LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Anticipation is building on the track, as the Fall Meet gets underway this Friday, and the Breeders' Cup is right around the corner.
For the next four weekends, thousands of spectators will fill the stands, cheering on dozens of races. But what most don't realize is that the backbone to all of this is on a much larger scale than anything you will watch here, and it all takes place just a few feet away.
Bigger than any race at Keeneland are the sales that happen at Keeneland.
"It sells the most horses for the most money and we have the largest foot traffic of any other auction house as well," said Tony Lacy, VP of sales at Keeneland.
For more than 80 years, the auctions that take place just off the paddock area have drawn buyers and horse enthusiasts from all over the world and have become the biggest on the planet.
Last month's auction alone grossed a record $420 million.
"In September, we had representatives from over 24 countries here present as well as buyers from almost every state here in the U.S.," said Lacy. "It's an incredibly important economic engine not only for our industry but also for our community."
Lacy says those profits are put back into Keeneland, into the community, and given to charity.
Keeneland actually stages five auctions throughout the year and – what most don't know – they are open to the public.
"As busy as it is for the race meet here starting this weekend, it was almost that busy for the sale," said Lacy. "And the buzz and the atmosphere generated from that is pretty incredible. A lot of people think this is a lot of wealthy people that play. Actually, it's a lot of family farms and many of them are situated locally."
So, when you're watching the races at Keeneland this month and wondering where all the money comes from, now you know.
"We're more the economic engine of Keeneland, which people may not realize but again a lot of what we earn we reinvest in purses, the infrastructure," said Lacy. "A lot of what people come here to enjoy on a day off. A lot of that is supported by the fact that our sales were good and that's something we're very very proud of."
The auctions are open to the public. Everyone is invited to come out and have lunch and then just do some people-watching. And the next big auction is next month, right after the Breeders' Cup. There will also be an art auction at that time.
Several dozen pieces from all over the world are already on display in the Sales Pavilion just behind the grandstand.