Thoroughbred racing often is referred to as “The Sport of Kings” for its deep ties with royalty around the world. But the beauty of the industry is you don't have to reside in society's upper crust to make your way into it, as a reporter from the prestigious luxury publication The Robb Report quickly deduced upon attending his first Keeneland September Yearling Sale for a story that will appear in the April 2014 edition of Robb Report Collection.
“I came here thinking I understood the basic premise of the story,” reporter Shaun Tolson said. “Within my first day of walking around Keeneland and meeting people, it didn't take long for me to realize it was a very complex industry, but complex in so many good ways because there are so many entry points into the industry depending on what (people) want to get out of it.”
Tolson, who has traveled the world to experience the lifestyle of wealthy enthusiasts of cars, yachts, jets, art, fashion, jewelry, and more, became fascinated with the concept of the Thoroughbred industry when presented with the story idea.
“This is sort of an extension of collecting,” Tolson said. “You're collecting a living commodity, which makes it interesting and different than anything we've covered in the magazine before. With a Thoroughbred, you can grow and have an emotional attachment to it.”
While in Lexington, Tolson traveled to Claiborne Farm and WinStar Farm, spent time with consignors while they showcased their yearlings for potential buyers, took in the live auction, and interviewed prominent owners.
“I was caught a little off guard when you walk around the grounds and, based on the questions they ask you, they thought I was someone here buying or selling horses,” Tolson said with a laugh. “That was the only indication I would have needed to prove you never really know who it is that you're talking to or looking at. Someone who fits the part might not be a major player and someone you think is here just for the spectacle is one of the leading consignors or buyers. It's very interesting.”
A Boston native who had never visited Keeneland or the Lexington area, Tolson said he was struck by the serene beauty of the track and its surroundings.
“Coming to this sale I sort of knew in my head what the picture of a horse farm was and Keeneland and Central Kentucky fit that exactly,” Tolson said. “It's exactly what you think of when you think of horse farms, the Derby, Thoroughbreds and horse racing. It's absolutely beautiful. It's an area of the country you'd love to come back to. It's so scenic and just peaceful.”
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