Breeders, Agencies, Keeneland Plan Internet Sales

Five prominent Central Kentucky Thoroughbred breeding farms and sale agencies plan to implement a year-round Internet horse auction company they say will supplement, not challenge, traditional sale companies that send each horse through the ring.

Meanwhile, Keeneland Association said it, too, has an online auction project in the pipeline.

Equine Spectrum, a limited liability company made up of Coolmore's Ashford Stud, Eaton Sales, Lane's End Farm, Taylor Made Farms, and Three Chimneys Farm, expects to be online in a couple of months. Consignors and buyers will have the opportunity to be equity partners in the venture, which also plans to sell stallion seasons.

Aisling Cross, director of sales for Ashford, said when trading begins online, the service will be available to everyone in the industry. Because traditional sales are locked into specific dates, the Internet auction process will let people sell horses at any time, Cross said.

Bill Farish, director of sales for Lane's End, said Software Information Systems, a Lexington company, will serve as the consultant for the project. A representative of the company said an official statement would be forthcoming late in the week of June 26, when staff planned to meet with Equine Spectrum partners, who will solicit bids for much of the technological work.

Cross said the partners are working on the finer points, such as commissions. In 1999, total Thoroughbred sales in the United States topped $1 billion for the first time, but that doesn't include private transactions. The standard commission of 5% charged by sale companies would have produced roughly $50 million last year.

In a prepared statement, Equine Spectrum said: “Traditional auction sales companies will continue to be the mainstay of Thoroughbred marketing, but we believe this is an exciting development in the horse industry—for people to have an opportunity to buy and sell at will.”

The statement also said the venture would “broaden the appeal of Thoroughbred ownership by increasing liquidity and creating more opportunities for owners to enter the business.”

The partners said they are laying the groundwork for an “Internet trade exchange” for the Thoroughbred industry. Sale companies will be consulted, they said.

Jim Williams, director of public relations for Keeneland, said every company is analyzing “e-commerce,” and the Thoroughbred industry is no exception. “Keeneland has been involved in the development of an online auction system for the past five months, and expects to announce details about it in the near future,” he said.

Keeneland director of sales Rogers Beasley was traveling and couldn't be reached for comment, nor could Fasig-Tipton chairman D.G. Van Clief Jr.