My name is Erin O’Keefe and I am one of six new interns at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center. My focus will be on communications and farm management. On Sunday, September 18, our group attended the Keeneland Yearling Sales. What an excellent learning opportunity!
We began our day at the track kitchen, where jockeys, trainers, racing fans, and potential buyers leaned over steaming coffee and plates of eggs and bacon, debating the assets and liabilities of prospects in the sales catalogue. Our director, Susanna Thomas served as our translator into the world of bloodlines and black type. We learned what to consider in young horses, as well as conformation aspects to avoid. Once we had our crash course into the language of the sales, we headed to the barns to see what the yearlings really looked like.
As we wandered through the barns, we were able to examine horses, as well as see agents and prospective buyers appraise them. Our task was to identify any conformational flaws, as well as look for distinct traits from bloodlines. The more barns we explored, the better we got at it. When we headed to the sales ring, we gained another translator into the world of sales, bloodstock agent Hi Petter, who graciously shared his expertise about Thoroughbred racing with us. As we stood around the outside sales ring, we did our best to pick out the best horses headed to sale, and he pointed out where we were on track, or sometimes a little off in our assessments. Then we proceeded to the inner holding ring just before horses entered the pavilion. Here we saw prospective buyers taking last looks and watched sellers' faces as the prices on their horses either rose, or stalled. From there, we took a seat in the sales ring. Bid
spotters in green jackets watched like hawks for cryptic movements--a nod, blink, or flick of a finger against a lapel--all signals for rising bids while the auctioneer tried with a frenzied lilt to sweep prices higher still until, slam! the gavel fell. SOLD!
Onwards these sleek and beautiful animals go now, bastions of hope and potential, one step closer than before to the racetrack. So many unknowns ahead--including perhaps, some day, a stay at the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center when there racing days are over.