Keeneland 2023

The trip to Lexington opened our eyes to the sales, bloodstock and breeding industry.

Game Winner colt

We started our first day by arriving at Keeneland at 7:45 AM. We immediately went to Barn 6 to see Hip 1118, our weanling who was consigned by Lane’s End. The bay Game Winner colt was scheduled in the sales ring in 48 hours.

Bloodstock agent Gayle Van Leer speaks with students

We then had the opportunity to meet renowned Bloodstock Agent Gayle Van Leer and watch her successfully bid on a California-bred weanling. This was an amazing process, as she took us through each step and the behind-the-scenes action that goes along with buying a horse.

After our first morning at Keeneland, we visited Hallway Feed and met with General Manager Jeff Pendleton. Jeff took us through their whole manufacturing process, and we saw how the team and machines worked together to bag the feed. We then concluded our visit by tasting the final product. Yes, we literally ate the horse feed!

Farm visits were next on the schedule. We first visited Spendthrift Farm, home to Into Mischief, Bolt D’Oro, Forte, Taiba, Zandon and many more. We saw all these stallions in person as well as how their whole operation works. We got to see newly arrived Zandon who was still up in the quarantine barn.

We then set off for Spy Coast Farm and visited their rehab center which housed their state-of-the-art equipment. We toured their facility and listened to in-depth presentations of all the work they put in to keeping horses healthy.

Keeneland Sale Ring

Saturday was sales day! Our weanling was set to enter the sales ring early that morning. We arrived at Keeneland and met with Lane’s End Sales Director Allaire Ryan. A few students broke off to shadow bloodstock agent Gayle Van Leer as she went to look at horses on her short list. This was a rewarding experience as she taught us what to look for (and not to look for) in a horse. Finally, we watched our weanling as he was brought out into the ring. He successfully sold for $30,000 and it was exhilarating to watch the price climb. The bidding stalled at $27,000 and then ultimately bumped up to $30,000 at the last minute.

After the sale, we departed for Lane’s End Farm. Several students took selfies (and gave a quick kiss) with the one and only Flightline! We met Quality Road and Candy Ride. WinStar Farm was next up. We met Life is Good, Country Grammar, Speightstown, and one of my personal favorites, Two Phils. We then headed to Coolmore which was my personal favorite farm as it had a nice rustic feel. It felt like a Thoroughbred castle. When we arrived, American Pharoah greeted us. It was mesmerizing to see him. We toured the barns and saw Epicenter, Golden Pal, Maximum Security, Mendelssohn, and Uncle Mo. Next up was Three Chimneys, to see Gun Runner and Volatile in person. We finished the day off by taking a trip to the Kentucky Horse Park.

RTIP students and Gayle Van Leer in front of barn

We started our final day by visiting our mare Hinder at Columbiana Farm. We watched her run around the farm and play with her friends. After Columbiana, we went to Claiborne Farm to meet RTIP alumnus Michael Sandulli where we fed peppermints to some of their stallions including Blame, War Front, and Runhappy. We visited their cemetery where their former stallions are buried. We ended our trip with a visit to see the Darley stallions. It was awesome to see the recently-retired Cody’s Wish acclimating to his home. We also saw Essential Quality, Hard Spun, Medaglia D’Oro, Nyquist, and their other new addition, Proxy. — Ben Atkinson