Is there light at the end of the tunnel? A glimmer of hope? The Keeneland November breeding stock sale, which was devastated last year by the global financial crisis, indicated the market could be stabilizing when the median remained the same from 2008. In addition, the declines in the gross and average price were much less than they had been the previous year.
The buy-back rate also declined as consignors and horse owners became more adept at evaluating the worth of their horses or, in many cases, accepted the reality that their stock just wasn't worth very much money. For numerous people, it was time to cut their losses and try to move on.
It's still not going to get easy. Sellers of yearlings are going to have to go through one more auction cycle burdened by the high pre-global-financial-crisis stud fees, and banks have been slow to loosen up and lend money, so credit remains tight. Numerous farms and individuals will be crushed by their debt or their inability to raise cash to operate. And with the size of foal crops dropping, many Thoroughbred-related businesses will have to make adjustments to a loss in income.
But, on a brighter note, pinhookers look to being well on their way to a rebound. Weanling-to-yearling pinhookers made money in 2009, and they were eager to buy more stock at the November sale. Yearling-to-juvenile pinhookers adjusted their spending at yearling auctions, lowering the prices they paid and the number of horses they purchased. More should be in a better position to make money even if the prices for 2-year-olds in training don't rise.
There also is evidence that the country's economy is improving, with the stock market rising and stronger performances by the housing market and other economic indicators.
The pain isn't over, but it's for some people are starting not to hurt so badly and others are starting to see an opportunity for an improvement in the foreseeable future.
We've had a year to adjust to the new reality while there's still fear, it's not quite so paralyzing. There's at least a glimmer of hope, if not more.