Keeneland today announced a strategic realignment of its core racing and sales operations to strengthen its ability to execute its mission and better serve the needs of its global clientele.
Keeneland President-elect Shannon Arvin will serve as Interim Head of Sales while a search is conducted this fall for a new Vice President of Sales. Arvin, who as a partner with Stoll Keenon Ogden (SKO) has served as corporate counsel to Keeneland since 2008 and as Secretary and Advisory Member of Keeneland’s Board of Directors since 2015, was named July 2 to succeed Bill Thomason as Keeneland President and CEO upon his retirement at the end of the year.
Under the realignment, Bob Elliston will become Keeneland’s Vice President of Racing. With more than two decades of industry leadership experience, Elliston will focus his attention on advancing Keeneland’s racing product, industry-wide safety and integrity initiatives, preparations for the upcoming Breeders’ Cup World Championships and expanding Keeneland’s mission to grow the sport.
“The demands of these two globally significant business lines require tremendous time and resources, especially as we navigate these unprecedented times and get ready for a fall season that includes two major sales, the Fall Meet and Breeders’ Cup,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “We understand the uncertainty and the extraordinary challenges our customers are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We want them to know that we are all in this together, and we are committed to providing the best opportunities for them to succeed in the sales ring and on the race track. This realignment enables Keeneland to deliver on this promise when our industry needs it most.”
Arvin and Elliston both bring a wealth of expertise and passion for Keeneland to their roles and they will provide a seamless transition for the Keeneland team and its customers. In her position as counsel, Arvin has worked alongside the Keeneland sales and executive staffs on operational plans for the September Yearling Sale, safety protocols, online bidding and beyond. Elliston has led racing operations since 2016, bolstering safety and welfare protocols, introducing the position of Equine Safety Director and negotiating the return of the Breeders’ Cup.
As the world’s largest Thoroughbred auction company, Keeneland conducts four sales annually, which last year grossed more than $627 million and includes the prestigious September Yearling and November Breeding Stock Sales. Keeneland recently launched its online auction platform, Keeneland Digital Sales Ring.
“The Keeneland sales are an important economic engine for Keeneland and vital to the global Thoroughbred industry,” Arvin said. “Over these next few months, I look forward to working alongside Bill, listening to our customers, learning from our sales team and evaluating opportunities to further enhance Keeneland’s premier sales.”
In addition to Spring and Fall race meet operations and the track’s multimillion-dollar stakes program, Elliston will continue to oversee initiatives critical to the health of the sport such as safety and integrity innovations, elevating the racing experience for Keeneland customers and expanding outreach to grow the sport for future generations.
“As we saw during the recent Summer Meet, racing at Keeneland is second to none, and I am excited to be able to focus my attention on preparing for the Fall Meet and Breeders’ Cup,” Elliston said. “I am proud of the great strides we have made, particularly in the areas of safety and fan development, and I look forward to building on the foundation we have put in place.”
Keeneland will hold its September Sale from Sept. 13-25 and Fall Meet from Oct. 2-24; Breeders’ Cup returns Nov. 6-7, immediately followed by the November Sale, which begins Nov. 9.