Horse Racing

Auctioneer Caldwell carries on Keeneland family legacy

As the horses lined up in the stables, shippers proudly hung their signs and buyers crammed into the stalls to take part in Keeneland’s January All Ages Horse Sale, the arena. Scott Caldwell will stand on the podium for his 48th year of sales at the historic site.

The name Caldwell echoes from the very walls of the Kentucky auction house, with Scott’s father, Tom, having joined the team in the late 1950s. However, the family’s auction history goes much further.

Caldwell’s grandfather owned stockpiles in Southern California, and naturally he invited his son to join the venture – and Tom happily agreed. While working there, he met one of the KeenelandGeorge Swinebroad’s first auctioneer.

“When Dad was very young, what happened was George had a rough night, was a little buggy, and they started phoning around[to assist]when they were making a big sale in,” Caldwell said. California. “Dad is ‘C’ under Caldwell on the auctioneer list, if not the first to be called, then the first to accept.

“At the time, he rode a lot of horses but never sold horses. He and George worked together, and George said, ‘You are my son.’ As soon as Keeneland came here, he was there from there until his death (2001.)”

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After starting his career in 1947, 10 years later, Tom became Swinebroad’s first assistant, chief auctioneer at Keeneland in 1957. He took the helm after Swinebroad’s death in 1957. 1975.

“My father is a legend in this business,” Caldwell said. “He showed a lot of maturity and integrity that[the role]always has, but he went overboard with people to be able to do that. to build a relationship”.

Scott, along with his brother Cris, joined the team the same year his father took over.

lr, Cris and Scott Caldwell in the Keeneland sales booth with the Keeneland January Sale going on in the background on January 14, 2007, in Lexington, Ky.<br /> Image of Caldwell Origs 165<br /> Photo by Anne M. Eberhardt” src=”” style=”border-width: 0px;” title=”lr, Cris and Scott Caldwell in the Keeneland sales booth with the Keeneland January Sale going on in the background on January 14, 2007, in Lexington, Ky.<br /> Image of Caldwell Origs 165<br /> Photo of Anne M. Eberhardt”/><figcaption><small>Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt</small></p>
<p>(LR): Scott and Cris Caldwell at Keeneland</p>
<p>Born and raised on a farm in California, Caldwell has been in a variety of professions over the years, including working in the surfing industry as a sponsored athlete and later owning a surfboard shop.  However, the auction is the passion stuck.  He ended up attending the College of Global Auctions in Mason City, Iowa, where he spent two weeks learning how to pitch at school auctions and then online auctions. next. </p>
<p>“I’d say the auction business is a lot like the doctor (in that) it’s almost as if a doctor’s children eventually become doctors. And I think a lot of auctioneer’s sons love to follow in their footsteps. so are their fathers, me and my sons, nepotism is rampant in our family,” Caldwell said with a smile.</p>
<p>Both of his sons, Ramsey and Kenny Caldwell, work at auto auctions in California.</p>
<p>Heartbreak struck the Caldwell family in 2001 when Tom lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 72. The same disease claimed Cris’s life in 2020 at the age of 63. Despite the losses. cool, Caldwell returned again and again to the place that contained his countless memories.  family.</p>
<p><figure class=(LR): Scott and Cris Caldwell<br /> Keeneland January Horses of all ages on sale on<br /> January 15, 2020 Keeneland in Lexington, KY.” src=”” style=”border -width: 0px;” title=”(LR): Scott and Cris Caldwell<br /> Keeneland January Horses of all ages on sale on<br /> January 15, 2020 Keeneland in Lexington, KY.”/><figcaption><small>Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt</small></p>
<p>(LR): Scott and Cris Caldwell in action</p>
<p>“It was extremely difficult when my father passed away. That made me quite happy. He is a legend in my mind, and so is my brother. Cris has nothing but good things to say about the place. this and love it so much, so do I, dad,” Caldwell said.</p>
<p>“I used to say that if they didn’t pay me here, I would still come. It’s in my blood and I love it. I love the shippers. Many of them have become close friends. loved and shared both the deaths of my father and Cris. So many people have been in contact with my mother and me and it’s been special.”</p>
<p>One person who shares Scott’s loss is track and field broadcaster Kurt Becker, who has been Caldwell’s friend for most of his life.</p>
<p>“Our families know each other through the Standardbred business,” says Becker.  “My father did a Standardbred sales job as a broadcaster, he and the Caldwells worked together… I remember it was August 1978 when I first met Scott because of him. He came to our home state of Illinois to work for a Standardbred that sells every year.</p>
<p>“I am nine years old, and I guess Scott is in his early twenties… This is a handsome young man, a well-known young member of the horse business and he comes along and is ready for you to sit next to.  With him at dinner with your friends and paying attention to you, it makes you feel like you’ve been accepted into the club, so to speak.  I remember how generous Scott was to me at a very young age, and I have never forgotten it.”</p>
<p><figure class=(LR) Scott Caldwell and Kurt Becker on November 17, 2019 in Lexington, KY.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

(LR): Scott Caldwell and Kurt Becker

In November 2021, Becker lost his father, Carl, a well-known and respected track broadcaster in Standardbred racing, after a brief illness. Kurt returned to Keeneland the following January and credited his relationship with Scott, as well as the rest of the group, for his success during difficult times.

“There is a quiet peace of mind knowing that there are other people around that table, other people on that auction counter,” says Becker. “They’ve been there, they know what it’s like, and the example they set by being strong and moving forward, that’s helped me a lot.”

Along with dealing with pain, Caldwell says another tough part of his job is not feeling satisfied after a sale. He said he often thinks he could have done something different that would have made for a more positive ending.

“There are a lot of sleepless nights when you think back to what you did during the day,” says Caldwell. “I have many nights thinking to myself: ‘If only I could make this, that’… Especially when the shipper thinks (he/she) has a big horse, you try to sell it as if it were one. big horse.”

Despite the obvious difficulties that will come with any profession, Caldwell, who will turn 72 in 2023, reflected on some of the higher points in his life spent in the industry. He recalled seeing horses like Knicks go , Animal Kingdom , Mitole , camel and justification go through the ring.

However, Caldwell has always kept humility at the core of his profession. He says as the horses continue to perform well on the track and make a name for themselves, he just thinks about selling and wonders if he did the best he could.

“Selling Justify is like any other horse in the ring. That’s right, he brought in half a million dollars, and it turns out he’s worth $100 million. Maybe the person who sold him thought I was. did a pretty bad job, it was probably one of the things that kept me up all night.

“That’s the cool thing here. You sell a lot of champions. If you look at the average Southern California race at the end of the day and the top three horses it’s at least one, if not two. , was sold at Keeneland at some point in their career… What a great place to work.”

Hip 50 2016 Keeneland September sale
Photo: Photo Keeneland

Justify sold as Hip 50 at Keeneland 2016 September Yearling Sale

Caldwell has also always made family the center of his work. He travels from California to Keeneland as well as other auction locations around the country. His wife, Leslie, often joins him, and when possible, he attends events for his grandchildren. When he is not working, he entertains by fishing and hunting.

Becker said: “That man had very little ego. This is someone with more seniority than any of us, but he never put that on our heads. I never heard of it. he brought down any of us.” “He values ​​our opinions; he values ​​ours. He just loves being part of the team. I think it’s because Scott doesn’t have the ego associated with the way he is. He prioritizes everything in his life, puts his family first.”

Keeneland President Shannon Arvin said the Caldwell family was instrumental in building the atmosphere in the sales area.

Arvin said: “The Caldwell family, starting with Scott’s father, Tom, and then Scott and his brother, Cris, helped make Keeneland the top selling company in the world. “Scott combines expertise, talent and professionalism with a passion for horses and a desire to provide shippers and buyers with the best environment in which to succeed. We feel very fortunate to have Scott as one of our partners. important part of our Keeneland team.”

Caldwell echoes Becker’s thinking on the team element, recognizing that everyone involved does their part so that each day, down to the last minute, goes as smoothly as possible. Other key elements of the Keeneland team include vice president of sales Tony Lacy, sales manager Cormac Breathnach and auctioneer Ryan Mahan.

“It started with Shannon, then Tony and Cormac, Ryan, and all the rest of us, then the guards,” he said. “Sometimes you feel like an octopus. You’re on top, but you have all these veins… I think it’s seamless.”

Another year in Keeneland has passed, and Caldwell will be where he belongs and is closest—in the stands. Although his family may no longer be there with him, he still carries on his father’s words and makes sure to live his life to the fullest.

Scott Caldwell at Keeneland on November 16, 2022.
Photo: Corrie McCroskey

Scott Caldwell

“He said, ‘You know, son, I have money in the bank and it’s not going to get me out of this pancreatic cancer. I wish I had spent more time with you, brothers and sisters. children, do household chores.’

“It haunted me. From that day on, my wife and I took any family we had… We went somewhere for a week,” Caldwell said. “Mom and I pay for it. If we beg, borrow, steal money every year, we’ll get it done. It’s very important to me.”


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