Keeneland will host its April Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale Sunday, with the first of 121 catalogued lots scheduled to go through the ring at 4 p.m. The auction, which features several offerings who were winners at the track’s recently concluded meet, was originally scheduled to be held after the races on the track’s final card Friday, but was moved to Sunday to avoid conflict with the final day of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.
“This year, we have it on Sunday afternoon because of the OBS sale and, even though it was an inconvenience, it has allowed us to position ourselves in a good spot leading into Derby week and just coming off a pretty productive race meet here,” said Keeneland Vice President of Sales Tony Lacy.
Looking to recreate the buzz achieved a year ago when the sale was held after the races, Keeneland will offer curated Bloody Marys, pub grub and snacks, in the pavilsion starting at 2 p.m.
“It was terrific having the sale after racing last year,” admitted Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Cormac Breathnach. “Part of the draw of that for us was to get people from the races into the sales pavilion to see the industry full circle, giving people who don’t necessarily have any experience with Keeneland sales to have a chance to come down and sample the atmosphere. It was a great evening of sales and we hope we can return to that.”
But both Lacy and Breathnach think the Sunday spot on the calendar will work for buyers.
“There is Saturday night racing at Churchill,” Breathnach said. “Nothing is happening Sunday, so we have a late afternoon start so trainers have a chance to get their training done Sunday morning and get back down here Sunday afternoon to see those horses and do their due diligence ahead of the sale. And then it’s straight into Derby week, with the draw and racing from Tuesday on. So we found a spot that certainly works this year and we are excited. We are getting the right feedback. I think we will have a big crowd here regardless of not having it after the race day.”
The April sale is an attractive spot on the calendar for both buyers and sellers, according to Lacy.
“I think it’s a very dynamic sale that has evolved nicely over the years,” Lacy said. “It’s a sector of the market that we wanted to lean into because it’s got a lot of growth and a lot of potential.”
For sellers, he said, “The sale’s timing allows people coming up from Florida or wherever to sell something that might not have worked in their program or might have shown the potential that they were hoping for and they will be able to capitalize on their potential value. People have to pay the bills and this is a good way for them to do that.”
As for buyers, he said, “This is way to have an instant racehorse. It allows for instant action and I think a lot of people are intrigued by the option that it brings to the table, especially at this time of the year when the purses are so strong in Kentucky and other parts of the country. It positions itself very nicely to restock for the summer.”
Buyers from the West Coast have the added benefit of purchasing horses eligible for the ‘Ship and Win’ bonuses at the Southern California tracks.
“We’ve got a lot of people on the West Coast who are trying to take advantage of the Ship and Win program,” Breathnach said. “There are something like 70-75 horses in the catalogue or supplements who are eligible for those ship and win bonuses.”
Keeneland continued to accept supplemental entries to the sale right into the weekend.
“We are trying to have a broad reach with a fairly trim catalogue,” Breathnach explained. “We wanted to keep the quality high, but at the same time have a variety of fillies with pedigrees and colts and geldings with a racing future.”
Among the offerings coming off wins at the Keeneland meet are 2-year-olds Hibernacle (Hootenanny), who won on debut for owner/breeder/trainer Wesley Ward Apr. 12; and Commissioner Dan (Commissioner), a late entrant after debuting with a win Apr. 26 for trainer Pavel Matejka. Ocean City (American Pharoah), a 3-year-old half-brother to champion Jackie’s Warrior (Maclean’s Music), broke his maiden at Keeneland Apr. 20; while 3-year-old Class Actor (Ghostzapper) was a debut winner at the oval Apr. 22.
“One thing people like about this catalogue and want from this sale is that it has some variety and it has something for everybody,” Breathnach said. “We have horses at various levels of the market in terms of valuations; horses with conditions, unraced horses that have good breeze patterns coming in and you’ve got some older class horses, like King Fury (Curlin) or Messier (Empire Maker), who is only four. So there is a little something for everyone.”