Thanksgiving isn't until next week, but it's not too early to start giving thanks. Everyone participating in the Keeneland November breeding stock sale should be grateful to Overbrook Farm and foreign buyers. Without them, the auction would have been a miserable experience in its early days even though the best available stock was being offered.
Overbrook's dispersal injected some much needed quality into the November catalog when many owners didn't enter or scratched their blood-blooded mares and weanlings because of fears about a weak market. In addition, Overbrook's "no reserve" policy helped improve the buy-back rate of the sale. Buyers said it gave them confidence in bidding, knowing no games were being played, and that's something consignors might remember in their future dealings.
Foreign buyers from Europe, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Australia were very active during the opening sessions, and their enthusiasm was a boost to prices. The weakness of the American lured them to the auction, but Keeneland officials should also be commended for their diligent efforts to recruit overseas buyers.
While some racing fans mourn the selling of a superstar to a foreign shopper they need to remember that a successful auction business helps keep the racing game viable. The beauty and competitive courage of Thoroughbred are appealing, but their monetary value helps bring people into the game. The opportunity for a big financial score is an important lure for certain participants. If the sport were just a hobby, it would be much worse off than it is now.
Yes, the market is continuing to fall. But hopefully, we are somewhere near the bottom in this latest downward cycle and there can be some stabilization in 2010.