A Feature In Sports Illustrated Always Said ‘Signs of the Apocalypse’

Russell (Keeneland Photo)

On the dispatches on the opening pages of this famous magazine there was a weekly item titled “Signs of the Apocalypse” which now simply translates to “Man, I’m getting old.”

As such, here is today’s Sign of the Apocalpse/GP’s Getting Old:

Geoffrey Russell Retires From Keeneland After 25 Years

Born in Ireland, Geoffrey Russell first attended the races when he was five years old, and later frequented the races with his best friend, whose family owned racehorses and taught Russell about pedigrees and other industry insights. While attending a bloodstock auction in the 1970, Russell watched as Sir Philip Payne-Gallway bought a full-sister to English Horse of the Year Shirley Heights (GB) for a then-record price in Ireland.

After graduation from the College of Marketing and Design in Dublin, Russell worked at Coolmore Stud in Ireland and as a bid spotter at Goffs. He came to the U.S. in 1982 on a summer internship at Fasig-Tipton, but admitted that he never expected to stay. Following a time at Elmendorf Farm, Russell accepted a position as the vice president of appraisals and director of sales administration at Fasig-Tipton.

Russell joined the team at Keeneland in 1996 as the assistant director of sales under Rogers Beasley. He was promoted to director of sales in 2001 when Beasley transitioned into the role of director of racing for Keeneland. Russell became the Director of Sales Operations in 2016.

“I think it chose me more than I chose it,” Russell said about his career in Thoroughbred sales. “I have a love of pedigrees, and I love horses. The atmosphere and the theatrics of an auction are captivating. Then you put your other hat on, and you see the sales are people’s livelihoods and you realize how important your job is to do it right.”

Russell’s service to the Thoroughbred sales industry includes two terms as Chairman of the Society of International Thoroughbred Auctioneers (SITA), and he has been Keeneland’s representative on the North American International Catalogue Standards Committee (ICSC). He also serves on the board of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.

“I have never met anyone more devoted to Keeneland or Thoroughbred racing than Geoffrey Russell,” Arvin said. “Keeneland sales achieved new heights globally under his watch, and he indelibly shaped the future of sales operations domestically and abroad through his years of leadership and service. I am grateful to Geoffrey for his integrity, his tireless work ethic and his dedication to Keeneland.”

Russell’s friendship with Arvin began while she was Keeneland’s counsel with Stoll Keenon Ogden and they worked together on Conditions of Sales and legal issues.

“It has been a great honor and privilege to work at Keeneland,” Russell said. “I appreciate all the opportunities that Keeneland has given me over my 25 years here. I never thought I would work at Keeneland–and never as Director of Sales nor being the longest-tenured one.

“With Shannon at the helm–and I firmly believe she is the right person to lead Keeneland–I feel that this is a good time for a transition as Keeneland looks to the next 20 years. Keeneland is putting the right people in place for the future, and the appointment of Tony as Vice President of Sales is an example of that foresight. Tony is a trusted and respected horseman, well-liked by his peers, who has conducted his racing and bloodstock career with quality and integrity. I am confident in Tony’s leadership and look forward to the exciting future of Keeneland sales.”

Added Lacy: “I have admired Geoffrey from the first time I met him,” Lacy said. “He has always been very knowledgeable, decisive and fair in managing the sale process. He helped Keeneland navigate varying economic environments and his counsel will be heavily relied upon going forward. It is important to maintain the consistency Geoffrey has skillfully managed over the years to allow a smooth transition to the next Director of Sales Operations, and I am very grateful he will assist in this process. He has set a very high standard and I congratulate him on an incredible career.”

For his accomplishments in the Thoroughbred industry, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (ITBA) honored Russell with its 2016 Wild Geese Award. ITBA Chairman Stephen Collins said the award acknowledges “one of our own who has flown the Irish flag with pride on an international stage.”

(Editor’s note: My relationship with Russell goes way back to his Fasig-Tipton days and includes a funny story (or two or three or…) from Saratoga. Simply put, what a great guy and an asset to the industry.)

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