Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales, has a message for the struggling Thoroughbred industry. Breeders have done what was needed on their part to get the business out of its slump; now help is needed from elsewhere.
"I commend the breeding industry; I think it has adjusted to what has been handed to it very, very well," said Russell Jan. 14 on the final day of the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. "We all anticipated a market correction but it got exacerbated by the financial downturn in 2008. Breeders reduced the number of mares bred, and the production costs have dramatically decreased. I can't remember the last time three top-class stallion prospects such as Blame, Lookin At Lucky, and Quality Road retired to stud (to stand) for $35,000. Now supply and demand are closer together, so that should help us on our way to recovery.
"How we make the next big step in the recovery process? I think that is dependent on racing getting its act together and the general economy getting its act together. The speed of recovery will be dependent on two forces that the breeding industry does not have any control of. For (auction) prices to increase significantly, we have to wait until discretionary income increases and that won't increase unless our economy grows. We also have to make our racing product better, and we have to make it profitable for somebody to own a racehorse. All of this is intertwined."
Nothing is every easy.