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The first book of the Keeneland September sale is through the ring, and the results are not the kind to warm the heart of breeders, stallion owners, or perceptive journalists.

People are doing badly at the sales, and this was supposed to be the portion of the Thoroughbred market most resilient from external economic shocks. Well, ’tain’t so.

The first day of the Keeneland September sale was a thrashing, and the second day only a little better … perhaps like being ridden hard down the stretch by Calvin Borel.

The following are a few summary judgments from breeders watching their income streams dry up:

“The Saratoga select sale really hurt this book. They lost 50 horses to Fasig that would have made this a different experience … if there was enough depth among buyers to pick them all up.”

“I didn’t like this book much before they came into the ring. There just weren’t enough superior individuals with the right pedigrees to maintain the big numbers. There were some really nice fillies … but most weren’t from super families. Good but not super.”

“The general economy is killing us. When people with seven- and eight-figure incomes are cutting back, something is going wrong in a big way.”

“The stud fees are killing us. A lot of people made money today, just not enough to cover all their stud fees. They are going to have to hope the Book 2 and Book 3 people really show up and buy horses. If stud fees don’t fall by 50 percent, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest they will, this is not going to get better.”

“I had a good day today. It could have been a lot better, but the cash flow today probably represents half my annual income from the horses. The problem now is that they probably didn’t make enough to pay for everything else. About three-quarters of my yearlings are still waiting to sell.  If I don’t break even on a lot of them, and maybe break out with a couple of nice ones in a couple of days, the costs for the rest are going to eat up all the profits from the good horses we’ve managed to sell so far.”

The quotations above are reproduced without attribution because nobody likes being on the spot when bad news is the topic. And the economics of the horse business at present are not good. But the gist from each of the comments was heard from more than one, and sometimes several, breeders spoken to over the past 48 hours.

These are trying times, and there’s no need ignoring the reality that things in the horse business are changing, not for the better and quite rapidly.

The losses from this sale — just like the losses from the stock market over the past year — will have massive collateral damage. It will be felt in the coming bloodstock sales through the prices for mares, foals, and stallion prospects (anybody want one?). It will be felt by vets, farriers, fencing suppliers, truck and tractor dealers, and shipping companies, as well as by all the businesses where we eat or shop.

The damage will be felt by all of us.

As breeders are trying to regain their equilibrium in a vastly unstable marketplace, buyers are scooping up some bargains. More on that tomorrow.

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