LEXINGTON, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Nothing is more "Kentucky" than a thoroughbred.
We know it. The world knows it, and now a very rich global market is opening up to Kentucky bred horses thanks to a change in trade relations. Last week China agreed to a deal that will allow its citizens to buy American horses.
The November Breeding Stock Sale draws buyers from around the world anxious to own one of Kentucky's best-known exports. But just as this sale began, a new market was reopening that could find the Bluegrass booming with green to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
"We have the reputation, we have the products that they want, and we know that they're going to come here to spend their money,” Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles said.
Commissioner Quarles addressed a rotary club in Lexington, but 11 days ago he was in Beijing as the United States reopened equine trade relations with the People's Republic of China.
China had frozen importing U.S. horses two years ago after a health scare. The Kentucky Agricultural Department had been working to resolve the issue and a deal was signed last Monday.
"The night that we arrived in Beijing, the plane landed at 4:30, at 6:30 we were at dinner with five of the leading buyers in China and they wanted to buy horses immediately,” Chauncey Morris, Executive Director of the Ky. Thoroughbred Association, said.
Morris expects that representatives for Chinese buyers are active at the Keeneland auction.
"Kentucky is the largest horse exporter in the United States and China is becoming a growing destination for thoroughbred horses,” Morris said.
"We're also known for having the best horses on the face of this planet and so the Chinese buyers are well aware of this and some of them already have their eyes on some Kentucky stock to buy hopefully in the next couple of months,” Quarles said.
Commissioner Quarles told WHAS11 Kentucky exports nearly $200 million worth of horses each year. Two out of every three horses exported from the United States is from Kentucky.
Chinese buyers are purchasing $20-$30 million worth of thoroughbreds each year from other countries. The hope is that now that trade is open again potentially half of that pool of money will return to Kentucky.