Talkin' Horses - Live Discussions

Geoffrey Russell Keeneland Director of Sales

Wednesday September 6, 2006

Dublin native Geoffrey Russell fell in love with the Thoroughbred sales ring when as a child he was privileged to attend auctions with family friends and, after what he terms a "brief fling" with the insurance world followed by a short spell as a bid spotter at Goff’s, he decided to travel to the United States in 1982 for a three-month visit that turned into a job on the muck crew at Fasig-Tipton that led to  spot in a sales management training program that resulted in an Irish vacationer remaining in Lexington to pursue his childhood dream.

The research facilities at Fasig-Tipton allowed Russell to feed an insatiable desire to learn all there was to know about the art of pedigree analysis and exposed the young Irishman to the mentoring of Pedigree Associates owner Margaret “Sissy” Woolums and F-T general managers Jack Jones and Walt Robertson.

Following another of his brief flings away from the sales ring - this one as an administrator at Jack Kent Cooke's Elmendorf Farm - Russell returned as Fasig-Tipton director of sales administration in 1987, where he remained until accepting a 1996 offer to move over to Keeneland as assistant director of sales and virtual right-hand man to Rogers Beasley--current director of racing who was Keeneland sales director at the time.

Now in his tenth season at Keeneland - the last five as director of sales -  Russell has been called a maestro of the sales ring who conducts the proceedings with authority and finesse, tempered always by his awareness of the unique nature of his place in the scheme of things. Russell describes his role during a sale as part fireman, part policeman - who must meet the unique challenge of making sure that seller and buyer both leave the pavilion a satisfied customer - citing the old joke about knowing you have a problem when the buyer starts by saying "You sold me a horse..." instead of "I bought a horse..."

Now, on the eve of the 2006 edition of the storied Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Russell has agreed to take your questions about the arduous task of selecting, placing, and offering a catalogue that meets the needs of buyers who range from multi-millionaire to mom and pop operators, with every possible combination in between. 

Jersey City, NJ:
What is the rights of a potential buyer in utilizing the newest technology in analyzing such trait of a consigned horse as heart score or gait analysis or other biometrics. Is this information available to the public? Thank You

Although we see more of these services at the Two year old sales than we see at yearlings sales, there are many different companies that provide these services and you should contact them directly. Many buyers use these services while many prefer to do it old fashion way.

Miami, FL:
Greetings from sunny Miami. This is sort of a two part question. Do you think that there is a difference in the style and pace of the major Thoroughbred auctions in the US as compared to those in the UK/Ireland? Also, do you perceive any peculiarities that set apart the American from the European buyers? I am asking this because last year I attended the Tattersalls October Yearling Sales and did not detect the "adrenalin rush" so typical of the American sales! Thank you.

Yes, the European auctions are run at a more slower sedate pace than here in the US. In England the bid spotter is only pointer and all bids must be recognized by the auctioneer while here the bid spotter is allowed to accept bids. This adds to the excitement of the auction. Personally having attended auctions both in Europe and here I prefer the US auctions system.

Best of Talkin HorsesTo read the complete transcript of this chat, along with many others, check out Best of Talkiní Horses.

Best of Talkin’ Horses features provocative “chats” with some of Thoroughbred racing’s most prominent names. Adapted from “Talkin’ Horses,” the popular weekly online chat series hosted by, this edited collection provides additional insights by Ron Mitchell, editor and moderator of “Talkin’ Horses."


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Talkin' Horses discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests; guests may decline to answer questions. Opinions expressed by guests of Talkin' Horses are those of the guest and do not represent the opinions of Blood-Horse Publications, its employees, associates, or affiliated organizations. Guests, dates, and times of Talkin' Horses discussions are subject to change.