Keeneland yearlings for non-racing purposes

Is this done? Would the sellers be insulted if someone bought a horse and didn’t end up racing it? I’m talking about the later book horses that end up selling for $1-5000. Not seriously looking for horses yet, just looking at options for a relatively untouched tb yearling as an alternative to the OTTB route. (It would be safe to say I don’t know what I want yet, so I’m really just curious).

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Yes, it happens. Once you buy a yearling it is, of course, up to you what you choose to do with it. A seller has no right to be insulted that an inexpensive yearling doesn’t race–after all, they chose not to race it themselves. Not only that, but there are plenty of TBs that “flunk out” of race training along the way. As far as the seller knows, yours might be one of those.


That makes sense, I guess race horse sales seem so fancy. I’m trying to imagine normal me trying to ask someone questions about their horse or trying to get access to vet records. It always seems like everyone has a team of vets and agents, etc. to check out the horses. This likely won’t happen but it’s nice to dream.

Back during the Great Recession, Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton were running ads in mainstream equine publications trying to get people from all walks of life to come buy up horses.

I’ve thought about it idly myself. Or even going to a broodmare sale. Sometimes they go fairly affordable in foal.

I personally think it’s a solid plan. I can’t see how buying a TB yearling is anymore risky than any other yearling.

I doubt the sellers will be upset or even care much if a 5k yearling makes it to the track. If they did, they’d be keeping said yearling.

Sellers really can’t be upset where their horses end up when selling at public auction. Even if you have an $800k yearling, nothing stops someone from buying that yearling and taking him to say, Russia, where it doesn’t matter how successful of a racehorse he becomes.

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Yes, it is done, has been done, can be done. However, it is best if you don’t “advertise” the fact that your goal is not to race the horse- some breeders may not be as keen to sell to a non-racing owner. Some breeders may even refuse to take their yearling out of the stall for a potentially non-racing owner. If they are selling a cheaper yearling, the way that their NEXT yearling, next year or later year’s produce may not be a “cheaper” yearling is if THIS yearling proves the quality of horses they are producing by racing successfully. No one running a yearling through the sale is TRYING to breed cheap yearlings and unsuccessful racehorses. Having this yearling prove the quality of their breeding decisions by racing successfully is their goal in letting a yearling sell for “cheap”. So, TRY to not look too much like a non-racing owner, don’t talk like a non-racing owner, don’t look like a non-racing owner, don’t advertise the fact.

Attending TB yearling sales is just about the best place to develop your eye for conformation. If you are interested in doing this, go and attend the sales, see how they work. Go every year. Look at a lot of horses, and KNOW your local TB families, what has worked in the past in the sport disciplines you are interested in. Know in advance what pedigree pages will be (or should be) the cheaper ones… the ones you can afford. It’s a waste of time to be even considering the “expensive” pedigree pages… if you find yourself “suddenly” and “unexpectedly” being able to afford one that SHOULD be an expensive pedigree, there is a reason why, and you don’t know why, it but everyone else does. It is harder these days to KNOW the TB families for sport, since the WB invasion, and the pressure for sport owners to buy “sport specific” breeds that are non-TBs, instead of OTTBs for sport. This has resulted in fewer TBs (raced or unraced) going to the top trainers, riders and show barns with money behind them to get the top quality riding and training and the top quality shows, to produce the top quality show horses of decades ago. It’s a great disservice to the TB breed, that they often don’t get the chance that they used to get with the cream of the sport discipline trainers and riders. So it’s no wonder there aren’t a lot of TBs winning at the biggest shows these days. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

So yes, go to the sales. Watch, learn. Learn how to spot a horse who has been passed out of the ring as “unsold” (did not reach it’s reserve) or “no bid”. These horses are often still for sale back at the barn. If you want to make a true science out of it, go to the sales annually, pick out the ones you like, and follow them through their race career, see how they do, see what they turn into. Learn how to read a pedigree page, and make inferences with what you see there. Most of all, learn conformation, and what you like and what you don’t like.
Some sellers will have xrays available for viewing at the sale, some won’t. You can have a yearling “vetted” by your vet if you want to, usually. Potential race owners will often have a yearling they are interested in scoped for potential breathing issues (for what it’s worth). You may ask the breeder if there is a reserve on the horse or not, they may or may not tell you the truth. In truth, reserves put on yearling may be a last minute decision, one way or the other, depending on how the sale is going.

Good luck and happy shopping!


plenty of expensive yearlings never bother the stewards
that’s why they are sold and not kept.
I happens more pften than a $1000 purchase showing up at the Derby.

So if you know what you are looking at in a yearling, why not.
the sellers get what they want (the money and the horse off their feed bill)

And if their product ends up in the Olympics, you bet they will boast about it.

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Thank you for all the replies, I think I’m going to make this a serious consideration for the future. I’ll keep watching now to see how the markets are going and what pedigrees are not selling super high at the sales. I would like to attend some sales to get an idea of what the race people are looking for vs what I might want. I may look into some of the local bred shows as well since it’s not very unusual for those horses to end up selling for $5000 anyway. I guess I’ll watch and wait.

Y’all are always super informative and I greatly appreciate that.


Almost every yearling at one of the big sales (Keeneland, Fasig Tipton, OBS) will have a complete set of xrays in the repository. The vast majority will also have a vet report–a single sheet of paper summarizing the xray results and providing a grade for the scope–available at the consignment. So if you see a yearling you might be interested in, you can simply ask to have a look at the vet report.

As NancyM said, you will get a better reception from sellers if you don’t make it obvious that you aren’t interested in racing the yearling.

One of the best ways to get an idea what racing buyers are looking for versus what you may be able to afford is to learn to read a catalog page.

This is the biggest oversimplification ever, but in general, the more blacktype, the less likely you will be able to afford the horse. The more expensive the sire, the less likely you will be able to afford the horse. There’s a lot more nuance than that, but racing buyers want to buy horses by successful sires (or gamble on who will be successful) from families where the dams have recently produced successful racehorses.

For example, recent Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit sold for $1000 as a yearling. Here is his yearling catalog page.

While he has very good G1 performances in his family, they are not until the 4th dam. There is almost nothing noteworthy in the first 3 generations. He was by a sire who was standing for I think $5,000 at that time.

This might not be the best next example, but here’s Authentic, who sold for $350K as a yearling.

I say it’s not the best example because the 1st and 2nd dam are younger mares and didn’t have much produce to their name at the time, but look at how much more blacktype the family produced. Plus he’s by a leading sire who was standing for six figures.’

There’s a lot more to it than that. I picked these two horses only because they were the two most recent Kentucky Derby winners, and happened to be a cheap horse and an expensive horse. There are certainly better examples. But hopefully this waaaaay over simplified crash course will help you get started reading the catalog and determining who may or may not be in your budget.


Very informative. Thank you for sharing.

Maybe a dumb question, but are the horses presented at all three gaits? Video of such?

Another dumb question - where can I find the auction sales page for an OTTB I bought? I have been on Equibase so I know the sale and her hip #.

To be clear: I am far from the expert on sales. There are MANY CotHers far more experienced than myself. I used to work for a consignor decades ago and I have attended myself as a casual shopper, in addition to just being involved in racing in many different capacities much of my life. We have literal bloodstock agents on this bulletin board, so I don’t want anyone to think my gross oversimplification to help people dog ear affordable horses is equivalent to their knowledge and experience.

@lenapesadie Most of the USA sales haven’t gotten into videos for yearlings (someone please correct me if I’m wrong, I haven’t prepped yearlings for sales in years). When viewing the horses in person, you can see them walk. Maybe jog, but that’s it. Edited to add: I just saw that just about every single Saratoga select yearling has a video, so I guess Covid forced that hand.

@Blugal If it was a recent sale, most of the catalog PDFs are still available online. You can Google the hip # and the dam’s name, and usually that’s enough to find it. Like to find Medina Spirit quickly I typed “Hip 448 Mongolian Changa.” You might try going to the sale’s website and seeing if they have an archive if Google fails you. If the sale occurred many years ago, you can purchase a current catalog page through Equineline for a few dollars. The difference is it won’t be exactly what buyers saw when your horse was purchased since mares keep having foals and horses keep racing.


Thanks! My horse was not good at racing, I was just curious. She sold for less than her stud fee, but since she was bred by the owner of the stallion, I presume that doesn’t mean a lot. She raced twice, last in both, came to live with me a week after her last race - and is basically bomb-proof. Love her :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


Thanks again for sharing! That’s interesting that videos are on the rise. I’m not seriously shopping any time soon, but I sure would love to have another baby and breeding my own may be less than ideal at my current farm (and young warmbloods are spendy). I guess I ought to practice judging yearling conformation! Tbh I only need relatively functional conformation for my low level aspirations so I got some room for error :rofl::rofl::rofl:

X rays on file is kind of a bonus too. Purchase price includes some variant of a PPE. Lots of horses to see in one location. Strong probability of professional handling history. Known lineages. Registerable. Sounds like an ideal way to buy a young horse… Is there some sort of catch I’m missing?

Well, they aren’t broke to ride. TBs have limited sport horse resale value these days in the world of WBs. You won’t get to evaluate 3 gaits which is a lot more important for a someone aiming for hunters or dressage. Most of the prices are going to be outside of what the average person looking for a sport horse project wants to spend, so it’s not like you can just pick your horse. For example, Medina Spirit could have just as easily sold for $5k or $10k or more if the circumstances were different.

But somewhere like the last days of the Keeneland yearling sale has soooooo many that sell reasonably that if you’re looking for a prospect and you have some flexibility, there are certainly options for you.


If you really want to see 3 gaits (sort of), you’d want to look at the 2 year old ‘under tack’ sales that happen in the spring. The 2YOs aren’t super ‘broke’ (but then again, most TBs headed for the track are trained to be race horses and not a sport horse). Under tack you’ll see a gallop as the 2YOs are being timed for one or two furlongs. But walk-trot-canter… not so much :slight_smile:


I got you. I’m not looking for a broke horse so that’s a non issue. I suppose the lack of gait evaluation and lower resale value would turn many sporthorse folks off. For myself, I think 5k (including x rays) sounds super reasonable for a TB yearling.

If current FB ads for OTTBs are to be believed, 75% are UL prospects; racing injuries not withstanding :rofl::rofl::rofl:. To be clear, I don’t believe FB ads but I’m pretty sure the vast majority of TBs will be athletic enough to suit me. I like cross rails and leg yields, not exactly high expectations


Just an FYI, yes many sales yearlings (and 2yos) have videos available now but the only gait they show is the walk. You see the horse standing, then walking in both directions, then out and back. That’s true even for the 2yos who are going under saddle and will gallop or breeze on the track.

For example, this is a colt we had entered in FTJuly.