BEHIND-THE-SCENES: SMALL TASKS PLAY BIG PART IN KEEPING SEPTEMBER SALE ON SCHEDULE

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THURSDAY, SEPT. 14 – THIRD AND FINAL SESSION OF BOOK 2

Well before the start of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Dewey Harper, Alan Gooden and others on the Keeneland team are busy preparing barns for incoming four-legged residents. The individual chores might seem small, but collectively the tasks keep the world’s premier Thoroughbred auction moving at a steady pace.

Dewey and Alan are stationed in the stable office in the center of the barn area at the main horse loading dock. The mood is laid-back, but there is always plenty of action with ringing phones, beeping walkie-talkies and steady foot traffic.

“We do a little bit of everything in here,” Dewey said. “We are always in contact with someone about something.”

After the sales staff makes barn assignments, Dewey and Alan act as liaisons between consignors and Keeneland’s maintenance and other departments. Chores include relaying information about late scratches to the crew of “horse callers,” who coordinate getting yearlings to the auction ring on time and fielding requests for minor maintenance such as light bulb replacements or mulch to keep barn entrances dry.

When yearlings settle into their temporary homes, Alan circulates to document their specific stalls chosen by the consignors in their designated barns. He posts those lists in the middle of each barn and sends the information to the commercial horse haulers to simplify their searches. He and Dewey stay in contact with yearlings’ representatives to ensure that previously sold horses are removed on schedule. 

Dewey and Alan do similar work during Keeneland’s April and October race meets, and for the November Breeding Stock Sale and January Horses of All Ages Sale.

Alan started working as a seasonal Keeneland employee in 1988. Now retired from careers involving agriculture and owning a roofing business, he lives in southern Georgia. His time at Keeneland is a working vacation that allows him to reconnect with old friends.

“I recently saw a guy I had not seen in several years,” he said. “It is always nice to see familiar faces.”

Dewey spent 30 years as a Lexington firefighter while raising cattle on property that is now a division of Juddmonte Farms. A Keeneland employee for 12 years, he oversees the barn area of the Keeneland Training Center on nearby Rice Road throughout the year.

“I like everything about being at Keeneland,” he said. “If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be here. I enjoy being part of the year-round family and seeing all those that come from out of town for the sales and race meet.”

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