12/04/2004 1:00AM

KEEP season auction raises over $2.5 million


Led by a $370,000 no-guarantee season to Storm Cat, purchased by Fred Hertrig, the Kentucky Equine Education Project's all-breed stallion season fundraising sale Friday night in Lexington grossed more than $2.5 million.

The evening's live auction grossed $2,209,300 for 36 Thoroughbred stallion seasons and one mule jack season, which sold for $6,000 to Bill Casner, co-owner of WinStar Farm. KEEP also received proceeds from private season sales and a silent auction, the final totals of which were still being tallied on Saturday. Two groups, Ashford Stud and the Gone West syndicate, contributed a total of $377,000 from private or silent auction sales Friday night, bringing KEEP's total for the night to at least $2,586,300.

"I think we can conservatively anticipate reaching $3.5 million," said Brereton C. Jones, Jr., chairman of KEEP. "And that would make this the single biggest fundraising event in Kentucky, according to everything I've seen."

Proceeds from the auction will go to the organization's grassroots promotional campaign and lobbying effort, which aims to showcase the horse industry's economic importance to Kentucky.

More than 150 seasons from stallions of all breeds were up for sale at the auction, including both live and silent auctions. KEEP also will benefit from some private sales of stallion seasons.

"It was a great team effort, and that's what it takes to accomplish great things," Jones said. He added that he was particularly pleased with the wide range of horse breeds represented at the fundraiser and in the KEEP coalition.