WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Critics on Monday slammed as destructive recent changes in the name and rules of Poland's prestigious Arabian horse sale.
Known since 2001 as the "Pride of Poland," the auction has been rechristened this year as the "49th Janow Podlaski Auction & Summer Sale."
It is named after the 200-year-old, state-owned stud farm, located in a village in eastern Poland called Janow Podlaski, that houses the auction.
The stud has gone through much turmoil lately. The right-wing government fired the stud's long-time head in 2016, along with the head of a similar stud in Michalow, a village in south-central Poland, and placed new people at the helm, amid protests. Last year just six of the 25 horses on offer were sold.
Critics say the name change and new rules of the auction scheduled for August 12-13 are a deadly blow to the brand that has attracted many buyers paying high prices for the Polish-bred horses, chiefly from the U.S. and the Middle East. Shirley Watts, wife of the Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, had been a regular buyer.
"For the past two years, we have been witnessing a phasing out of the auction that has made us so proud of Janow Podlaski," said opposition lawmaker Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska.
The new name echoes that of the first auctions, held since 1970, called the "Auction Sale at Janow Podlaski." In another change, the event will be invitation-only and a deposit will be required. Also, an accompanying horse show will be held Aug. 12 in Warsaw, not in Janow Podlaski.
The highest price ever obtained at the auctions was 1.4 million euros ($1.63 million), paid in 2015 by a Saudi Arabian buyer for Pepita, a gray mare. The most expensive stallion was El Paso, sold for $1 million (860,000 euros) to an American buyer in 1981.
Another lawmaker of the opposition Civic Platform party noted there would be no public monitoring of the auction that involves large sums, while other critics mentioned that the list of horses for sale was late in arriving.