10/06/2011 1:16PM

Keeneland voices behind the scenes: Rogers Beasley

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Rogers Beasley

Director of racing
Age: 61
Years at Keeneland: 29
First Position: Director of sales

Do you miss the July sale?
That’s a tough question. The guys that were selling at that time, it was a totally different climate. Those guys like Leslie Combs and Warner [Jones], they geared their clientele to come in in July, and they really worked it. When I started here, the sales had already taken off because [Robert] Sangster was in here buying with Vincent O’Brien. And the July sale was getting ready to surpass all the other equine sales because the Northern Dancers were being brought down here [from Canada], and Claiborne had Nijinsky, and John Gaines had Blushing Groom and Lyphard. Central Kentucky at that time was the hotbed of the stallion market of the entire world.

The sire power back then, it was just so important. There probably should be statues of Northern Dancer and Nijinsky out in front of this place. We should probably have statues of 15 horses like them out here, because they built Central Kentucky. They built the equine industry to what it became.

When you look around this place, it doesn’t seem like it’s changed at all. But there’s been a lot of work done.

Keeneland has always been a lot more progressive than people give it credit for. We’ve got an unwarranted opinion for being a little stodgy, in my opinion, but I think we’ve tried to blend the best of the modern change while still maintaining the traditions of the turf, whether it’s racing or sales. We’ve done an admirable job of that. Not everything you try is going to work. But we’ve tried a lot of things. People don’t realize that the staff here, the three presidents that have been here, [James] Bassett, [Bill] Greeley, and now Nick [Nicholson], and the staff that they’ve had, are always looking to making customer service better.

What’s your favorite memory of Keeneland?
There have been so many wonderful things that have happened to people here. You got to understand, you breed in February of one year, you foal the next year, and then you get to sell. It’s 18 months, all that hard work, you got storms and lightning out in the fields and all the things that can go wrong, and then you get them right here. Just think of all the people who come here to bring a horse they bred hoping to get fifty or seventy-five thousand for them, and all of a sudden they get $400,000, and that pays their farm bills and puts their kids through school. There are hundreds of stories like that. This place has been great to a lot of different people.

What about a racing memory?
My favorite one was from before I worked here. It was when Alydar came here [for the 1978 Blue Grass Stakes]. I’ll never forget that moment, when Alydar bowed to Mr. and Mrs. Markey. Mr. Bassett had sent for that station wagon to bring them here, and they were down there on the clubhouse lawn, sitting in the car. It still brings chills down my spine. I was just here as a fan.

VOICES BEHIND THE SCENES

Jimmy Young, maintenance | Lewis Leach, mutuels department

Mary Page, track kitchen supervisor | Herb Petit, sales office

Cathy Schenck, head librarian | Bucky Sallee, track bugler | Ted Bassett, trustee emeritus