05 PM

Had money not been an issue, my picks would have been: first the Distorted Humor - Folklore, by Tiznow colt. Folklore was one of my favorites from her generation and I was heartbroken when she was injured. I have not yet seen clear pictures of the colt yet, but he sold for around 490k so he must have been beautiful.

Also, the second pick would have been the full sister to filly Octave (Unbridled's Song - Belle Nuit).... she was beautiful. Didn't look at all like big sis, but if she has her sister's tenacity, she'd be a great addition.

15 Sep 2010 8:31 PM

I am a sucker for the grays. So I liked them and the roan colt that was in the first days sale. I watched it on Kenneland.com and also on HRTV.  I must say that the HRTV commentary was pretty boring.  I did like the interview with Ben Leon of Besilu Stables but paying 4.2 for a horse is just crazy and gives those outside horseracing a view that it is a sport that is only for the wealthy.

15 Sep 2010 8:44 PM

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