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Did the Keeneland September sale really end on Monday?

Technically, it did, and all involved were glad for that fun to stop. The staff, the consignors, the buyers and sellers made the best that they could from 14 days of grim reaping.

The market for sales yearlings crashed more radically, more dramatically, and more destructively than nearly anyone expected. Even my most bearish confidantes didn’t expect quite such a spectacular disaster.

Remember first that the September sale actually declined last year before the world economy imploded from October 2008 into this year. Considering that, there was a minority opinion that there might be a bottom to the yearling market that had been half-reached in last year’s version and that this year’s expected drop of demand and price would be somewhat softer.

For reasons of tenuous positivism and unfounded optimism, that was my opinion. And so much for my crystal ball.

Optimistic, yes, I continue to be. The sport is not going away. The breeding business will weather this avalanche of debt and hurricane of loss.

But just as inevitably, the bad news isn’t over.

Just as profits, increasing success, and improving wealth fuel expansion, hiring, and new acquisitions … vast losses from an economic thrashing have the opposite effect.

The bulls have become heifers.

The next casualty of this runaway train on a downhill track will surely be the upcoming European yearling sales, then the international mare and foal sales in November and December and January.

The bright speck on the horizon is that there is a point of stability.

That point of stability in the commercial marketplace is the racetrack. The 2yo sales were decent or thereabouts this year, and there is continuing solid money for racehorses from people who are not willing to gamble on yearlings and long-term investments like broodmares … and stallions.

The latter are proving very hard to move, and the owners of good racehorses who hoped to grasp the brass ring with a major sale as stallion prospects have seen their brazen hopes vanish like a puff of smoke.

In fact, those expecting to realize prices for stallion prospects comparable to those going to stud 18 months ago or more have two choices. The first and reasonable option is to revise expectations in light of declines in profitability between 50 percent and 75 percent. The second option for a diehard who will settle for nothing short of his price is to buy a farm and open his own stud.

The reason for all this is that the September sale collapse will not end for long, long months to come.

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