Penn Family Riding High into Book 3 After Seven-Figure Sale

Uncle Mo colt out of Forever for Now sells for $1.35 million Keeneland 


Alex Penn wasn't at Keeneland when his family's Penn Sales sent their first seven-figure yearling through the ring during Book 1 of the September Sale. He was back home in Bourbon County, busy prepping the rest of their consignment's yearlings pointing for the later books.

“They were all drinking champagne and I was grooming horses,” he said as he jokingly nudged his wife Kendra and laughed, because really, he wouldn't have it any other way.

His family's business was founded a century ago as an all-purpose farm–over the years raising tobacco, Thoroughbreds, cattle, hay, even squash a time or two– and each generation to carry the Penn banner has stuck to its roots.

“We're farmers,” Kendra said simply. “If we can make a profit that's obviously the goal, but we're not here chasing seven figures on a regular basis.”

Of course, the Penn family couldn't help but get their hopes up about the youngster that would go on to sell for $1.35 million to M.V. Magnier. The Uncle Mo colt out of Forever for Now (War Front) looked like a star from the moment he was foaled and the Penns told his breeders Neal and Pam Christopherson going into sale day that he had gotten multiple looks from the right people.

“We had so many of the big folks coming back to look at him,” said Kendra. “He was super nice from the day he was born. He came out as a classic Uncle Mo–big, athletic, good feet, good walk. We had been telling [the Christophersons] that if we could just get him to the sale, that this horse was really nice.”

Spoken like a true farmer, Kendra shared the real 'win' of their momentous day in the spotlight.

“We were all asleep by 8:00 that night,” she said with a grin. “We had to get up at 4:00 to be back out here and do everything we need to do at home. It was definitely an honor to be a part of because the experience is not something that just happens on a regular basis, but life goes on and there are more horses and you just get up and get ready for the next day.”

During the second session of Book 1, Penn Sales offered a colt by Authentic. The half-brother to GISW Arklow (Arch) and MGSW Maraud (Blame) brought $360,000.

Choosing to skip Book 2 in order to keep their manpower within one sales barn at a time, Penn Sales will be back in action for Book 3 on Saturday with six going through the ring.

The Penns are particularly excited about Hip 1241, a Blame colt who is from the same family as the Authentic colt that sold well earlier in the auction.

“He's out of a young mare from a family that has been good to us,” Kendra explained. “His mom is a half to Arklow and Maraud. This colt is everything that family is. He's a really classy colt and he looks a lot like Arklow, so we're really excited about him.”

Their Book 3 lineup features two more colts: a Practical Joke full-brother to Kaling, who ran third in the GI Spinaway S. last year, and a colt from the first crop of Spendthrift's Vekoma.

Equally represented by three fillies, Penn Sales will offer a Classic Empire from the family of GISW Swift Temper (Giant's Causeway), a Maclean's Music out of a half-sister to Tonalist, and a filly from the first crop of Three Chimneys stallion Volatile.

Each of the 20 yearlings in Penn Sales' Keeneland September consignment were foaled and raised at the family's 1,000-acre farm outside of Paris. With oversight from the farm's two leaders in Alex's father John and his uncle Frank (profiled by TDN's Chris McGrath here), Alex and Kendra foal out around 40 mares each year and pride themselves on their hands-on approach.

“I don't think you'll find many farms left that do literally everything themselves,” Kendra noted. “From cleaning stalls to bathing to prepping to breeding, there's not an aspect of it we don't do. I think it makes a difference because we care. It's our livelihood. Everything on the farm is there year-round and so all the horses there have our attention 365 days a year.”

While Alex grew up in the Bluegrass and played a role on the family farm since childhood, Kendra hails from northwestern Pennsylvania. Her family had a small Thoroughbred breeding operation there and like her husband, she was handed equine-related responsibilities from an early age.

Kendra took the horsemanship skills she learned from her childhood and applied them to the yearling prep program at Penn Sales.

“My mom worked for Domino in the eighties when they were a premier sales company and the folks that taught her were pretty special,” she explained. “She handed that down to me. I want our horses to be respectful because a respectful horse is important for every step of their future, racing and beyond.”

Kendra recalled how a few years ago, a first-time employee had asked Kendra if she would be helping with cards during the sales. That newcomer quickly learned that Kendra can be found at the end of the shank for the majority of the sales season while simultaneously keeping a mental log of their consignment's visitors.

While Alex and Kendra said they are happy to continue passing on the spokesperson duties of their business to Frank and John, the younger generation of Penns are grateful for the opportunity to carry on the family legacy. Even their three children, they said, now have a small hand in the operation.

“I'm pretty proud to continue that tradition,” said Alex. “[Frank and John] pride themselves on their reputation and I hope to keep that going.”

“The Penns have done an amazing job raising horses for a long time,” Kendra added. “What John and Frank started has been easy for us to tailor to the sales market. We're here for the long haul, doing right by the horse and hoping that they have a sound and successful career.”

Perhaps equally as gratifying for the Penns as their first million-dollar sale, they also raised the winningest horse of 2022 in Beverly Park (Munnings), who won 15 of his 30 starts last year. The Penns said they believe that the hard-knocking horse's success may be attributed in some part to the way he was raised and the land he was raised on.

“That's something that is very important to us is letting them be horses,” Kendra said. “We raise them as racehorses and hope that the soundness carries them through. We bring them here to let people see that and hopefully they go on and be racehorses.

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