An interesting chain of events that began in high school led St. Louis, Mo., native David Snodgrass to become Keeneland’s China Representative earlier this year.
“I studied Chinese, which led me to China, which led to a job in the U.S. Department of Commerce, which led to a job with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, which led to the horses,” Snodgrass said. “That’s the short version.”
While with the Kentucky Cabinet, Snodgrass introduced the Bluegrass to a number of people from China.
“I was bringing potential Chinese manufacturing investors to Kentucky, and the horse farms and Keeneland were always on the itinerary,” he said. “There seemed to be much more interest in that than the investing.”
Snodgrass, who spent some 15 years living in China but now resides in St. Louis with his wife and four children, has a company called Unbridled China, which works to facilitate the growth of the horse industry – regardless of breed and activity – in the country.
“I set that up right after leaving the Kentucky Cabinet with the idea of using the horse industry more as a networking platform for business,” he said, “but it’s really promoting the American horse industry in China.”
Two years ago, Unbridled China helped the American Quarter Horse Association set up an affiliate in China, and Snodgrass is involved in the China Quarter Horse Association. For Keeneland, Snodgrass works “to increase Keeneland’s presence in China to attract more buyers who now seem to be venturing out more for the international sales.”
One prospective Asian buyer attending Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale is Yuesheng Zhang, a prominent businessman in China who owns a private race track that recently held the China Breeders’ Cup.
“He’s actually someone I brought back when I was working for the Kentucky government; he was here for the (Alltech FEI) World Equestrian Games in 2010,” Snodgrass said. “At that point, he had zero racehorses, and now he is probably the top owner in China.”
Asked to describe the Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry in China, Snodgrass said, “It’s at a beginner level. The quality of the racing and bloodstock has grown quickly over the last five years. For you to really understand China, you can’t rule out anything. Anything is possible.”