The Sporting Art Auction, a collaboration between Keeneland Association and Greg Ladd's Cross Gate Gallery of Lexington, Kentucky, has matured into one of the genre's most anticipated annual events.
In 2023, Keeneland and Cross Gate again will team to conduct the 11th annual Sporting Art Auction on Saturday, November 18, at 12 p.m. EST.
The partnership between Keeneland and Cross Gate Gallery is a natural fit. Keeneland, recognized as the world's premier Thoroughbred auction house, offers the perfect sale venue with its state-of-the-art sales pavilion and auctioneering expertise. Perhaps more importantly, many of its racing and sales clientele are avid collectors of sporting art.
Cross Gate, the country's leading gallery of fine sporting art, delivers a superb collection of paintings and sculpture. Each year, Ladd travels throughout the U.S. and Europe to acquire important works that will capture the interest of ardent collectors.
In keeping with Keeneland's mission, both sporting and altruistic, the association's portion of the auction proceeds will benefit its non-profit initiatives, including the Keeneland Library Foundation.
The 2023 collection will be on display in the Keeneland sales pavilion through the art auction's November date.
Located in the heart of Central Kentucky’s horse country, Keeneland is an international leader in Thoroughbred racing and sales.
Created by its founders to be a model racetrack, Keeneland celebrated its 85th anniversary during the 2021 Fall Meet. Today, Keeneland’s racing program perennially ranks among the nation’s best in terms of purse money, field size, and quality competition. From 2-year-old races to events for classic contenders and veteran turf stars, Keeneland racing affords outstanding opportunities for horsemen to showcase their talented stables.
Keeneland conducts racing every April and October, drawing legions of loyal fans. The nation’s leading trainers, jockeys, and stables converge at Keeneland to compete for some of the country’s richest prize money. The Spring Meet is anchored by such storied stakes as the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) and Central Bank Ashland (G1), which are noted races for horses that will compete in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1), respectively. The Fall Meet opens with Fall Stars Weekend, featuring nine graded stakes led by the $1 million Coolmore Turf Mile (G1), Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Juddmonte Spinster (G1). Nine Fall Meet stakes are Breeders’ Cup Challenge races, awarding each winner automatic and free entry into the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Keeneland successfully hosted the Breeders’ Cup in 2015, 2020 and 2022. The inaugural Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland featured Triple Crown winner American Pharoah’s victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). In 2020, Kentucky Derby winner Authentic won the Classic at Keeneland on his way to Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old colt honors.
Through the years numerous champion Thoroughbreds have graced Keeneland, and its Spring and Fall Meets have served as a springboard to success for many Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup winners.
As the world’s largest Thoroughbred auction house, Keeneland sets the gold standard for the industry globally, having sold more champions and stakes winners than any other sales company. The premier September Yearling Sale provides more winners of racing’s biggest events and more participants on racing’s global stage than any other sale.
Graduates of Keeneland sales include 23 Kentucky Derby winners, 27 Preakness winners and 22 Belmont winners. Triple Crown winner Justify sold as a yearling at the September Sale.
Thoroughbred auctions have taken place on the Keeneland grounds since 1938, and annual sales commenced in 1943. Prior to World War II, many Central Kentucky breeders sent their yearlings each summer to the sale in Saratoga, New York. But a wartime restriction on rail transport forced breeders to keep their yearlings at home, prompting the inaugural summer sale that was held under a tent in the Keeneland paddock. That sale produced Hoop, Jr., winner of the 1945 Kentucky Derby. The Breeders’ Sales Company held the sale at Keeneland in subsequent years, and that entity eventually merged with Keeneland. The success of Kentucky-bred racehorses in prestigious international stakes attracted buyers from Europe and Japan in the 1960s and ’70s, giving rise to Keeneland’s sustained position as the unrivaled source of the world’s best horses.
Today, Keeneland’s annual sales attract buyers from nearly every U.S. state and more than 50 countries. In 2022, the calendar featured five auctions: January Horses of All Ages, April Horses of Racing Age, September Yearling, November Breeding Stock, and November Horses of Racing Age.
Keeneland’s iconic brand is rooted in the ideals of its founders, a determined group of prominent Central Kentucky breeders with a goal, outlined in the track’s original prospectus, “to create a model racetrack to perpetuate and improve the sport and to provide a course that is intended to serve as a symbol of the fine traditions of Thoroughbred racing.”
As Hal Price Headley, Keeneland’s co-founder and first track president, said, “We want a place where those who love horses can come and picnic with us and thrill to the sport of the Bluegrass. We are not running a race plant to hear the click of the mutuel machines. We want them to come out here to enjoy God’s sunshine, fresh air, and to watch horses race.”
For generations Keeneland has fulfilled its founders’ vision, embracing the history and pageantry of the sport while offering its guests and participants an unmatched experience. With its ivy-covered limestone buildings, scenic vistas and beautifully landscaped grounds, Keeneland is a National Historic Landmark and source of community pride.
The Keeneland Library, established in 1939, is a public research/reference library that is one of the world’s largest repositories of information related to the Thoroughbred. Located in a 10,000-square-foot facility that opened in July 2002, the library houses nearly 30,000 books, approximately 1 million photographic negatives, and thousands of newspaper and magazine articles about the equine industry. Among its most prominent collections are the Daily Racing Form archives dating back to 1896; some 3,000 caricatures and equine cartoons by the internationally celebrated artist known as “Peb”; and the works of noted equine photographers Charles Christian Cook, Bert T. Morgan, Joel Clyne “Skeets” Meadors, and Katey Barrett.
Keeneland’s philanthropic mission dates to 1936 when its founders opened a model racetrack intended to serve as a leader in the horse industry and the Central Kentucky community. Today, this vision – known as The Keeneland Way – continues to guide Keeneland employees in their daily work. Keeneland blends financial and in-kind sponsorships to benefit numerous civic and charitable organizations and lends its grounds as a backdrop for fundraising events. In the community, giving focuses on health and human services, education, arts and culture. Keeneland is at the forefront of the horse industry, with a rich history of lending support to safety and welfare initiatives, fan education, racing promotion and Thoroughbred aftercare organizations, among others.
In furtherance of its mission, Keeneland’s portion of the proceeds from the Sporting Art Auction benefits its non-profit initiatives.
ABOUT CROSS GATE
Founded in 1974, Cross Gate Gallery is a leading source of the world’s finest sporting art. The Lexington based gallery specializes in equine-related art, and its impressive inventory ranges from 19th and early-20th- century classic works to contemporary paintings and sculpture. Cross Gate’s central Kentucky location makes its focus on sporting and equestrian art a natural one.
Greg Ladd, the gallery’s founder, parlayed an early interest in fine art and his love of thoroughbred racing into what would become one of world’s premier sporting art galleries. Early on, Ladd recognized that Lexington’s stature as the Horse Capital of the World made it an ideal locale to sell sporting art. His timing could not have been better as the 1970s and early ’80s saw tremendous growth in Kentucky’s horse industry. Buyers from around the world flocked to Kentucky to pay robust prices for Thoroughbred yearlings and many developed showplace farms with houses filled with sporting art. In this environment, Ladd found a loyal following of serious collectors from around the world. He is recognized for his expertise in the genre and gracious approach to selling art. In addition to top thoroughbred owners and breeders from around the world, Cross Gate’s clients include (but are certainly not limited to) Keeneland Race Course, Fasig-Tipton Company, Breeders’ Cup, Ltd., and a wealth of other prominent equine organizations.
Ladd is known for his eye for quality and artistic talent; over the years he has nurtured and represented some of the world’s top contemporary sporting artists. Cross Gate regularly exhibits their work in Lexington and at top equine venues such as Saratoga Springs, New York; Aiken, South Carolina; and Wellington, Florida. Cross Gate is also well known for featuring the works of earlier luminaries such as Edward Troye, Sir Alfred Munnings, and Henry Stull. “Our focus is on quality artwork,” says Ladd. “We are confident that we’re offering the finest sporting art available anywhere in the world today. There is a limited supply of really good artwork out there, and the best part of our job is finding that quality work and offering it to our clients.”
From the Gallery’s humble beginnings, Ladd has elevated Cross Gate to a place of international prominence in the global sporting art landscape.