The market for Thoroughbred racing prospects still appears to be bouncing along at the bottom of a deep valley. There does not appear to be any significant prospect of climbing out of that valley anytime soon. At the moment, on the other hand, there does not appear to be any likelihood of it dropping off another cliff either. Cliffs, however, have a disturbing propensity to appear out of nowhere in the cartoon universe in which we now live, courtesy of....well, don't get me started.
As a result of the economic uncertainty with which we all live, buyers appear to have finally figured out that it is really stupid to pay a premium for the progeny of first-year stallions. Ironically, this burst of intelligence arrived in a year graced by perhaps the most promising group of first-year stallions of the last five years, most of them owned by Darley.
One or more of Darley's stellar group of firsters--Any Given Saturday, Discreet Cat, Hard Spun, and Street Sense--is virtually certain to develop into a first-rate stallion. Opinions vary on which is the most likely to light the lights, but Hard Spun was the horse to whom breeders were most eager to send a mare two years ago, and he led first-year sires at the sale with three or more sold. All four of the Darley horses had their moments, though, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out when some real numbers are added to the statistics in September.
This is likely to be the toughest year for commercial breeders in this cycle. Stud fees were at their highest in 2008 when these yearlings were conceived and prices are (hopefully) at their lowest point in the cycle. That is like buying at retail and selling at wholesale--not a formula for making money.
The underlying question, though, is have stud fees come down enough even now? At the end of the sales season it will be interesting to compare the stud fee ratios based on stud fee at conception versus current year stud fee. It may not be pretty.