Keeneland bills its September Yearling Sale as “the world’s most important Thoroughbred sale,” and to bolster that claim Wednesday, it announced it will begin awarding bonuses to sellers and owners of its prime “Book 1” sale yearlings who go on to win Grade 1 stakes races during their 2- and 3-year-old campaigns.
“The Book 1 Bonus was created to reward sellers and owners from the sales ring to the winner’s circle,” Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason said. “Keeneland is committed to selling the best horses in the world in a setting unlike any other. This unique Book 1 Bonus, in concert with our changes to the Book 1 sale format, are an extension of Keeneland’s mission to reinvest in the Thoroughbred industry and to promote excellence in the sport.”
Those Book 1 “graduates” will earn a double bonus if they win a Grade 1 stakes race or the Blue Grass Stakes (currently a Grade 2) at Keeneland. Examples of how the bonuses would work show horses earning a $187,500 bonus per Grade/Group 1 win with a 60 percent payout to the seller and a 40 percent payout to the current owner. When there is a double reward for a Keeneland Grade 1 win, 60 percent goes to the current owner and 40 percent to the seller. Rewards are capped at $500,000 per horse.
Keeneland is committing $750,000 to the new rewards pool for 2017. The following year and each subsequent year, Keeneland will commit $1.5 million to the pool. Excess funds will carry forward to the following year. Typically, yearlings sold at the September sale begin their race careers as 2-year-olds.
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The rewards program coincides with a change in format to the annual auction that will see the top “Book 1” offerings, about 200 horses, go on sale in a single evening session on Sept. 11. Keeneland’s Book 2 sale, which will feature 1,050 yearlings, will run Sept. 12-14. The rest of the sale will run Sept. 16-23.
“We’ve listened to our customers and made adjustments to the structure of the sale to meet their needs,” Keeneland vice president of racing and sales Bob Elliston said. “In addition to the format change for Week 1 of the sale, we are working with consignors to streamline stabling and the flow of activity in the barn area. We want to evolve our sales operations to enhance the overall experience for our clients.”
In 2016, September Sale graduates won 65 Grade/Group 1 stakes and included Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator and Belmont Stakes winner Creator.