Heritage Place: A history of selling high-end horses
The low echo of thunder shakes the ground. Little flecks of dark clay fly upwards, momentarily painting the overwise clear, blue sky with dirt. And with a strong burst of wind, the herd of powerful horses race by, never wavering in their determination to reach the end of the track before the equine athlete next to them.
For years, horse races have been a favorite of many. From those drawn to the competition of betting on the fastest animal on the track to others pulled in by their appreciation for the animal, enthusiasts of the sport can be seen across the nation.
And for every great horse comes a sale. And the greatest sales occur at Heritage Place. Located in southwest Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, this sale facility has a prominent name within the industry.
Heritage Place has a strong heritage of its own. Since 1978, the facility has been a landmark for its ability to not only put phenomenal horses into the hands of successful operations but to also showcase the beautiful history that makes horse racing iconic.
“What has kept this place on the map is the dedication of our founders, board members and shareholders through the years,” said Spence Kidney, current general manager at Heritage Place.
The facility came to fruition when a collection of horsemen found themselves dreaming of a sales property for Quarter Horses that was comparable to the facilities where thoroughbreds were sold 42 years ago.
Dr. Charles W. Graham DVM, Ruth Crosbie Bunn, Bruce Gentry, Robert Gentry, John Hastie, Melvin Hatley, Johnny Jones, D. Wayne Lukas, Walter Merrick, Bob Moore, George Suthers and Carl Swan were the minds behind this one-of-a-kind operation. Hatley was ultimately the one who found the property in Oklahoma where Heritage Place would be built.
“These 12 investors formed the idea of having a facility like this for the Quarter Horse industry,” Kidney says. “It wasn’t about individual need, but rather the breed. The founders’ dedication and fortitude throughout the past 42 years make sure the industry has a place like this to sell horses and establish a marketplace.”
Today, Heritage Place is still in the hands of four of the original founding members – Graham, Robert Gentry’s family, Bruce Gentry’s family and Bob Moore’s family. Kidney said the dedication of these founding members and their families is unique, as many large businesses go through transitions over the years.
The current facility is made up of a total of 40 acres containing amenities to meet the needs of any buyer or seller. After all these years, Heritage Place has grown into more than just a sale facility. It has become a beacon in the Quarter Horse industry where equine enthusiasts can gather to share in their love for the breed and the industry. It’s become a place where champions are sold.
Four and half of those acres are under one roof, which features an 800-seat auditorium, club, restaurant, over 600 horse stalls and an arena. Another 15 acres are lighted parking space and an uncovered area completed with bleacher seating. In addition to the horse sales, the space also hosts weddings, corporate meetings, car shows and other events.
“I take great pride in being responsible for all this,” Kidney said. As general manager, he handles most things to do with the facility such as budgeting, staff management, public relations and more. “The horse sale business is a passion of mine, so it’s not even really a job – it’s just something we do here.”
Being such a large operation, Kidney said a lot goes on behind the scenes at Heritage Place. Most people do not see the work put in on a day-to-day basis, but Kidney and his team are working hard seven days a week, 12 months a year.
While the setup of the facility is more than impressive, it seems to be the history and atmosphere that truly draws people to Heritage Place.
Lyndsey Tegeler, Morrison, Illinois, native, knows better than anyone the heritage behind Heritage Place. Tegeler’s family has been attending sales at the facility since it opened, but Tegeler herself has been attending auctions for the past three years.
The exciting, fast-paced atmosphere offers a combination of professionalism and light-heartedness Tegeler describes as addictive. The unique facility draws in any horse enthusiast, as Tegeler said sales at Heritage Place have the ability to connect bidders with high-quality horses at a variety of prices suitable for any budget or purpose.
“Whether you’re looking for an All American prospect, a breeding prospect of any caliber, something already off the track looking for a new career or just something to get started in the business, Heritage Place has it,” Tegeler says.
Kidney is also familiar with the facility’s history and prestigious reputation. He grew up in the equine industry and began attending sales at the facility to sell yearlings in the 1980s. He joined the management team in 2012.
While Kidney loves the auctions, he said the overall atmosphere of Heritage Place is so much more than just a sale.
“I’ve always said when I speak to others about it, it’s a horse sale, but it’s the other business that takes place here that is so interesting. I describe it as a place but doing business, where we also just happen to be doing a horse sale,” he said.
Even if a horse isn’t purchased, Tegeler says the overall experience of being at Heritage Place has an impact.
“Knowing that some of the greatest people and horses that the industry has ever seen have attended these sales or walked through the sale ring is something you don’t find at every sale,” she said. “It’s always exciting knowing that you could be watching the next All American winner walk through the ring.”
From breeding plans and sales outside of the auction, Kidney said Heritage Place is the perfect example of how much horse people like to do business with other horse people. The many events at the facility serve as a great networking opportunity.
Like her own family, Tegeler said families across the nation have spent generations making the trip to Oklahoma City for events held at Heritage Place. Each year, the facility hosts a yearling sale in September, Thoroughbred sale in October, fall mixed sale in November and a winter mixed sale in January at the same time as the American Quarter Horse Association’s yearly Racing Champions ceremony.
The list of events and sales at Heritage Sale has seen several All American Futurity Champions and parents of notable winners. The facility has also set sale records with the facility being home to the “richest race” held annually in the state, Heritage Place Futurity.
With all these distinctions, it’s no surprise that the facility has also been inducted into the Oklahoma Horse Racing Hall of Fame at Remington Park.
Despite all these achievements, however, the facility’s capability to withstand the test of time stems from its ability to bring together so many people with an inborn love for the equine industry.
Tegeler said Heritage Place is a location where talent gathers, hard work is put into place, achievements are showcased, connections are made.
“By bringing all of these people under one roof, I think that Heritage Place benefits the entire industry, not just through the sale of horses, but the ability of people to make connections and learn from one another,” she said.
So, while it might be called Heritage Place, the secret to the facility’s success can be found in the fact that it is a place of heritage.
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