The Possibilities of Keeneland Sales and Racing Become Clearer

April 22, 2020

In a follow up to Keeneland president and chief executive officer Bill Thomason’s April 14 newsletter to Keeneland customers, Bob Elliston, vice president of racing and sales, responds to questions regarding the company’s future sales and race meets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To our customers:

I hope this note finds each of you well and healthy. During these uncertain times, every day presents a new set of challenges and surprises on both a personal and professional level. As we navigate this fluid situation together, we hope that these regular email communications covering both sales and racing provide helpful information to guide your decisions over the coming weeks and months.

Thank you for the tremendous feedback following last week’s Keeneland newsletter. In this edition, we’re taking the opportunity to address a few specific questions from you, our customers, since our last installment. We value your input and we will be transparent with you as we work together to find answers during this uncertain time. As we address these concerns, we encourage you to continue to check for the latest updates and pertinent information.

When will Keeneland return to racing?

We can’t wait for it to return and would like to safely conduct racing as soon as possible. Keeneland is currently working with Kentucky race tracks, health officials and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to establish consistent health and safety protocols for all of our tracks state-wide. These plans will be presented to the Governor’s office, and once we receive approval from our Governor, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and health officials on these plans, we will be collectively announcing plans to return to safe racing state-wide.

Keeneland has established a window of race dates this summer where we could conduct if those approvals are in place and officials deem it safe to do so. It is too early at this time to know whether this would include spectators. As always, we will keep you updated as more information is available.

Can you share details on why the May 1 entry deadline for the September Sale was not extended?

Great question… As you can imagine orchestrating a sale of 4,500+ horses requires time to coordinate logistics, catalog entries and ensure that we are providing the best sales experience to our buyers and sellers. The Friday, May 1, deadline allows for this. However, Keeneland has extended the option for sellers to withdraw horses until June 12 and pay no entry fees. With this option, there is no reason not to enter every horse you have for consideration for September, as you will have six weeks to determine whether you want them in the sale, without any financial obligation.

Is Keeneland considering alternative options for bidding?

The answer is yes. We will have contingencies in place to make sure that wherever you are, and whatever means of communication you use, you will be able to bid on a horse. Keeneland has been developing in this space for some time, even before the COVID-19 crisis hit. While plans are in place to conduct this year’s sales in our traditional live format, we must have measures in place to expand all bidding opportunities, especially in the event that physical participation is impacted. From phone and internet bidding to expanded digital capabilities, we are excited to share these plans with you in the coming weeks. As with everything Keeneland does, we will implement tools that are equipped to handle volume, while also providing the level of quality and professionalism you expect from Keeneland auctions.

How do you plan to handle summer yearling inspections?

The Keeneland team is working closely with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the State Veterinarian’s Office to identify the safest protocols to conduct summer yearling inspections. The inspection process is of critical importance and we will share these protocols with you as soon as they are finalized.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to myself or any member of the sales team with questions or concerns. We will continue to use this newsletter and all Keeneland communication channels to keep our customers apprised of developments for both sales and racing.

On behalf of the entire Keeneland team, thank you for your support of our great industry and of Keeneland. We are all looking forward to brighter days ahead.

Stay well,

Bob Elliston

Keeneland Press Office 

Photo: Bob Elliston. Credit: Keeneland 

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