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Buying Yearling at Auction

I have the (quite possibly very crazy) idea to pick up a yearling at auction but have no idea how to go about it. The goal would be to use the horse for sport horse purposes not racing. I have a few bloodlines I’d like to get and prefer mares (fillies) vs colts/ geldings. Are there any auctions that have a lower price point? Am I crazy for considering doing this vs purchasing a yearling the traditional way?

Can an “outsider” bid in a race auction? By and large the breeders prefer a racing home. I think there are yearling sales everywhere at every price point.

Years ago we had a local breeder fitting up two yearling fillies for the fall sale at our barn. Really sweet girls. After the sale and he was gone, I looked up the results and they sold for $1500 each to a chuck wagon racer, which I’m sure did not delight him. He deflected anyone at the barn offering to buy them as sport horses. I think there are programs that reward breeders of winning locally bred race horses, and if your yearling goes to a non track home, no chance there.

Yes, an “outsider” can bid on race horses. :roll_eyes:

Anyone can bid. You just go to the office and get a number.

Payment is usually cash in hand or check. Some sales (particularly the higher end ones) have you establish credit or an account with them where they will want bank statements, etc. That can take a few days.

There are soooo many thoroughbred sales. Not only do you have the major ones through Fasig Tipton, Keeneland, Barrett’s, Ocala Breeders Sale, but most states with breeding programs will have their own yearling sale at some point. Plus there are online sales these days.

I think most, if not all TB sales, will not sell below $1000. But most of them will have yearlings selling for $1000 or the low four figures. Pretty much the only exception is the Saratoga select sale, which only accepts premier horses.


TB breeders will normally want to see their yearlings go to a racing home, but yes, you may go to a yearling sale, bid, and buy one if you like. Texarkana has outlined the required prerequisites above. Just don’t mention your plans for the horse in the presence of the sellers of the horse. It would be more advantageous to you to keep that info to yourself. You must know enough about pedigrees to know which horses you need to spend time looking at and considering, so that you don’t waste your time looking at a yearling which will be expensive. No point in falling in love and setting your heart on one that is going to sell far above your price range. Learn how to read a catalog page as well as judge conformation. If you have annual TB yearling sales near you, it is advantageous to attend regularly, get to know the players and the auction dynamics. I sat with a show horse friend of mine at a yearling sale once, and she bid $25,000 on a yearling, thinking it was a $2500 bid. Fortunately there were more bids after that. Be careful.
Good luck, and happy shopping!


I think only veterinarians can view x-rays in the repository (and the average buyer doesn’t know what to look for anyway). I don’t know how you go about lining one up if you find a yearling that interests you, though.

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There are half a dozen large yearling sales a year (in KY, NY, FL, and CA) and additional smaller ones in other states. All will expect you to establish credit ahead of time or pay cash on the spot. At the sales I’m familiar with, the “upset price” is $1,000. Depending on how much you are willing to spend, it probably doesn’t make sense to look at the yearlings at the barns ahead of time since you’ll have no idea which ones might fall into your price range. Instead, you can watch them in the back walking rings and if one catches your eye, follow it up to the ring and see how the bidding progresses. (The problem with that is that you won’t be able to vet the horses.)

Fasig-Tipton in Lexington, KY is holding their October Yearling Sale from the 23rd through the 26th. (Horses will be available to be seen at the sales ground beginning 2 days ahead.) There are 1600 yearlings entered and the catalog is here: Kentucky October Yearlings (2023) | Fasig-Tipton (fasigtipton.com)

Many, if not most of those yearlings, will have pictures and videos on their catalog pages by sales time.


If you’re at one of the bigger sales (Keeneland, Fasig Tipton, OBS) you can go to the vet counter and ask to hire one. (Obviously it’s better to have your own vet, but vets are available on the sales ground.) Bear in mind that vetting 4-5 yearlings will cost you as much as buying a very inexpensive one.

If you are looking at yearlings at the barn or in the back rings, you can also ask the consignor for a look at the “vet sheet” which is a summary of the 32 xrays and scope that were done pre-sale.


Holy cow I had no idea they did a scope and 32 rads prior to the sale, that’s awesome. Lots of good insights here, thank you all!