The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York, and the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, are popular places to visit.  One can stroll through the exhibits and see artifacts of famous horses and people from the 19th century up until the present.

Sports memorabilia and collectibles like trophies from long-ago Triple Crown races are irreplaceable and deserve to be in museums where they can be preserved and gazed at by visitors.  Also of interest, however, are memorabilia and collectibles that can be purchased on the open market.  Occasionally, there are news reports of astronomical prices being paid at auction; for example, a 1909-1911 Honus Wagner baseball card went for $3.12 million and a 1952 Mickey Mantle card brought $1.13 million.

I looked on the website of a well-known seller of sports memorabilia and, predictably, the prices varied with the popularity of the athlete and sport, the rarity of an item, how many are in circulation, and condition of the item.

Following are some illustrations from both horse racing and other sports:

Secretariat Sports Illustrated cover, June 11, 1973, $139.99.

Victor Espinoza signed 2015 Belmont Stakes official program, $179.99. (American Pharoah Triple Crown)

Mike Smith signed Sports Illustrated cover with Justify, June 18, 2018, $249.99.

Babe Ruth, swinging the bat in a photo, signed by 35 Hall of Fame players, managers, and executives, $4,999.99.

Joe Montana signed Super Bowl XVI football, $699.99.

Michael Jordan autographed leatherhead Naismith basketball, $2,900.

Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods autographed Legends of Sport platinum edition photo, $10,000.

Down through the years, I have collected some horse-racing memorabilia, such as Kentucky Derby mint julep glasses going back to 1948, a 1973 Kentucky Derby program signed by winning jockey Ron Turcotte, the official program from the first Breeders’ Cup, and a limited edition Richard Stone Reeves Seattle Slew print. None would bring big bucks if I were to sell. What I should have done was save the baseball cards I had as a boy stored in a shoe box.

Coulda, woulda, and shoulda.


Last week, I posted an article titled “When an ‘As Is’ Horse Purchase Isn’t” about a buyer at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale Company yearling sale who purchased a filly for $67,000 and two days later the buyer’s veterinarian discovered that the filly had a major heart defect. Ultimately, a jury in late 2018 in Pennsylvania relieved the buyer of the obligation to pay for the filly even though the auction company had an obvious and unambiguous “as is” clause in its terms and conditions of sale.

The day after I published the article, a lawsuit was filed in Lexington, Kentucky, alleging that some veterinarians at a leading Lexington-area clinic altered the dates on X-rays in the repository at Keeneland auction house to incorrectly indicate that the X-rays had been taken within three weeks of a yearling auction. Keeneland has a policy that X-rays must be current within 21 days for horses sold at its fall yearling sale and 15 days for other sales. The plaintiff—who paid $400,000 for 24 horses at Keeneland sales between 2007 through 2016–claims he has been defrauded.

The basis for the lawsuit is that in 2017 eight vets from the clinic in question admitted to the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners that they had modified X-ray dates and consequently agreed to financial settlements.

While Keeneland is not a defendant in the lawsuit, admissions of guilt by vets call into question the integrity of the company’s auctions. A buyer looks at X-rays in a repository to determine the “as is” condition of a horse. If the dates of X-rays have been altered, the “as is” representation is misleading at best and fraudulent at worst. “As was” is a better descriptor.

Sales companies are put into an unenviable position when their reputation is tainted by the actions of unscrupulous veterinarians or sellers.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business



All of the racehorse auction companies publish “As Is” clauses as part of their terms and conditions policy. The clause for the Standardbred Horse Sale Company is typical and reads:

“ALL HORSES ARE SOLD AS IS WITH ALL FAULTS AND DEFECTS. The buying and selling of horses, especially horses purchased to serve as racehorses or broodmares, inevitably involves substantial risk. AS A BIDDER, YOU AGREE TO ACCEPT THAT RISK. THE COMPANY ACCEPTS NONE OF THAT RISK. IF YOU CANNOT ABIDE BY THESE RULES, PLEASE DO NOT BID ON ANY HORSES AT THIS SALE.”

While this language is unambiguous, a recently decided civil case demonstrates that it does not necessarily provide auction companies with legal protection from disgruntled customers.

A buyer at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale Company yearling sale purchased a filly for $67,000. Two days later, the buyer had a veterinarian examine the filly. The vet discovered a heart irregularity and suggested the filly be sent to the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The buyer then contacted the Standardbred Sales Company, who agreed with the New Bolton recommendation. A New Bolton veterinarian examined the filly and corroborated the diagnosis, identifying the problem as congenital and serious, and accurately provided the grim prognosis that the filly would die within four or five years (she died early in her fifth year).

The consignor of the filly turned down a settlement offer made by the buyer and sued him for nonpayment. The case went to a civil trial in December 2018. The jury rendered the verdict that the buyer did not have to pay for his $67,000 purchase.

The jury obviously ignored written and lucid “As Is” verbiage and let their emotions dictate their decision. While this case may not set a legal precedent, there is always the risk that a sympathetic jury in Kentucky, New York, Florida, or another state with horse auctions will do the same.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business