Inside the glitzy kickoff party for the world's biggest horse sale, where 300 of the industry's elite sipped on Dom Perignon and rare bourbon ahead of dropping millions on horses
- Keeneland's annual September yearling sale in Lexington, Kentucky is the biggest horse sale in the world, with more than $377 million worth of horses sold in 2018.
- I flew down to Lexington and attended the sale's kickoff party at the Apiary, an 8,100-square-foot upscale events venue.
- About 300 of the horse racing world's elite attended the party, including buyers, sellers, and famed horse trainer Bob Baffert, according to event planner Freya Kelly.
- The party included a rare bourbon tasting, a Dom Perignon Champagne toast, at least six different types of dessert, and electric violin and cello performances.
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Each September, wealthy horse-racing fans, buyers, and sellers descend on Kentucky's second-largest city, Lexington, known as "the horse capital of the world."Advertisement
Lexington is surrounded by hundreds of horse farms and is home to the world's largest thoroughbred horse auction house, Keeneland, which also hosts races.
In September is Keeneland's yearling sale, where people drop millions on year-old horses who've never even been ridden. In 2018, more than $377 million worth of horses were sold at Keeneland's September sale.I flew down to Lexington for the sale, but first, I managed to score an invite to the sale's exclusive kickoff party at an upscale events venue called the Apiary.
Here's what it was like.
Keeneland's annual September yearling sale in Lexington, Kentucky, is the biggest horse sale in the world, with more than $377 million worth of horses sold in 2018.
The evening before the sale started, Keeneland hosted a kickoff party at the Apiary, an 8,100-square-foot upscale events venue in downtown Lexington.Advertisement
After handing off my car keys to the valet, I walked through a pair of ornate wooden double doors into a courtyard, where a couple of staffers were checking people in from the guest list.
Inside, I was met by an elegant bar.Advertisement
I made my way to the venue's main hall, which featured soaring ceilings and large windows.
I spotted at least six different types of dessert, including tiny puddings, brownies, shortbread cookies, and meringue pies.Advertisement
On one end of the hall, an electric violin player and an electric cello player were performing.
Outside, a cocktail and buffet area was covered by a large tent and surrounded by a garden.Advertisement
The food menu was served buffet-style by the venue's chef-proprietor, Cooper Vaughan, and his team.
According to the event planner, the guests at the party were the elite of the horse racing world.Advertisement
The guests at the party were all dressed in stylish cocktail attire.
Down in the cellar of the venue was a rare bourbon tasting, which included bourbons from Buffalo Trace, Weller, and Taylor.Advertisement
A couple hours into the party, Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason called for a Champagne toast in honor of the horse, because "the horse is the reason for our existence and why we do what we do," he said.
As Thomason spoke, bottles of Dom Perignon Champagne were popped and servers passed through the crowd passing out glasses of bubbly.Advertisement
As the night wore on, and some of the horse racing industry's most important people drank bourbon and Champagne and talked about the upcoming sale, I was amazed by the breadth of this whole world to which I'd previously barely given a thought.
The party ended relatively early; I headed out at 10 p.m., by which point most people had filtered out.Advertisement
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