Keeneland’s vice president of racing W.B. Rogers Beasley is retiring June 30 after 34 years of leadership involving sales and racing operations, the track announced Tuesday.
During his tenure, Beasley played key roles in establishing Keeneland’s position as the world’s premier Thoroughbred auction house and strengthening the track’s racing program, which last year hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the first time.
“I have been honored to work for Keeneland for these many years and am very appreciative to all here at Keeneland,” Beasley said. “I particularly want to thank Bill Greely and Ted Bassett, who gave me the opportunity so many years ago.”
Beasley, a New Orleans native, graduated from Transylvania University in Lexington in 1973. After starting in banking, he embarked on a career in the Thoroughbred industry and joined Keeneland’s Racing Office in 1982, serving as an entry clerk and in other capacities under noted Racing Secretary Howard Battle.
In May 1982, Beasley was named Keeneland’s director of sales, succeeding William S. Evans, who retired in December 1980. By that time, the July Selected Yearling Sale was attracting a number of foreign buyers while featuring legendary bidding wars and rising prices. At the 1985 July Sale, Seattle Dancer sold for $13.1 million — the world-record price for a yearling.
As director of sales, Beasley saw sales revenues more than double to $750 million in 2000 from $300 million when he assumed the post.
Also during his tenure, Beasley led several initiatives, including the introduction of preferred sessions to enhance the September Yearling Sale; creation of a state-of-the-art Repository to promote transparency and make health information on every sales horse immediately available to veterinarians and horsemen; institution of the wind arbitration process; and inauguration of the April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale.
Despite his affinity for the sales, Beasley’s first love remains racing. In June 2001, Keeneland named him to the newly created position of director of racing and promoted assistant director of sales Geoffrey Russell to director of sales. This new position allowed Beasley to focus on racing, although he continued to travel the world to assist the sales staff in developing and maintaining contacts with major buyers in both established and emerging racing markets.
As director of racing, Beasley is credited with helping build Keeneland’s stakes program into one of the most lucrative in North America. Under Beasley’s watch, the number of Grade I races increased to 11 from four while two fixtures — the Shadwell Turf Mile and the Toyota Blue Grass — became the track’s first million-dollar stakes. He also was instrumental in attracting the 2015 Breeders’ Cup to Keeneland, and the track’s inaugural hosting of the championship, which was highlighted by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah capping his career with a victory in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
While at Keeneland, Beasley also helped oversee a couple of major track renovations. The main dirt track was converted to a synthetic Polytrack surface in 2006 but was then converted back to dirt in the summer of 2014. Beasley also oversaw such safety initiatives such as safety helmets for riders and shock-absorbing riding crops; and the creation of the Jockey Health Information System, an industry-wide, central database of jockeys’ medical records.
“Rogers has helped shape the history of Keeneland by playing an important role in nearly every major undertaking for the past three decades,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “He has assembled an extremely talented and well-respected team led by Racing Secretary Ben Huffman that represents a strong foundation on which to build the future of Keeneland racing.”
A former member of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association’s American Graded Stakes Committee, Beasley serves on the boards of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, Racing Medication & Testing Consortium, Racing Officials Accreditation Program and Kentucky Horse Park Foundation. He also is a member of The Jockey Club and the Equine Drug Research Council. He previously served on the boards of Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, Thoroughbred Club of America, WUKY and the Headley-Whitney Museum. He is a past member of the Society of Thoroughbred Auctioneers.
Beasley is married to Jacqueline Duke, an editor at Blood-Horse Publications who produces Keeneland magazine.