November Breeding Stock Sale Turns Horses, Buyers & Sellers into Gigantic Icicles

(A weanling can see his own breath at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale on Tuesday / Photo by Gene McLean)

It was cold at Keeneland on Tuesday, with the masses huddled up at the Pavilion to buy and sell a few horses, and cuddled together in a failed attempt to stay warm.

The snow sprinkled the air like frozen darts from the Arctic North.

The wind pierced the warmest of garments, like picks on a frozen block of water.

The weanlings — wearing fuzzy coats of winter warmth — still shivered, whether it was due to the new surroundings or the rude introduction of winter come early.

The mares — now accustomed to just about everything — muddled along. Never in a hurry to make a new introduction or an old escape.

The hot walkers were anything but, and turned into “cold trotters.”

The grooms took rescue in the nearest tack room or empty stall, braving the elements only when called into duty.

The sales pitch at the barns was a little more abbreviated, and a little less animated. If you wanted to see a certain horse, you had better be quick in asking, and quicker, yet, in looking.

On Sunday, the temps revved into the upper 60s, and many on-lookers donned shorts and golf shirts.

On Tuesday, the temps plummeted into the upper teens, and the wind chill turned thermal underwear into must wear, and Gate Dancer’s old, fancy purple earmuffs into a cherished possession. Not for nostalgic reasons, mind you. For practical ones.

If the Keeneland Gift Shop had set up shop at the back walking ring, it could have sold hundreds of winter ware. And, that was just for me. Needed a toboggan. Needed hand warmers. Needed a scarf. Needed a shot of bourbon, a hot chocolate, and a hot toddy all rolled into one.

Here’s just a glimpse at the action:

(A mare arrives at the back walking ring / Photos by Gene McLean)

(My great friend and horse partner, for many years, is more accustomed on his boat in South Florida than Kentucky in November. Or December. Or January. Or February. / Photos by Gene McLean)

(A fuzzy ball of fur, known as a weanling, tries to get accustomed to the back walking ring and the first sale’s event of the young life / Photos by Gene McLean)

(A view of the old Parrish Hill Farm in Midway, from the parking lot of the Corner Grocery. Spent many a day and night sledding down that slope and drinking the warm coco made by Mrs. Ruth Roach. God bless her soul. A Saint. / Photo by Gene McLean

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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