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Keeneland September Yearling Sale Dictionary

September 14, 2019


Ever hear a term or phrase at a Thoroughbred auction, that you aren't sure what it means? Here are some common words you’ll hear at Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale (and other Thoroughbred auctions) and read in coverage of the sale:

Bloodstock agent (or agent): Person representing the horse’s buyer or seller who often is responsible for signing the sales receipt (ticket) and generally works with a team of experts who inspect horses prior to the purchase. 

Announcer: Person beside the auctioneers on the stand who announces each yearling’s pedigree, including pertinent updates about successful family members, while the horse enters the sale ring and is presented to potential buyers. At Keeneland, Kurt Becker calls the races in April and October and serves as an auction announcer during its four sales. 

Auctioneer: Person who accepts and encourages bids from the auctioneer’s stand while the horse and handler are below in the sale ring. Keeneland has a team of auctioneers who generally work in rotating shifts of one hour.When not at Keeneland, they work seasonally throughout the country at auctions for horses, cars, cattle, real estate and more.

Back: Small designated area directly behind the auction ring in the Sales Pavilion where buyers can bid on a horse being offered for sale. Some bidders prefer to stand in this location because they receive a final chance to inspect a horse before it is sold. You might hear “in the back” or “out back” to refer to this area.

Bid spotter: One of four people who stands in the aisles of the arena in the Sales Pavilion and accepts subtle bid signals from seated buyers. Each uses a shout and a wave to relay the bid information to the auctioneer on the podium. Bid spotters work in rotating shifts.

Black type: Boldface type in the sales catalog that identifies horses who have won or placed in a stakes race. A name in all capital letters indicates the horse won a stakes; a boldface name in upper- and lowercase letters means the horse finished second or third in a stakes. Horses with superior bloodlines will have an abundance of black type on their catalog pages within one or two maternal generations. 

Book: Refers to horse’s selling date and perceived value. Keeneland auctions are structured so horses appraised as premium prospects by Keeneland staff and their owners are offered for sale in Book 1 at the start of the auction. Horses suited for lower budgets are offered in later books. 

Breeder: Owner of a horse’s dam at birth.

Buyer: Person who officially takes ownership of the horse in the sale ring when the auctioneer’s hammer falls to indicate a sale. 

Broodmare sire: A horse’s maternal grandfather.

Catalog: Softcover book from Keeneland that summarizes and highlights the best aspects of a horse’s pedigree. Horses sell in order according to their hip numbers, which are determined within the session by the alphabetical order of the names of their dams. 

Catalog page: Summary page of a horse’s pedigree – primarily its female side. Information focuses on important victories by the horse’s relatives. 

Colt: Uncastrated male horse less than five years old. 

Conformation:The physical makeup and bodily proportions of a horse – how the animal is put together.

Consignor: The horse’s seller or the seller’s representative. 

Country code: Abbreviation following the name of a horse who was foaled outside North America. 

Dam: Horse’s mother.

Filly: Female horse through four years of age. 

Gelding: A neutered male horse of any age.

Graded stakes: Highest level of racing. Races are designated Grade 1, 2 or 3 by the American Graded Stakes Committee based on the quality of recent entrants. The committee reviews races each year and upgrades or downgrades them when deemed necessary. About 450 North American races are graded each year; 32 of them are run at Keeneland.

Hip number: Adhesive strip placed on horse’s rump area that corresponds to its number in the auction catalog. 

Out: Horse that is withdrawn from an auction.

Pedigree: Horse’s bloodlines. A typical catalog page has a pedigree chart (resembles a family tree) that shows three generations of both the male and female sides. 

Pinhooker: Person who buys yearlings at the September Sale with the intent to resell them next year at a profit at 2-year-olds in training sales.

Ringman: Expert horse handler of either sex who holds and presents a yearling in the sale ring during the bidding process. Keeneland employs five green-coated ringmen, who work in rotating shifts.

Sales prep: Pre-sale conditioning and grooming a yearling receives to prepare it for the September Sale.

Sale topper: The highest-priced horse of the entire sale.

Session: The schedule of a particular day of the auction that can last an afternoon, evening or entire day. 

Session topper: The horse who sells for the most money on a particular day.

Short list: Shopping list of desirable horses in the entire sale that an owner uses to make his or her final selections.

Sire: A horse’s father. 

Stallion: Male horse used for breeding.

Stud book: The official registry of Thoroughbreds maintained by The Jockey Club.  

Ticket: Sales receipt signed by the buyer or buyer’s representative immediately after the fall of the auctioneer’s hammer.

Ticket writer: Keeneland employee who takes the sales receipt to buyer for a signature immediately after the fall of the hammer.

Weanling: Horse less than one year of age who has been separated from its dam. Some yearlings in the September Sale sold as weanlings at Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale.

Yearling: Horse in its second calendar year of life. On Jan. 1, all North American Thoroughbreds officially turn a year older regardless of their actual birthday. At Keeneland’s January Horses of All Ages Sale, newly turned yearlings might be called “short yearlings” because they have yet to reach their actual first birthday.