Visit Horse Country: A Tradition Built on Innovation at Fasig-Tipton

The Life
A scene from Fasig-Tipton's Kentucky property during the elite November sale. (Courtesy of Fasig-Tipton Co.)

Fasig-Tipton Co. is the oldest Thoroughbred auction company in North America, and has an established presence in various market sectors, starting with the epicenter of Thoroughbred breeding, central Kentucky, and extending to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the 2-year-old auctions in Florida, the Timonium, Md., area serving the Midlantic region, and this year, to Santa Anita Park in California.

Founded by William B. Fasig and Edward A. Tipton in 1898, the company has a storied legacy that continues to grow in the 21st century. It has been at the forefront of industry innovation since its inception, becoming the first sales company to require certificates of health and pregnancy at broodmare sales in the early 1900s. During the same era, Fasig-Tipton upgraded its catalog sales pages to emphasize the recent racing success of a horse’s family members – which became standard industry practice in the decades to follow.

Fasig-Tipton’s first headquarters was in New York City at Madison Square Garden, and its elite sale of selected yearlings in Saratoga Springs that occurs every August – a highlight of the annual racing season at nearby Saratoga Race Course – dates back to 1917 (Man o’ War sold at the Saratoga auction in 1918).

Horse of the Year Havre de Grace at Fasig-Tipton in 2012. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The first Kentucky auction held by Fasig-Tipton occurred during World War II, in 1943 at Keeneland Race Course, and the company began holding regular sales in the Bluegrass State in 1972. Fasig-Tipton’s annual July sale of selected yearlings in Lexington, scheduled for July 8 this year, is the unofficial kickoff to the yearling sales calendar in North America (it’s been joined by a July horses of racing age sale in recent years). Fasig-Tipton also holds a yearling auction in Kentucky during October, followed by another can’t-miss event every year, its November Sale held the Monday after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. That breeding stock sale often offers several newly minted Breeders’ Cup winners amid its unparalleled group of broodmares, weanlings, and racing prospects.

Synergy Investments of Dubai bought Fasig-Tipton in 2008 and has significantly modernized its properties over the past decade along with making various other improvements. The company’s base of operations is at its Kentucky facility off of Newtown Pike just north of I-64 and Lexington. The picturesque grounds hold 23 barns and a state-of-the art sales pavilion, all easily accessible.

Tours of Fasig-Tipton are offered through Horse Country and provide a behind-the-scenes look at the “NFL Draft for racehorses,” according to the company’s website. Visitors go on a walking tour of Fasig-Tipton’s grounds, stopping by barns and the sales pavilion and meeting staff along the way who explain how a horse is prepared for a sale.

“The way we kind of wanted to do it was as an educational tour,” said Wes Peterson, sales associate at Fasig-Tipton. “It’s very open-ended, people can ask questions. Some of our guests aren’t familiar with some of the commercial horse-trading aspects of the Thoroughbred industry, so we thought it was a really cool idea to bring them in and let them see our facility and tell them about the process between the farm and the racetrack where these horses change hands.”

A highlight of the tour comes when visitors learn about one of the most exciting – and to the everyday person, mysterious – aspects of a horse sale: when a horse transfers from seller to buyer at the drop of the hammer. Guests meet with one of Fasig-Tipton’s announcers during the tour and get an insider’s perspective on the rapid-paced environment that is on display during an actual auction, where horses are led in and out of the sales ring, buyers call out bids from their seats in the pavilion, and the auctioneer and the Fasig-Tipton staff keep the process moving smoothly.

“Then, we'll have them talk to a consignor during the sale, while they’re out showing horses,” Peterson adds. “They’ll let the guest look at the horse the way the buyers or sellers would look at the horse, in terms of the athleticism and how they move, and I think that’s one of the flagship aspects of our tour, when people get to come in and see the horses as the horsemen get to see them.

“Some people, if they’re not from the area, they really are not familiar with the process at all, and we try to pull back the curtain and let them see what we do and how it works, and we decided to put that little blurb about the NFL Draft in there, because it essentially is a drafting of your racing stable for the season or the years going forward.”

The tours are offered rain or shine and no umbrellas are allowed, but picture taking is encouraged. For more information and to book a tour, click here.

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