04/12/2017 2:06PM

Keeneland offers bonuses to September Book 1 graduates

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Adding to the changing landscape of this September’s yearling marketplace, the bellwether Keeneland September yearling sale has announced a change to the format of its elite Book 1 section and has introduced a lucrative bonus system for its graduates.

“Complacency is not in our vocabulary,” Keeneland vice president of racing and sales Bob Elliston said. “We listen to our customers, always, and we try to develop innovative ways to enhance the marketplace for them and us because it is truly a partnership between Keeneland, its buyers, and its owners. We’ve been looking at this since last September, actually.”

Keeneland September’s Book 1 portion will comprise a catalog of 200 selected yearlings offered on a single night, Monday, Sept. 11. The sale’s Book 2 portion will run Sept. 12-14, with 350 horses sold each day. Following the traditional “dark day” on Friday, Sept. 15, the sale resumes Sept. 16 and continues through Sept. 23. Last year, continuing a format established in 2015, Book 1 took place over three days, with 607 yearlings cataloged; the sale continued with Book 2 following the dark day.

Keeneland’s reformatted single-night Book 1 will immediately follow the inaugural Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase yearling sale across town on Sunday, Sept. 10. Duncan Taylor of perennial leading consignor Taylor Made Sales believes the new sale will create momentum that will carry over within the similar segment of the market represented in Keeneland’s select session.

“I actually think it’s going to help Keeneland that Fasig-Tipton has this Turf Showcase because we can get the sale [atmosphere] going, we can get buyers in town, we can get it moving before this 200 go into auction, and people will already be primed and ready, thinking about bidding and buying,” Taylor said.

Graduates of the Book 1 catalog also will be eligible for a bonus pool should they win a Grade/Group 1 event in an eligible country as a 2-year-old or 3-year-old. If the top-level win occurs at Keeneland, bonus awards are doubled. Keeneland includes its signature Kentucky Derby prep, the Blue Grass Stakes, this year downgraded to a Grade 2, as a bonus-eligible event.

Keeneland will seed the pool with $750,000 in 2018, when this year’s sale graduates begin racing as 2-year-olds, and will commit an additional $1.5 million each year thereafter. The pool will be divided up among the eligible winners. Rewards will be capped at $500,000 per horse, and excess funds not paid out will carry forward to subsequent years.

When bonus money is distributed, 60 percent of the amount will be awarded to the seller of the horse and 40 percent to the owner at the time of the race; if the bonus win occurs at Keeneland, those amounts are flipped to reward the owner for choosing to run at Keeneland. A horse is eligible for two bonuses if he wins Grade/Group 1 events both at Keeneland and at another track.

In one example provided by Keeneland, a horse winning the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga in 2018 could be eligible for a bonus of $150,000, with $90,000 of that going to his seller and $60,000 going to the owner. If the horse followed up by winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, the bonus amount would be doubled to $300,000, with $120,000 awarded to the seller and $180,000 to the owner.

“Our mission at Keeneland is full circle,” Keeneland president and chief executive Bill Thomason said. “Our mission and our purpose is to enhance and grow the sport and to perpetuate the sport.

“We bring the best horses in the world to this place, with people who come from all over the world to [buy] and to bring from this place some of the best horses in the world to compete all around the world.”

Taylor expressed enthusiasm for the format of the bonus system that allows multiple owners and consignors to benefit.

“It’s great the way they’ve done this,” he said. “They’ve thought it through. It’s not just one race where somebody wins all the money. Many people can benefit if they come here and buy top horses. It’s a win-win. The challenge for Keeneland is to get the right 200 horses [in the catalog].”