Farm celebrates first million-dollar sale at Keeneland

Penn Sales recorded their first million dollar sale at Keeneland this week.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:28 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - It’s the largest horse auction of its kind in the world, with nearly 4,200 up for bid.

The 80th Keeneland September Yearling Sale is underway in Lexington, welcoming visitors from all over the globe.

“How would you like to work all year long and in 2 1/2 minutes find out how much it’s worth?” asks Frank Penn.

His family owns Pennland Farm, a former tobacco grower turned thoroughbred farm.

He hasn’t missed a September Yearling sale at Keeneland in 50 years. He also hasn’t missed a Breeder’s Cup since 1988.

“You have to learn to respect the horse and the horse has to learn to respect you,” he said. “When those things come together, it makes beautiful music.”

This year, his Bourbon County farm, checked a major item off their bucket list.

“You may work your whole life and never do it,” he said. “It’s my passion. It’s a way of life. We’re land rich and money poor.”

On Monday, a colt they helped raise, sold for $1.35 million.

“The right decision here, could change lives,” said Tony Lacy, VP of Sales at Keeneland.

It was Frank’s first million-dollar sale in his career.

A moment, he wasn’t sure would ever come.

“You know, the best thing about a horse? It can’t read,” said Penn. “He has no idea who his mom or daddy are. The thing you can’t measure, is his heart.”

Spirits remain high as people travel from at least 30 different countries for a chance to buy the next champion.

“It allows people to sort of dream,” said Lacy. “We’re all optimists in this game, but dreams come true as well and they come true quite regularly.”

Frank says, he has no plans of kicking the bucket any time soon, so he’ll just have to settle for getting a bigger one.

“You do the best you can and hope they have the will to win and if they have the will to win, they can take you on a magic ride,” he said.

The September Yearling sale runs through the 23rd.

“This side of the business is what pays for everything on the racetrack, a lot of it anyway,” said Lacy. “So I think we’ve been a little bit of behind closed doors for a number of years. The local community have not necessarily recognized this as an activity that is critically important to our local economy.”

It is free and open to the public. People are welcome to attend, explore the grounds and take in the experience.