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Those breeders and consignors who are obsessed with “the look” in a sales prospect are not that far off … at least in knowing what makes a horse zing through the sales ring.

In the marketplace, perception may not be everything, but the fact that a horse appears to be less than the “total package” is essentially the stroke of death for a successful sale.

Mares who are a foal or two past the line can hardly find a new home in this market, even allowing that they sell for less than the stud fee they are carrying. Think about that a minute. Essentially, an owner is desperate enough in this economy to “pay” someone to take such a mare off his hands.

It is truly a desperate remedy.

But, on the other hand, those mares who are young, in-foal, pretty, and have lots of blue sky ahead are selling well. Even strongly. Two buyers told me today that they cannot buy what they are trying to capture and that the mares they are bidding on are bringing twice what they hoped to pay.

So, it seems everyone is perceiving value in the same place, and the market is pushing those mares to a much higher level.

Likewise for the high-quality, scopy individual with a great walk among the short yearlings available at Keeneland January. One such was the $300,000 Candy Ride colt who sold on Monday. Possessed of a lovely head and bold eye, the colt had a great, smooth walk.

Without something that really catches the eye, or burdened with a veterinary finding or two, the yearlings are bringing peanuts. And the market, as a result, is feast or famine for consignors and buyers alike.