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.

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