For Now, Russians Still Coming to Keeneland

Growing tensions between the U.S. and Russia that have seen Russia call for an embargo of U.S. agricultural products has the attention of sale officials at Keeneland.

Russia has been an emerging Thoroughbred market in recent years, but the ability to ship yearlings purchased in the U.S. back to Russia could prove difficult this year because of souring relations between the two countries. Keeneland and Russian buyers are still gathering facts.

On Aug. 7 Russia began an embargo against agricultural products from the U.S. and its allies. The Los Angeles Times reports Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the embargo will include meat and poultry, fish, dairy products, and fruits and vegetables. 

Keeneland officials are monitoring the situation and keeping communication lines open.

"At this point our buyers are asking us how it impacts us," said Keeneland associate director of sales Tom Thornbury. "We're not yet sure, but certainly there is concern."

Good signs include the fact that Medvedev didn't mention horses specifically. And, in recent years following efforts by Keeneland and Russian buyers, the Russian government has looked favorably on the industry, reducing tariffs and taxes and other expenses involved in bringing Thoroughbreds into the country. 

Thornbury said in the past few years, Russian buyers have been spending between $3 million and $6 million at the Keeneland September sale. That would be about 1% to 2% of Keeneland September spending. 

"Keeneland is in touch with our buyers who are concerned and we're all in a wait-and-see mode right now to see if exportation is going to be difficult," Thornbury said.

The Keeneland September yearling sale begins Sept. 8 and continues through Sept. 21.

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