Kentucky is famous for its rolling bluegrass hills surrounded by white, four-plank fences that corral magnificent horses. One of my favorite things to do on a sunny weekend afternoon is to take a drive through central Kentucky’s horse country just to enjoy the scenery with no particular destination. Like many others, I also love spending a day at the races at Keeneland or Churchill Downs, taking in an equestrian event at the Kentucky Horse Park, or watching the horses play out the window from Windy Corner Market. It wasn’t until just recently that I learned of another fun way to enjoy Kentucky’s equine athletes.
Fasig-Tipton Co. is North America’s oldest Thoroughbred auction company. It was founded in New York by William B. Fasig and Edward A. Tipton in 1898, and its Kentucky headquarters was established in 1972. Just a few miles from downtown Lexington, Fasig-Tipton is located at 2400 Newtown Pike, right off of I-75. Traveling down the tree-lined entrance drive, visitors approach the main sales building that houses the indoor auction ring. The auction ring is connected to an indoor walking ring by a short walkway, and the walking ring is flanked on one side by an outdoor walking ring and on the other side by event and meeting space. An inviting new bar space opens to the other side of the outdoor ring. Barns with enough stalls to house hundreds of horses sit behind these buildings.
On sale days, every part of Fasig-Tipton is a flurry of activity. Before each sale, people who want to sell a horse work with a consignor to market the horse for sale. Friends of mine recently started their own consignment company, South Point Sales Agency, and they were kind enough to give me an insider’s look at a sales day. The sales process begins long before the actual sale day. Owners who are interested in marketing their horses for sale contract with a consignor to supervise the sale process. On sale day, the consignor works arranges to transport the horse to Fasig-Tipton and makes sure that the horse has a comfortable stall with lots of hay to munch on. Each horse is assigned a “hip number,” and the sales proceed in order of that number. When a horse’s sale time approaches, she first takes a walk around the outdoor walking ring for a bit of exercise and then moves into the indoor walking ring. From the indoor ring, she takes a short walk to the auction ring on a covered walkway. Auction bidders can bid online, in the walking ring, or in the auction ring, and most sales take place in just a couple of minutes.
Considering that the Winter Mixed Sale day that I attended offered around two hundred horses of “mixed” ages and sexes for auction in approximately five hours, you can imagine how interesting it was to watch the process unfold. I always assumed that you had to be part of the sales process to attend an auction, but the sales are open to everyone, and it’s as much a social event as it is a workplace. Fasig-Tipton caters to the social side of the equine sales through three bar areas. A large, more traditional bar is on the second level of the main auction building and looks down over the auction ring. A more relaxed bar is just off the indoor walking ring, and Fasig-Tipton just opened a unique new bar area with weathered wood and inviting seating next to the outdoor walking ring.
Fasig-Tipton has sales at its Lexington, Kentucky location throughout the year, and you can view a sale calendar here. If you have an interest in Kentucky’s equine industry, consider venturing out to Newtown Pike and watching a sale for a few hours. I had a great time at the Winter Mixed Sale meeting some of the horses, learning about what qualities to look for in a high-quality thoroughbred, and visiting with friends. I was thrilled when a friend’s mare sold for nearly four times what she hoped for and that South Point had a great sales day for its clients. Just another reason I love living in Lexington, Kentucky! You can view Bloodhorse Magazine’s video recap of the first day of the Winter Mixed Sale and hear an interview by Mike Recio of South Point Sales by clicking here (a friend and I have a brief cameo towards the end). A gallery of photos from my day is below.
© Copyright 2015 – Amelia Adams