Buying at a Thoroughbred Auction

As investors in the housing market, stock market, and horse market are finding out, an economic downturn is a great time to find bargains. (Read more at "Sport Horse Enthusiasts Eye Thoroughbred Market.") 

The Thoroughbred industry has several large sales throughout the country at various facilities during the year. One of the largest is the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale held Nov. 3-17 in Lexington, Ky.

The name is a bit of a misnomer; yes there will be pregnant mares aplenty to choose from, but there also will be stallions, unbred mares, horses off the racetrack, and lots of weanlings. All totaled, there are 5,709 registered Thoroughbreds catalogued for the Keeneland November sale, including 2,266 weanlings, 51 2-year-olds, 2,397 3-year-olds, and 542 4-year-olds, with the rest being older animals.

Here's the secret: You don't have to be involved in the Thoroughbred business to buy a horse at these public auctions.

Insiders predict there will be bargains galore for those looking for a good horse for riding or competing in any sport or discipline. There also will be an abundance of broodmares--some in foal and some open--if you are looking for a Thoroughbred to cross with your current breeding program.

"I encourage you greatly to come," said Geoffrey Russell, director of sales at Keeneland. "Thoroughbreds are great horses to ride for pure pleasure."

Keeneland is a friendly place to shop for horses whether you are looking for a sport horse or breeding stock. Check out the Keeneland Web site, where they have a number of informational pages on attending a sale. These include:

  • General Information
  • Attending an Auction
  • Typical Day at a Sale
  • How to Read a Catalog
  • Buyer Registration
  • How to Bid
  • Sales Integrity Program
  • Conditions of Sale
  • About Thoroughbreds
  • Area Accommodations
  • Facilities
  • Dining and Concessions

As with most horse sales, you are strongly encouraged to look at horses you are interested in before they are scheduled to go through the sales ring. You simply get a catalogue, find the consignor's barn, and ask to view the horse at the barn's showing area. Feel free to bring your trainer, veterinarian, and other advisors with you. A representative for that horse will be happy to answer questions.

You can download the sale catalogues at any time from home. From those you can do your homework and pick out the horses that might interest you. If you go to you will find those options online. (This is also the place you can visit to view the entries for other sales at Keeneland, including the January Horses of All Ages sale that will be available later this year.) Catalogues are also available on the sales ground during the sale.

As with any financial transaction, you should read the Conditions of Sale prior to bidding.  

Keep in mind that the first few days of sales showcase the top horses; deeper pockets are required on those days. However, later in the sale there will be horses selling at the minimum bid of $1,000.

Bidding on any horse at Keeneland must start at $1,000. For lower-priced horses the bidding can go up in $200 increments or more.

More Bargains After the Sale is Over

Also available on the sales grounds and via the Internet are the results of the sales. These will list horses that failed to meet their reserves or did not receive bids. Feel free to contact that consignor at the sale or privately to inquire about purchasing that horse.

While Keeneland was used as an example in this article, there are other sales companies across the country that feature Thoroughbreds, including Fasig-Tipton, California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, and Ocala Breeders' Sales Company. If you are in the market for a young horse to train, a riding or sport horse, or breeding stock, check out the quality horses at bargain prices at a local Thoroughbred sale.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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