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Friday, October 5, 2012

The Plight of the Blue Collar (Yearlings, that is)

After two heady days at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale which featured gains over 2011's averages, day three was a downer.  It can be claimed the best horses were sold on the first two days, which is true, and the more run of the mill yearlings were on the docket for the third day so the drop was to be expected.

Which shows us how the breeding industry is in trouble.  You may be wondering how can you say that when the hot sires' offspring are bring six figures?  The problem is while we hear about the 'hot hips' and what they bring, the truth is the vast majority of yearlings sold are more blue collar in respect to their pedigree and their buyers are more realistic in their aspirations.  There the market is soft, despite all the states currently racing for slot revenue, for they realize whether a Muscle Hill yearling or a Joe Shmoe yearling, it costs the same to train and get a horse to the races.  They also know how much harder it is to recoup their expenses for the purses are relatively small compared to the stakes the six figure horses aspire to.

Let's not kid ourselves.  As important as it is for the blue chip yearling market to be strong, the blue collar market is just as important if not more.  After all, stakes horses are nice, but the vast majority of races at your local raceway are for overnight horses which depend on the blue collar market to feed their racing colony.  If these yearlings bring in less money, breeding farms lose money on them which results in breeders scaling back or going out of business.  This results in less horses being offered for sale which means the horse shortage many racetracks suffer from only gets worse, resulting in a poorer product and financial results.

The only way this problem can be reversed is to get more people interested in blue collar horses which up to now has not been successful.  You can promote the middle class yearlings all you want but if the numbers don't work, the wise individual is not going to get involved.   

Now is not the time to work on improving stakes programs at the raceways.  It is the time to make changes that benefit the blue collar breds.  The purse structure needs to be altered, weighed in favor of the classes where the younger stock race.   Higher earning opportunities will change the current equation and induce more individuals to take a shot at the yearling market, benefiting all involved.  Otherwise, there won't be enough horses around to replace those whose racing days have ended.  When that happens, there is not going to be anywhere for those six figure yearlings to race.  It is in everyone's interest to stimulate the blue collar yearling market.

For as the blue collar yearling market goes, so eventually goes the blue chip yearling market.

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